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Handheld Electric Mixers

Published December 2014
Update, November 2018
While it's been a few years since we last tested, the KitchenAid 5-Speed Ultra Power Hand Mixer remains a favorite gadget in the test kitchen for its lightness, maneuverability and power. We can also still fully recommend our best buy, the Cuisinart PowerSelect 3-Speed Hand Mixer.

How we tested

While we use stand mixers for heavy-duty tasks like kneading bread, a good handheld mixer helps if you don’t want to lug out the stand mixer every time you need to whip 1/2 cup of cream. Our previous winning model, the Cuisinart Power Advantage 7-Speed, is powerful. But some newer models have innovations like bowl-scraping beaters, timers, or “turbo” and “power boost” options. Others have three simple speeds—low, medium, and high. Still others have a whopping 16 different speeds. So what’s the best handheld mixer on the market?

Assessing Mixing Performance and Efficiency

We chose a lineup of seven mixers priced from roughly $27 to $100, with a range of speeds. We ran them through a series of tests that covered light, medium, and heavy mixing tasks: We timed how long it took them to whip heavy cream, in both 1/2-cup and 1 1/2-cup amounts, and to cream softened butter and sugar. We incorporated flour, oats, and raisins into the creamed mixture to make heavy oatmeal cookie dough. To help assess mixing efficiency, we tinted cooked potatoes with drops of blue and yellow food coloring and timed how long it took the mixers to whir them into a uniform green color.

Are Fancy Features Worth It?

After weeks of testing, we concluded that the new features were a bust. One model's self-scraping beaters are coated in silicone and designed to clear food away from the sides of the bowl, but they didn’t work. Worse, they splattered whipped cream everywhere. Another model's timer sounds like a great idea, but the design was all wrong; it was hard to see the clock and it automatically resets when you switch off the mixer. The power burst or turbo functions didn’t impress either. Testers repeatedly activated these buttons accidentally on two different mixers, and the extra power proved unnecessary.

Hallmarks of Good Design

So what makes a great basic handheld mixer? Testing confirmed our strong preference for open beaters. A classic beater has four metal tines surrounding a center post. This post is problematic because it traps food; when it jams, you have to stop, detach the beaters, and clear them out. Open beaters have no central post, just the outer metal tines (similar to a whisk), so food moves smoothly in and out as it is mixed—a much more efficient system.

After looking at beaters, we turned to weight. We weren’t searching for lighter mixers, but once we had them in hand, we were charmed. Our two favorite mixers each weigh in at about 2 pounds and testers found them agile, quick, and light. Our old winner, the Cuisinart 7-Speed (2 pounds and 6 ounces), and a new model from another manufacturer (at just under 2 pounds and 12 ounces), felt more cumbersome.

Analyzing Mixer Speed and Power

We next examined the array of speed options in our lineup; our mixers offered from three to 16 speeds. Recipes typically reference five speeds: low, medium-low, medium, medium-high, and high. We’ve never found a reason for more; extra speeds only hindered us and left us wondering if medium-high would be a 6 or a 7 on a nine-speed mixer. Furthermore, more speeds don’t equal more power; they simply mean more steps between low and high. The mixer with only three speeds felt sufficiently powerful. When working with the 16-speed mixer, it was hard to tell a difference between, say, speed 14 and speed 15, and the result in the bowl was negligible.

We wanted numbers to back up the power levels we could feel, so we tested each mixer’s speeds with a tachometer, which measures revolutions per minute (rpm). The test showed that start
ing power levels varied greatly among machines: The mixer with the slowest speed 1 reached 230 rpm and the mixer with the fastest starting speed hit 757 rpm—a 70 percent difference in power. At their highest speeds the range was smaller, from 1,064 rpm to 1,321 rpm, a 20 percent increase in power.

So how did these differences translate in real world kitchen tests? At the highest setting, all the mixers had sufficient oomph. However, at the lowest speeds, we actually preferred mixers with less power—mixers with too much power at the lowest setting made a mess by throwing ingredients out of the bowl. More power isn’t always better.

Our Favorite Hand Mixers

Our winner was comfortable to use, with five logical, calibrated speeds that covered all our recipe needs. Our Best Buy is a three-speed model.


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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.