Since KitchenAid pioneered the concept in 1919, the stand mixer has been a kitchen workhorse. It can help you mix a batch of cookies, knead bread dough and whip frosting — and that’s before you purchase attachments for everything from spiralizing vegetables to rolling out pasta.

With a wide range of stand mixers on the market, we decided to test nine different popular and highly rated mixers. As we put them through the paces, we discovered the ability to evenly mix ingredients while also handling wet, sticky dough is a key differentiator, ultimately leading us to recommend a pair of appliances that stood out above the mix.

Best stand mixer overall

The KitchenAid 5-Quart Artisan Series Tilt-Head Stand Mixer delivered the best performance of the mixers we tested. With more than 20 available colors and a classic profile, you’ll want to keep this tilt-head mixer on display in your kitchen.

Best stand mixer for large batches

If you prefer a bowl-lift mixer because it feels sturdier, the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series is a solid upgrade option from the Artisan series. It has a bigger stainless steel bowl and a more powerful motor that can handle bigger batches and recipes.

Best affordable stand mixer

The Cuisinart SM-50 outperformed all of the cheaper mixers we tested, so if you’re looking to upgrade your baking or cooking tools without stretching your budget too much, it’s a great choice.

<h2 class="subheader" data-editable="text" data-uri="cms.cnn.com/_components/subheader/instances/ckvjuv476001i3e6javq5asp9@published" data-component-name="subheader" id="Best-stand-mixer-overall:-KitchenAid-5-Quart-Artisan-Series-Tilt-Head-Stand-Mixer-($429.95;-williams-sonoma.com)”> Best stand mixer overall: KitchenAid 5-Quart Artisan Series Tilt-Head Stand Mixer ($429.95; williams-sonoma.com)

Jonathan Bender/CNN Underscored
KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer

The KitchenAid Artisan Series Tilt-Head Stand Mixer bested the competition in each of our three recipe tests, mixing, kneading and whipping more effectively than the other mixers we examined — no surprise from the latest iteration of a design that’s been around for a century.

The KitchenAid stood out as the best in class when it came to mixing and kneading dough. The paddle easily creamed butter and sugar, then gently folded in chips and dried fruit. Slack dough came together quickly, and the bread loaf had a crackly crust surrounding a soft interior. While it wasn’t the quietest machine we tested, the noise didn’t stop a conversation at normal volume, and the motor didn’t sound like it was laboring.

The stainless steel bowl locked in and out of place quickly, and the handle was easy to grip. The 10-speed gear shifter slid with a smooth motion, and the clearly differentiated speeds all proved useful. It could gently mix at low speeds and whip at high speeds.

The KitchenAid comes with a full set of accessories that will get you started baking or mixing right out of the box; we were impressed with the simplicity of attaching and removing these during our time with the mixer, and with the versatility the wide range of available tools gives the mixer.

The powder-coated aluminum dough hook and paddle are sturdy and dishwasher-safe, while the whip (which, as is the case with nearly every other mixer whip attachment, has to be hand-washed) produced light, fluffy frosting that was smooth and evenly mixed. The included pouring shield had a wide mouth for adding flour while the mixer was running, and it kept splatter in the bowl during our tests.

A strength of the KitchenAid mixer lineup is that it’s easy to extend it to do a huge range of kitchen tasks. Dozens of attachments are available, ranging from alternative beaters and paddles that you can use in the bowl to full-fledged appliance replacements that attach to the mixer’s front-mounted “power hub” port. A flex edge beater (with a built-in scraper that moves along the sides of the bowl while mixing) is a good first addition, and from there you can purchase devices that do everything from shredding and spiralizing vegetables to rolling out pasta, grinding flour or meat, or making ice cream

The KitchenAid is on the heavier side at 26 pounds, but the weight gives it stability that is worth the extra effort in moving it around the kitchen. The mixer has the heft to handle up to 9 cups of flour without sliding around the counter.

It’s available in more than 20 colors ranging from mineral water blue to feather pink and a variety of bowl materials and designs from glass to ceramic with a floral motif. With a mix of colors and top-notch performance, the KitchenAid 5-Quart Artisan Series Tilt-Head Stand Mixer lets you have a showpiece and workhorse in the same machine.

<h2 class="subheader" data-editable="text" data-uri="cms.cnn.com/_components/subheader/instances/ckvjuv47d001r3e6jedt5sp2t@published" data-component-name="subheader" id="Best-stand-mixer-for-large-batches:-KitchenAid-Professional-600-Series-6-Quart-Stand-Mixer-($529.95;-williams-sonoma.com)”> Best stand mixer for large batches: KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer ($529.95; williams-sonoma.com)

Jonathan Bender/CNN Underscored
KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer

If you bake more than twice a week, find yourself regularly hosting large family gatherings or needing to make big batches of cookies (anything above four dozen), the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series is worth stretching your budget. One important note: The Professional 600 Series mixer is 17 inches tall, so you might want to measure the space between your countertop and upper cabinets before purchasing.

