A stick mixer is a hand-held, electronically powered device that allows chefs to mix large amounts of sauces, soups, and stews during preparation and cooking. The motor connects to a long shaft with an attachment on the end that rotates at a high speed, making large-scale mixing projects manageable in a busy kitchen.
Stick mixers come in various sizes and types, and it’s very important to size the mixer you buy to the size of the task. The smallest mixers have a 6 or 7 inch mixing shaft and are for small batches of lighter mixtures like sauces or batters. On the other end, large stick mixers have up to a 21 inch shaft and can power through the heaviest soup or stew in a 25 – 50 gallon pot.
The most important factor to consider when selecting the right sized mixer is the length of the mixing shaft. You want a mixer that can reach the bottom of the pot or mixing bowl you’re mixing in, otherwise ingredients will not be fully mixed. The second factor you want to take into account is the wattage of the mixer’s motor. Thick, heavy sauces, soups, and stews will burn out a smaller motor. Stick mixer wattages usually run from about 350 watts all the way up to 650 watts or more. The more powerful the mixer, the longer it can run and the heavier duty work it can handle.
Stick mixers are made with either a single speed setting or variable speed settings. Variable speed mixers are much more versatile. Some mixers are also combination models, meaning they have a stick mixing attachment and a whisk attachment. If you need a power whisk, these combo models are perfect for you.
Most mixers are immersion resistant, meaning the casing housing the electric motor can get pretty wet while working, but I wouldn’t recommend dropping the whole thing in a big stock pot. Finally, some smaller mixers are cordless, which can be very convenient in some situations, although battery power can be higher maintenance.
Cleaning & Maintenance
Some mixers are easier to clean than others. Those with a removable shaft make cleanup very easy because the shaft can be detached and cleaned separately from the motor. Many of the heavier duty stick mixers have a permanent shaft, which makes cleanup a little harder but is worth the extra work when it comes to durability.
When using a stick mixer, make sure you keep it from overheating. Some mixers have an indicator light and automatic shutoff to prevent damage to the motor, but if you buy a model that doesn’t have a warning, make sure your staff knows how to prevent overheating. The factors that cause a mixer to overheat vary depending on the thickness or heaviness of the mixture and the power of the mixer, but in general, let mixers cool every 15 minutes. Also train staff to recognize the signs of mixer overheating, such as an extremely hot motor casing, a strange electrical smell, and a slowing of mixer blade rotation.