When it comes to required baking equipment, the Kitchen Aid stand mixer (commonly referred to as simply a “Kitchen Aid”) is the crowning jewel of home cooks. Kitchen Aid stand mixers are somewhat of a status symbol, topping wedding registries, displayed proudly on the counter, and likely an assumed possession in most recipes.
But do you really need one?
I have owned a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for twenty years, which I purchased with credit from my wedding registry, and it has served me well. I began cooking twenty years ago as well, which means, my frame of reference is biased. I don’t know what it looks like to bake without a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but I was curious if it really made that much of a difference.
I set out to see for myself. Is this appliance a necessity when baking?
I borrowed a hand-held mixer from a friend (also made by Kitchen Aid) and mixed two batches of the World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. My primary curiosity surrounding mixer performance centered around whether or not a hand-held mixer could adequately cream butter and sugar, which is one of the secrets of really exceptional butter-based cake batters and cookie doughs.
In my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, using room temperature butter, it took around 4 minutes for my butter and sugar to look light and fluffy. Using the hand-held mixer on the same day with equally room temperature butter, the process took almost four times as long. After an arduous and frustrating fifteen minutes, beaters banging around my glass mixing bowl, ricocheting off the sides and occasionally spattering butter chunks onto the counter, my butter and sugar looked light and fluffy-ish. I considered it a technical success with a side of experience-based education.
Here are my conclusions.
First, when using a hand-held mixer, you have to continually stop and scrape the dough from the bowl to keep it going. This is tedious. The beaters bang into the bowl and the batter flies. Which means you have to corral the batter frequently to keep the process moving in the right direction.
Second, when using a hand-held mixer, for lack of a better explanation, I found it to be monotonous and life-draining. Fifteen minutes is a long time to stand and slowly move a mixer around a bowl while also stopping every 45 seconds to scrape. I don’t say this to discourage you, but to let you know what you’re in for. If I were mixing cookies with a hand-held mixer, I would probably make the process more interesting by listening to a podcast.
Third, the hand-held mixer is no help when you add the dry ingredients. It does not have the power to handle the thick dough, so this part needs to be done by hand. This is not the worst news. Mixing dry ingredients by hand can be gentle and will prevent over-mixing.
Lastly, in other tasks, such as whipping cream, beating egg whites, or mixing oil-based batter like a cake mix, the hand-held mixer was a champ. It took more time to achieve the same results as the stand mixer, but it can be done with little effort. It was only in the creaming of the butter and sugar where I saw a huge gap in performance.
So is the experience of using hand-held mixer the same as a stand mixer? No. But can a hand-held mixer achieve the same results? Yes.
Here is what I want you to know. Kitchen Aid stand mixers are great. I love mine, and I am grateful for it. But a Kitchen Aid stand mixer is not needed to make cookies from scratch at home. If you don’t have one, it’s going to be okay. Our grandmothers made cookies for years without stand mixers. It can be done. Even as someone who will remind you over and over that the secret to really delicious baked goods is to make sure you cream your butter and sugar sufficiently, your cookies will still be yummy even if the butter and sugar aren’t light and fluffy.
Maybe that is off brand for me to admit, but it’s true. I love nice things, and high-quality equipment makes a difference. But the point of hospitality is not to have nice things. The point here is to bake cookies at home from scratch as a way to express love and learn something new.
Regardless of what equipment you have (or don’t have), the only thing we truly need is a heart focused on creating space for creativity and connection to emerge. Our need, our place of perceived deficiency, our being without, and our lack of fancy equipment can be avenues for both.
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