The 6-quart bowl can work through enough dough to make 13 dozen cookies or mash up to 8 pounds of potatoes, so you can tackle everyday tasks in between big holiday gatherings. The bowl has a solid U-shaped handle. It snaps securely into place and can then be raised or lowered with the bowl lift handle.

The dough hook sat slightly too far above the base of the bowl when it came out of the box, but that was easy to remedy by using a flathead screwdriver to adjust the set screw that sits behind the bowl in the stem of the mixer.

The bowl mixer worked well when there were a lot of ingredients in the bowl. The cookie dough was even without being dense. There were chips and fruit in each bite of cookie, a trick that other mixers couldn’t manage. In short, this machine is built to get through big batches of dough.

A quick wipe with a damp cloth got the mixer clean. The wire whip needs to be hand-washed, and while the other accessories (dough hook and paddle) could be cleaned in the dishwasher, it was just as easy to rinse them in the sink, as dough didn’t stick to the powder coating.

<h2 class="subheader" data-editable="text" data-uri="cms.cnn.com/_components/subheader/instances/ckvjuv47h001x3e6jjqkdmt06@published" data-component-name="subheader" id="Best-affordable-stand-mixer:-Cuisinart-SM-50-($249.95;-amazon.com)”> Best affordable stand mixer: Cuisinart SM-50 ($249.95; amazon.com)

Jonathan Bender/CNN Underscored
Cuisinart SM-50 Stand Mixer

The Cuisinart SM-50 mixed significantly better than any of the ultra-budget mixers we tested. Although it didn’t do as well as the top performers, for those looking to spend a bit less it can likely do everything you need. The more we worked with it, the more we liked it.

The 12-speed motor provided a surprising amount of power without being noisy, working quickly through thick cookie dough and slack bread dough. The whisk, however, didn’t live up to the other accessories. The size was a bit too big for the 5.5-quart bowl — adding powdered sugar was messy — and we had to stop whipping several times to scrape down the bowl. Once the butter was incorporated, the Cuisinart produced light and fluffy frosting with a great texture.

At slightly over 18 pounds, it was easy to lift on and off the counter yet still sturdy enough to remain in place when mixing a bowl full of ingredients.

The Cuisinart SM-50 has a three-year limited warranty, comes in 11 color options, has appealing styling (the chrome bubble on the head reminded us of a character from the Among Us viral video game) and there are five additional attachments available if you want to extend its usefulness. It may not be cheap at $250, but nothing cheaper was as satisfying to use. If you’re looking to get into baking and don’t want to stretch your budget too much, the SM-50 makes sense.

How to choose a stand mixer

There are two common types of stand mixers: tilt-head and bowl-lift stand mixers. A tilt-head stand mixer has a hinged top so you can swing the head up to place a bowl in the base or add ingredients. A bowl-lift mixer has a fixed head and a lever that lets you raise or lower the bowl.

With a tilt-head mixer, you’ll have more space to swap out accessories or scrape down the sides of the bowl while the mixer is off. But if you’ll be fine-tuning your recipes or need to add ingredients while a mixer is running, you may find a bowl-lift mixer to be a better option because there is more space between the bowl and the bottom of the mixer head. A bowl-lift mixer may also provide more stability when a mixer is churning through heavier dough, whereas a tilt-head mixer may vibrate or move up and down slightly as the motor has to work harder.

A pair of heavy-duty mixers that we tested — the Bosch Universal and Ankarsrum Original — have a motor in the base and a bowl that slides on top; this design leaves the top open for adding ingredients.

You’ll also want to think about whether your mixer will stay on the counter or be tucked away in a pantry or cabinet. The stand mixers we tested ranged in height from 10.3 inches to 19 inches tall. While they all fit underneath a standard set of cabinets, the weight proved to be a more significant factor.

The Dash, at just under 3 pounds, was easily portable. The KitchenAid Professional 600 Series at 29 pounds took some arm muscle to lift on and off the counter. The heavier mixers were better at handling bigger batches of ingredients because the weight helped them stay in place on the counter once the motor was on. If your mixer is going to live on the counter, it might be a nice accent piece or colorful addition to your kitchen. Mixers have expanded past chrome, white or black and now come in a wide range of pastel or bright hues.

Stand mixers can become trusty kitchen partners and help save you time and sore forearms with mixing and kneading. If you regularly make cookies or bread, consider a stand mixer with a stronger motor (325 watts or above) and a bit more weight for stability.

