Choosing a Hand Mixer
For the frugal baker, a key ingredient in a delicious dessert or savory side is a good, cheap mixer. Stand mixers, which are stationary and come with a dedicated bowl, are generally designed for serious bakers who use a mixer frequently and need an appliance that can stand up to heavy duties such as preparing bread dough and the like. They're known for being powerful, durable, and versatile but are also on the expensive side. The most basic models tend to come in around the $50 mark, and the very cheapest of the coveted KitchenAid mixers command closer to $150 and above.
As a more affordable alternative, hand mixers lack the power and stability of stand mixers but are a boon in the kitchen if users don't expect them to serve as perfect substitutes. For home cooks who lack the space, money, or need for a heavy stand mixer -- and who eschew manual hand mixers, for want of patience or physical stamina -- a cheap and sturdy electric hand mixer priced below $30 is a good, portable stand-in for many food-prep and light-duty baking tasks.
The best hand mixers, regardless of price, all have one critical thing in common: ease of use. They are comfortable to hold and proficient at beating egg whites and cream to frothy heights, mixing cookie dough to silky smoothness, and whipping potatoes into airy puffs. We read up on the latest models and longstanding favorites and sorted through expert reviews and hundreds of user comments to determine which budget mixers more than satisfy these basic requirements.
A few well-known brands dominate the low-cost end of the hand mixer market, notably Sunbeam, Proctor Silex, Oster, and Hamilton Beach. The three best cheap mixers on our list are the Hamilton Beach 62650 (starting at $27), the Oster 2500 (starting at $20), and the Betty Crocker BC-2205C (starting at $17). A second tier of mixers that meet standards and turn in above-average performance are the Sunbeam Mixmaster 2525 (starting at $20), the Black & Decker MX3200B (starting at $20), and the Proctor Silex Easy Mix 62507/62509RY (starting at $10), which comes in either black or white.
Lagging far behind are the Oster 7-Speed Clean Start FPSTHMBGB-S (starting at $30) and the Proctor Silex 62535Y (starting at $24). Reviews indicate that these models are so short lived that it's probably best to think twice before purchasing either.
Other Hand Mixer Brands.Mid-tier and high-end hand mixers by the likes of Oxo, Cuisinart, and tastemaker KitchenAid beat the cheaper competition in terms of build quality and reliability, and sometimes power and special features. The Oxo On Illuminating Digital Hand Mixer (starting at $40), for example, boasts an LED display and LED headlight, the latter to illuminate action in the bowl. While the true utility of a hand mixer headlamp might be debatable, the Oxo model has several other positives to recommend it.
Many consumers are wooed by the KitchenAid Ultra Power KHM512ER (starting at $32), which is available in 12 colors, far surpassing the standard white and occasional black or silver housing on budget-priced mixers. While this line is generally slightly more expensive than the models we recommend, and certain color options command a premium, it has more than just aesthetic appeal. For many buyers, perks such as higher quality steel beaters and a swivel cord to accommodate lefties or righties might justify the extra outlay.
Hand Mixer Reviews: What We Considered
While hand mixer reviews are prevalent on sites such as Better Homes & Gardens, The Spruce, Chowhound, and Consumer Reports, they give only cursory attention to mixers in the Cheapism price range. That reality forced us to rely on customer reviews posted on sites such as Amazon, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, Target.com, HomeDepot.com, and Abt.com. These comments proved invaluable for providing firsthand information about how cheap mixers perform over time. According to home users, our picks are worth every penny despite minor annoyances like very fast starts and minimal, if any, noticeable variance between speeds.
Mixing Performance.With the exception of the two models we've labeled "think twice," consumer consensus proclaims that the hand mixers on our list meet expectations for mundane mixing chores. While none generate the love lavished on more expensive mixers, users are satisfied with the overall performance of our picks, most of which earn an average of at least 4 stars out of 5 across consumer review sites.
The three best cheap mixers garner compliments for mixing prowess, from basic jobs like creaming butter and sugar to more taxing demands like working a stiff dough. The other good cheap mixers likewise earn high marks from reviewers. For instance, the Sunbeam label commands loyal followers who report on Amazon that the Mixmaster 2525 is a powerful little number that nimbly works through cake batters and frosting.
Experts are unimpressed with the mixing abilities of the Proctor Silex 62535Y, and users agree. With an average rating of 3.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon, this model takes heat for bogging down when beating anything as heavy as mashed potatoes. The Oster 7-Speed Clean Start not only suffers from painfully slow action and beaters that don't always stay in place but is also prone to breakage, according to consumer feedback on Walmart.com and the manufacturer's website.
Power.The more power a mixer possesses, the bigger the batch and the heavier the batter it can handle. Stand mixers generally run on a minimum 250 watts and top out at 700 watts compared with hand mixers, which usually fall in the 200- to 250-watt range. That said, reviews indicate that the best hand mixers hold their own when confronted with stiff or thick dough. The presence of a "power boost" or "turbo" feature -- a spurt of extra juice at just the right moment with the touch of a button -- helps the mixer plow through the challenge before reverting to a maintenance speed. In reviews on Walmart.com, for example, users say the Oster 2500 5-Speed Hand Mixer struggles with cookie dough until the Burst of Power function relieves the stress. Among our recommended models, all but the Proctor Silex Easy Mix 62507/62509RY have such a feature. The Hamilton Beach 62650 and Betty Crocker BC-2205C deliver 290 and 300 watts of power, respectively, when the button is activated.
