Depending on the operation, an electric mixer is an essential part of prep work. The right mixer can be a multi-faceted machine that is the center of your prep operation, and the wrong mixer could end up being a costly albatross and the Achilles’ heel of your business. There are several major factors that, once examined, can help you avoid making the wrong choice for your mixing needs, and they revolve around the sort of mixer you are thinking of buying.
Stand / Floor Model Mixers: The most traditional mixers found in most commercial kitchens are stand mixers. These mixers are attached to a stand which holds the mixing unit / motor, the removable mixing attachment, and a bowl.
- Capacity - These mixers come in a tremendous range of sizes which are classified by the capacity of the bowl they can accommodate. Stand mixers start at humble 5 qt. models that can fit on a countertop, to hefty floor model mixers that well exceed 200 qt. Bearing this in mind, it becomes extremely important to examine volume when shopping for a mixer. If, let’s say, your operation needs to mix many 5 gal. batches of dressing for a catered event, it would be best to get a mixer that is larger than 20 qt. not only to limit the amount of spilled dressing (as the mixer will agitate the liquid), but also to decrease the number of batches the must be made. A 60 qt. floor mixer could fit 2 batches of dressing, effectively cutting some prep time in half.
- Horsepower – Horsepower will always go up proportionately as the capacity of the mixer goes up. Though there is no standard as to what the ratio has to be, the motors usually tends to jump about ½ HP for every 10 gal. of mixer capacity. Horsepower has a direct effect on the machine’s speed.
- Speed – Most (not all) mixers will have several speeds. Many smaller countertop models will have a variable speed dial, but this is not usually the case with larger mixers. Floor models will traditionally have 2-3 fixed speeds (i.e. high, medium, & low).
- Mixer Attachments – All mixers have a variety of removable attachments that change the duties the machine can perform. Additionally, most countertop, and nearly all floor model mixers have what is as a “hub”; it is a port that allows attachments to utilize the rotation of the motor to perform tasks other than mixing. These hubs have two standard sizes, which are known as either #12 or #22 hubs. Hubs sizes are just a measure of the size to affix to the mixer, and have no bearing on how the attachments or the mixer work. It is important to note, however, which size hub your mixer has, as a #12 attachment will not fit in a #22 hub, and vice versa. Smaller countertop models will often have custom hub sizes that will be either model or manufacturer specific. Here is a list of the most common mixer attachments, and their purpose (this is not a complete list).
- Wire Whip / Whisk – The whisk attachment, or wire whip as it is commonly known, is a mixing attachment that serves a similar purpose to a wire whisk. It can whip egg whites to a meringue in no time, can make mayo, or can be used for liquids like dressing or sauces.
- Paddle / Beater – A flat paddle or beater attachment is ideal for mixing things that may be fairly stiff, or mix both wet and dry ingredients. Thinks like batters and dips that require a seamless mix of dry and wet ingredients should be mixed with a paddle.
- Dough Hooks – Dough hooks are named as such because their primary function is mixing dough. There are a variety of different dough hooks, but all perform essentially the same function. They are designed to fully incorporate wet and dry ingredients in the dough making process for pizza crusts, pasta, breads, pastries, dumplings, and more.
- Pelican Head Graters & Slicers – The attachment known as a “pelican head” is a device that plugs into a mixer’s hub, and uses the motor to spin a wheel which has either a slicing or grating disc attached to it. The front of the unit has an area resembling the mouth of a pelican that food product is placed into, and it is fed through the wheel and out the bottom of the attachment. The pelican heads are perfect for grating things like large amounts of cheese or slicing / shredding large quantities of lettuce.
- Meat Grinders / Sausage Stuffers – These attachments plug into a mixer the same way a pelican head does, and otherwise operate like a traditional meat grinder. Most have optional sausage stuffing tubes which allow the meat to be stuffed into casings after it has been ground.
- Pasta Rollers / Sheeters – Another hub attachment, these pasta rollers flatten and cut pasta dough in no time, and can turn making pasta into a one machine task.
Stick Mixers / Blenders: The other primary variety of mixer used in commercial kitchens is what’s known as a stick mixer / blender. These handheld blending devices are available with a long stick attachment with rotating blades at the end, and usually come with a whisk attachment as well. These variable speed mixers come in a wide range of sizes which have more powerful motors as they get larger. These mixers are traditionally used when it is inconvenient to transfer things to a mixer with a bowl. Stick blenders are ideal when blending things such as heated sauces, mixing product in their storage container, or emulsifying large quantities of liquid. Though they can replace the whisk attachment, and are the best choice for emulsifying liquids, they do not replace the other attachments of a stand or floor mixer.