Most of the machines we looked at ship with three accessories: a paddle for mixing, a dough hook for kneading and a whisk attachment for whipping. Check to see what’s included before purchasing and what’s available as an add-on.

The major brands offer bowls in different materials (glass, ceramic or stainless steel) as well as attachments that allow your stand mixer to function as a grinder or pasta roller, or even replace other appliances, such as an ice cream maker, blender or food processor.

KitchenAid in particular has a very large range of attachments, both for the bowl and the front-mounted “power hub” motor port common to its mixers. Bosch and Ankarsrum accessories take advantage of the base-mounted motor design and offer blender, food processor and juicer attachments that work much like their stand-alone counterparts.

How to care for a stand mixer

You can clean the base and the head of your mixer with a wet dish towel. Keep in mind that tilt-head mixers might have more open spaces where dry ingredients can get caught.

While you will have to hand-wash your whisks (soak them in warm water and dish soap first to break down frosting or whipped cream), it’s fairly standard for a mixer to otherwise have attachments and a bowl that are dishwasher-safe.

If you’re looking for peace of mind on what can be a big investment, every mixer we tested had a replacement warranty of at least one year, with the Ankarsrum Original offering a seven-year warranty on its motor.

How we tested

After looking at well-reviewed and best-selling models, we treated nine stand mixers as if it were the holidays and a lot of family were coming over for dinner. Over the course of a month, we tested the same recipes for buttercream frosting, a crusty loaf of bread and dried apricot and white chocolate chip cookies on each machine.

The mixers ranged in price from $50 to $700, and their performance was as varied as you might expect. We looked at different design styles and various configurations, including tilt-head and bowl-lift mixers, and were delighted that the mixers came in as many colors as the food dye we used for the frosting.

We also considered how easy it was to get a mixer up and running, how well it operated once we started adding ingredients to the bowl and how hard it was to clean up everything when we were done. Here are the criteria we used in testing each model:

Performance 

  • Mixing paddle: We looked at how well it creamed butter and sugar, incorporated eggs and distributed chips and fruit in a white chocolate chip and dried apricot cookie dough.
  • Dough hook: We examined how quickly bread dough came together, the elasticity of the dough and the crumb and quality of the finished crusty boule.
  • Whisk: We used a buttercream frosting to test the ability to whip together ingredients to create a fluffy, smooth topping and the effectiveness of the pour shield or splatter guard.

Overall usability 

  • Getting started: We considered how hard it was to use or remove attachments, as well as slide a bowl on and off a mixer.
  • Speed settings: While most mixers have guides for what speed to use for a task, we also considered the total number of speeds and if there was a meaningful difference between speeds.
  • Stability: We weighed the balance of how heavy a mixer is when you’re lifting it on and off the kitchen counter and whether it has enough heft to stay still while mixing at high speeds.

Design and build

  • Space considerations: All of the models fit under a standard countertop, but we tested both tilt-head and bowl-lift mixers.
  • Materials: Here, we compared the size and materials used for the bowl as well as the included attachments.
  • Sound: We listened to the volume of each machine to see if we could still hold a conversation while it was running and if it sounded like the motor was laboring.  
  • Ease of cleanup: We considered whether attachments and the bowl were dishwasher-safe as well as whether or not flour or other powdery ingredients got trapped in the body of the mixer based on its shape.

Extras

  • We looked at whether there are more colors or different bowl materials available as well as additional attachments that can increase the functionality of a mixer.

Warranty

  • Mixers can be costly, so we noted the length of each model’s warranty.

Other stand mixers we tested

Aucma 6.5-Quart Stand Mixer ($139.99, originally $159.99; amazon.com)

This mixer scored on the lower end in performance. The tilt head released with a nifty lever but an ominous clank. Unlike the KitchenAid, the Aucma struggled to evenly mix ingredients. It was loud when whipping frosting, and we had to stop repeatedly to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Thick cookie dough had the small tilt mixer rocking slightly, although the compact mixer was able to knead bread dough together after initially struggling to pull the wet dough off the sides of the bowl.

If you’re looking for a mixer to complete the look of your kitchen, the Aucma is adorable, with a glowing LED speed knob and colors fit for Hello Kitty’s kitchen. And if you don’t want to leave it out, the tilt-head mixer is also lightweight at less than 12 pounds and has a large 6.5 quart bowl with two handles.

Smeg SMF03 ($569.95; williams-sonoma.com)

The Smeg stand mixer looks like a high-performance race car with sleek lines and chrome accents. It was portable and easy to operate out of the box, but it didn’t quite perform at the same level as our top mixers despite a similar price tag.