Not every cook needs lots of power, however, as suggested by the numerous fans of the 100-watt Proctor Silex 62507/62509RY. Although some reviews on Amazon warn that heavier batters, like corn bread, can gum up the beaters, this simple, sturdy mixer is just fine for cakes, whipping cream, egg whites, and even molasses cookie batter, according to overwhelmingly favorable reviews on Wayfair.
Speeds.The speed of the beaters affects a mixer's performance. Slow speeds are good for blending, particularly when working with dry ingredients, while whipping requires full speed ahead. The ideal mixer gets off to a pokey start, to minimize splatter and keep ingredients in the bowl, and then can be counted on to adjust power delivery at measured intervals best suited to the tasks at hand. Experts at America's Test Kitchen argue that the number of speeds is less important than the differentiation between them, and five is usually sufficient. All the hand mixers we researched offer at least five speeds -- in theory.
Alas, minimal distinction between speeds is the bane of most cheap hand mixers. Numerous users of the five-speed Proctor Silex 64507/62509RY bemoan the lack of differentiation among speeds, describing them simply as extremely fast. Reviews of the Sunbeam Mixmaster 2525 report that the beaters whir fast or faster, despite the nominal six levels. Alone among our picks, the Oster 2500 wins acclaim from consumers who say it starts off slow and steady.
Consumers looking for more precise mixer speeds will have to turn to models tagged slightly beyond our price ceiling. For example, the popular Cuisinart HM-90S (starting at $67) is fitted with nine speeds, which, according to reviews posted on Walmart.com, are clearly distinct -- starting with three very slow, low speeds and gradually building to a crescendo that whips ingredients into a frenzy.
Weight and Ease of Use.A hand mixer must be held at all times while powered on. That puts a premium on light weight and ergonomic design. Experts say about 2 pounds is optimal, and most of the models we researched come close to that mark. The Hamilton Beach 62650 and the Sunbeam Mixmaster 2525 are the heaviest models we researched, both weighing in at nearly 3 pounds, while the Oster 2500 is a comparative featherweight at 1.7 pounds. The mere 1.83-pound weight of the Proctor Silex 62535Y is regarded by many reviewers, like this one posting on Amazon, as one of its better attributes.
Some mixers, including the Hamilton Beach 62650, Proctor Silex Easy Mix 62507/62509RY, and Proctor Silex 62535Y, balance on the lip of a bowl when at rest. Others rest on their heel on a countertop. The Black & Decker MX3200B and Sunbeam Mixmaster 2525 do both.
Many users find it helpful to have an ejector button or lever for releasing the beaters from a mixer. All of the more expensive models we've mentioned have such a mechanism. Among our cheap picks, only the Oster 2500 and Hamilton Beach 62650 include this feature. The other models instead require the speed control button to do double duty: Usually the button is pushed in, rather than forward or backward, to release the beaters. Several people find this setup frustrating -- it's easy to turn the machine on accidentally while trying to push the beaters out. Conversely, when changing speeds, it's possible to eject the beaters instead. With the Betty Crocker BC-2205C, users must push the dial past the full power setting in order to engage the eject function. Not surprisingly, many warn that it's best to unplug the appliance first.
Accessories.Hand mixer attachments may vary, but all mixers come with two ejectable beaters. In the budget segment, beaters generally are chrome-plated with a post in the middle, a design that can be difficult to clean. Some users also report the beaters may flake or rust. Pricier mixers, like the Cuisinart HM-90S and Oxo On Illuminating Digital, often include post-free, stainless steel beaters. The low-cost Hamilton Beach 62650 comes with traditional and post-free wire beaters and the Black & Decker MX3200B provides wire beaters exclusively, a choice that disappoints some users. They grouse on the company website about flimsy wires that barely manage to whip potatoes.
Some cheap hand mixers are graced with extra attachments. A single wire whisk for whipping egg whites and cream is a handy add-on packaged with the Hamilton Beach 62650, Black & Decker MX3200B, Oster 7-Speed Clean Start, and Cuisinart HM-90S. Many of our top picks, including the Black & Decker MX3200B, Oster 2500, and Betty Crocker BC-2205C, also come with dough hooks. Although editors at The Spruce say hand mixers aren't powerful enough to knead bread and are tiresome to hold for that long anyway, users don't necessarily agree. We read many reports about successful bread-making sessions with these inexpensive small appliances, although it's possible they were set aside when the dough was ready for kneading.
A storage container is another welcome extra. The Hamilton Beach 62650 comes with a plastic case that attaches to the bottom of the mixer and holds the beaters and cord. The Black & Decker MX3200B and its accompanying attachments fit inside a supplied container. The Oster 7-Speed Clean Start includes a small carrying case for the mixer and attachments.