Hand mixer vs stand mixer, which should you buy? We put them to the test, making two batches of brownies simultaneously, in order to compare how well they mix cake dough, cookies and brownie batter.
While the best stand mixers are one of the most desirable appliances for any kitchen, they can take up a lot of space. There is also a somewhat steep upfront cost, with some of the most affordable stand mixers still costing around $100.
By contrast, the best hand mixers can cost as little as $30, and they take up a fraction of the storage space. We compared hand mixers and stand mixers by cooking duplicates of the exact same recipe in real-time to weigh up the pros and cons of each. While the stand mixer was an almost hands-free experience, we were impressed by how well our hand mixer held up in this hand mixer vs stand mixer battle.
Hand mixer vs stand mixer: the baking process
Keen bakers will know the importance of the tools you use, so in this hand mixer vs stand mixer battle, I made sure to use some of the top appliances I've tried for baking.
As the cooking editor at Homes & Gardens, I've reviewed many stand mixers and hand mixers over the years. I was lucky enough to have the newly-reviewed KitchenAid Pro Line Stand Mixer (known in the UK as the KitchenAid Artisan 6.9L stand mixer) on-hand, as well as the Oster HeatSoft Hand Mixer (also known as Breville HeatSoft in the UK) for my hand mixer. Both appliances are about as good as it gets when it comes to baking, so I was really able to compare the two appliances evenly.
I made my tried and trusted brownie recipe for this experiment. I figured that it would be a good recipe to test with, as it requires lots of mixing to combine the sugar and butter, and then again when adding in the eggs to achieve a fluffy consistency, before beating in the melted chocolate and dry ingredients without removing too much air or overworking the mixture.
The biggest difference between the hand mixer and stand mixer emerged when I combined my melted butter and brown sugar. I wanted to mix until it formed a thick paste consistency, but while the stand mixer had no issue creating this, the hand mixer left me with more of a soupy consistency.
I suspect the reason for this was because the stand mixer's planetary motion was able to distribute the melted butter through the sugar, whereas no matter how much I seemed to mix it, the hand mixer couldn't fully stop the oil from rising to the top of the mixture.
Next up I whisked in two eggs to each mixture. I was able to crack them in and then simply switch on the stand mixer, before then turning to the hand mixer. This step is complete when there's a visible change in color, and I found that the stand mixer gave me a light and creamy consistency far sooner than the hand mixer.
The hand mixer created a lot of bubbles at the top of the mixture, but much like when I had tried to mix together the butter and sugar, it seemed to struggle when it came to adding air to the mixture. However, after a few minutes, it did catch up with the stand mixer in making a lightly aerated mixture. I was then able to mix in some melted dark chocolate, and the two brownie batters started to look very similar.
When adding in my dry ingredients, I found the hand mixer much more effective at integrating them than the stand mixer. This is because the flour and cocoa powder got stuck to the sides of the stand mixer bowl, whereas with the hand mixer I was able to move around the bowl to target any missed spots. With the stand mixer, I had to go in with a spatula to scoop around the outside of the bowl before mixing in everything that had stuck to the sides.
The two finished brownie mixtures looked very similar, but after 25 minutes in the oven, there were a few slight differences in taste and appearance.
For a start, the hand mixer batch was a little darker and had risen less than the stand mixer batch. This is probably because it had aerated the mixture less than the stand mixer. Neither batch was bad, in fact, the hand mixer batch was a little fudgier, but for recipes where you want a light and fluffy consistency, the hand mixer may struggle to match the planetary mixing motion of a stand mixer.
Hand mixer vs stand mixer: what else should I consider?
The cooking results are pretty similar, but baking aside, what are the other important factors consider when choosing between a stand mixer and a hand mixer?
Short on space? The obvious choice is a hand mixer. Most hand mixers come with attachments for whisking, folding, and kneading, as well as a case that contains everything neatly. They are also pretty lightweight when compared to stand mixers, which means you can store them in cupboards or drawers when not in use.
Stand mixers, by contrast, are pretty heavy and often tricky to store. Many like to display their stand mixer proudly on their kitchen counter, but it can be heavy and bulky to store out of sight.
When comparing the Oster HeatSoft Hand Mixer to the KitchenAid Pro Line Stand Mixer, I noticed that even the lowest setting on the hand mixer was very powerful and fast. The stand mixer can go up to 10 power settings, but the lowest setting is suitable for lightly folding in cake ingredients, so it has more range.
That said, if you're worried that a hand mixer won't be able to compete with a stand mixer in terms of power, there's nothing to worry about.
The stand mixer allowed me to simply add ingredients while it mixed them all for me. With the hand mixer, I had to switch the mixer on and off while I added new ingredients. It wasn't too heavy, but if you have limited strength or mobility in your arms, it might be an issue.
You can place the attachments and bowl from the KitchenAid Pro Line Stand Mixer in the dishwasher, but that cannot be said for all stand mixers.
The Oster HeatSoft Hand Mixer has removable beaters which can go in the dishwasher, and I also placed the bowl I used in the dishwasher.
One element that will save with cleaning up is that you can place the bowl on the scales when you add more ingredients with a hand mixer, but with a stand mixer, you need to weigh them out into a separate bowl before adding to the mixer.
Hand mixer vs stand mixer: what's the verdict?
While there were some differences in performance, I was surprised by how well the hand mixer performed in comparison to the stand mixer, especially when it is a fraction of the price. That said, it would struggle to knead dough and take on large batches, which the stand mixer would have no trouble with.
If you enjoy baking but are short on the space you'd need for a stand mixer, a hand mixer is a great option to keep it low-effort. If you have the space though, choosing a stand mixer will enable you to make large batches, virtually hands-free. I'm lucky enough to own a stand mixer, and while I use my hand mixer for small tasks, I would never replace the stand mixer from my kitchen counters.
Millie has been with the Homes and Gardens team since early 2021, bringing with her a love of cooking appliances and al fresco entertaining. She writes about stand mixers, blenders, and other small appliances, and loves putting barbecues and pizza ovens to the test. Millie thinks that the kitchen is the most important room in any home, but then, she is very biased.
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