Smeg’s “Smooth Start” feature means the motor gradually accelerates to the speed you set on the dial (up to 10). While this felt choppy at first and ingredients didn’t combine as quickly, the mixer was effective once it got up to speed.

The bread hook and whisk attachments had heft and were up to the task of kneading bread dough and whipping frosting. The paddle left a bit more cookie dough at the bottom of the bowl than we’d like, and didn’t evenly distribute the chips and dried fruit as well as our top picks.

The glossy exterior, while beautiful (and the Smeg is available in a bunch of attractive finishes), tended to show smudges after cleaning. Smeg offers a range of accessories (including pasta makers, a grinder, a slicer and a grater), though not quite as extensive as that available for the more established KitchenAid, Bosch or Ankarsrum machines.

Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Electric Stand Mixer ($109.99; amazon.com)

The handle — reminiscent of a giant hand mixer — makes it easier to carry. But even with suction cup feet, the Hamilton Beach doesn’t have the weight to mix ingredients well. It bucked up and chipped the plastic splash guard while trying to plow through a big mound of cookie dough. The frosting was slightly grainy, and the bread was too dense. The bowl’s base, with grooves for locking in place, took extra time to clean.

Bosch Universal Plus ($439.99; abt.com)

The Bosch Universal Plus consistently ranked near the top of the models we tested in terms of performance, but the plastic bowl, the need to hand-wash attachments and the fact that neither cookie paddles nor the heavy-duty mount for them were included at a price point equivalent to the KitchenAid Artisan kept it from topping the charts.

The Universal Plus (which Bosch has made since 1952) uses a very different design from KitchenAid-style machines, with the motor in the base and the bowl mounted from the top; the accessories mount on a central column that attaches at the center of the bowl. This makes for a squatter machine that is deeper than it is tall, unlike the KitchenAid.

The shorter profile holds a robust 500-watt motor with four distinct speeds and a pulse option. On the plus side, the wide 6.5-quart plastic bowl offers plenty of room to add ingredients around the attachments that snap onto a central column. The attachments, though, are all hand-wash, which made for a bit more work than the other models we tested.

The Bosch is a great performer, and just like the KitchenAid it shone with bread dough, quickly kneading it into shape with good elasticity. The Bosch produced light and airy frosting, although some powdered sugar got stuck to the central column just out of the double whisks’ reach. It handled cookie dough well with an even distribution of the chips and fruit. At 17 pounds, the mixer stayed in place (it has suction cup feet for extra grip) but could still be moved without too much effort.

A three-year warranty on the motor, along with more than 20 available accessories (the  bottom drive means there are attachments that convert the device to a full-fledged blender and food processor) means the Bosch could happily live in your kitchen for quite a while. If the design appeals to you but you prefer a stainless steel bowl, a version is available for $60 more, though with the same limited accessories as the less expensive version.

Dash 3-Quart Stand Mixer ($49.99; amazon.com)

This 3-pound micro mixer has some nice touches — a base that slides to allow you to negotiate around big lumps — and a dishwasher-safe bowl and attachments, but it performs like an undersized hand mixer. The instructions warn you not to add too many ingredients or use it for longer than three minutes at a time. Based on the noise of the motor, this seems like sage advice. Large batches of frosting didn’t whip, and our bread dough didn’t come together evenly. If you were making only single servings, the Dash might make sense, but you’re likely better off finding a new hand mixer or used stand mixer in an online marketplace.

Ankarsrum Original Kitchen Machine ($699.95; amazon.com)

With a variable speed motor and an 8-quart bowl, the Ankarsrum Original Kitchen Machine feels like a commercial kitchen’s mixer that accidentally got shipped to your house. The Swedish mixer, which debuted in 1940, arrives with a hardcover recipe guide, two bowls and a recommendation (take the recommendation) that you watch a YouTube video before using it.

While the bevy of attachments and options seem daunting, the learning curve isn’t steep. A scraper slots in underneath the arm that holds the dough hook and dough roller, which worked together effectively to knead and mix dough in the 8-quart stainless steel bowl. The single-wire beaters quickly creamed butter and sugar for the frosting, but it was difficult to add dry ingredients without getting them on top of the central mixing widget above the included 6.5-quart plastic bowl.

The most expensive mixer we tested, the Ankarsrum Original was quiet and amply powered at 600 watts. The mixer comes with a seven-year warranty for the motor and can take on a wide range of kitchen tasks. You can purchase an extensive range of attachments that let you use it as a juicer, pasta roller, grain mill, blender and more. It’s a fit for bakers making large batches of bread or baked goods several times a week, but it’s probably more machine than you need on your counter.

Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing: 

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