A great stand mixer—unlike many other countertop appliances—is an investment that can last a lifetime. After over 50 hours of testing since 2013, we think that the KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer is the absolute best stand mixer you can get for its performance, versatility, and price. It’s a workhorse worthy of heirloom status, whipping up cakes, cookies, and creams with ease, and kneading sticky bread and pizza doughs without straining.
We’ve been using the KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer since 2013, and we can definitively say that it is still the best for most home bakers and cooks. The Artisan is a sturdy machine that can power through thick doughs and aerate light batters without straining. It’s easy to use and clean, and it’s built to last. KitchenAid also makes attachments like a meat grinder or pasta maker that you can use with this machine, and as an added bonus, the Artisan comes in a huge variety of fun colors.
The KitchenAid Pro 600 Series 6-Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer is a great choice for people who make a lot of bread or dense cookie dough or who like to bake in large batches. Compared with the Artisan, it has a bigger bowl, stronger motor, and added heft. It also takes up more space and runs much louder than our top pick, and it costs more, but it’s a workhorse that’s so dependable it’s often found in professional kitchens.
Everything we recommend
Why you should trust us
For advice on what to look for in a good mixer, we spoke with several kitchen experts, including Sarah Carey, then editor in chief of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food and now the editorial director of food at Martha Stewart Living; Jane Lear, a food writer and editor who was senior articles editor at Gourmet at the time of our interview; and Anna Gordon, owner of The Good Batch bakery in Brooklyn, New York.
Wirecutter senior staff writer Lesley Stockton, the original author of this guide, has worked with stand mixers often during the course of an 18-year career in restaurants, catering kitchens, and test kitchens. Anna Perling is an enthusiastic home baker who likes to whip up the occasional rhubarb pound cake or chocolate chunk shortbread, so she approached testing for the 2018 update with an eye toward features home cooks would use. Research for this guide also included reading through articles from Good Housekeeping, Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), Foodal, and Top Ten Reviews, and combing through major retailers and Amazon for notable new models to test.
Who this is for
A great stand mixer will make your baking and cooking life a lot easier and can accomplish tasks that would be harder or impossible to do by hand. A well-made stand mixer can help you turn out rustic bread loaves, moist cake layers, and dozens upon dozens of cookies. It can make quick work of whipping egg whites into meringue and heavy cream into an airy dessert topping. Great mixers also have power hubs for extra accessories that can roll out pasta dough, grind meat, and even churn ice cream.
If you bake or cook regularly and have been struggling with a low-grade or older stand mixer, or want to level up from a hand mixer, you might consider upgrading. Hand mixers are lighter and more portable than stand mixers, and they’re great for occasional bakers or those with limited storage. But a stand mixer’s extra heft and power, as well as its bigger bowl capacity, means you can make larger, more involved recipes with less effort. That may be especially helpful if you have limited motor abilities and find working with a hand mixer difficult. (Keep in mind that a stand mixer is heavier to carry, though ideally you can park it on your kitchen counter.) With larger attachments and greater speeds, a stand mixer can handle tasks such as creaming butter, aerating batters, or kneading dough more efficiently than a hand mixer.
How we picked
Stand mixers can be categorized in two ways: by the design of the base or by mixing action. The design of the base determines how the beater attachment meets the bowl and comes in one of two styles:
Tilt-head design: The top of the machine tilts up so that you can attach or remove the mixing attachment and bowl. Most stand mixers for home cooks—including the popular KitchenAid Artisan—are made in this style. Tilt-head mixers tend to be more compact than bowl-lift mixers, and they make it easy to swap out beaters or to remove the bowl while the beaters are still attached.
Bowl-lift design: With this style, you snap the bowl into place on the base of the mixer, then lift it toward the mixing attachment using a lever. Professional mixers such as the Hobart line mainly use this design, but so do some domestic mixers, like the KitchenAid Pro 600 Series. They tend to be larger than tilt-head mixers (since you need clearance to raise and lower the bowl), and they’re also typically sturdier and more stable so they can better handle thick doughs. It’s a bit easier to add ingredients to a bowl-lift mixer than a tilt-head mixer when the bowl is lowered, but it’s also impossible to remove the bowl without also removing the beater attachment, which is a mildly annoying extra step.
Stand mixers also use one of two mixing actions:
Planetary mixers have a single beater that spins on its axis while it rotates around the bowl. This action ensures more points of contact and thus more consistent mixing.
Stationary mixers have two stationary beaters that spin while the bowl rotates in place and, as a result, doesn’t mix as thoroughly. Because the beaters are stationary, according to Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) “the attachments never touch the entire contents of the mixing bowl—they carve through a single trough.”
We considered all styles in our research, and ultimately decided to test both tilt-head and bowl-lift models, but we dismissed those with stationary mixing action, since they mix ingredients less effectively.
Beyond design and mixing action, we looked for mixers with the following qualities:
Power and range: A great mixer should be powerful, with a range of low and high speeds to handle a variety of recipes and baking needs. Starting on a low speed will help prevent contents from splashing out of the bowl and is better for handling delicate batters; high speeds will whip cream and egg whites quickly, and cream butter and sugar to a pale and fluffy consistency. When mixing heartier doughs, a stand mixer shouldn’t strain, smoke, or “walk” even when on its highest speed.
Simple controls: Stand mixers are bulky appliances, but they should be simple and intuitive to use. It should be easy to lift or lock the head, add or remove beater attachments, attach splash guards, and secure the bowl to the base. A handle on the included bowl is extremely convenient when you’re pouring cake batter, cooking Swiss meringue over a bain-marie, or scooping cookie dough.
Interchangeable beaters: Most stand mixers come with multiple beater attachments that are meant to handle different types of recipes. Ideally, the mixer should include a paddle for beating most batters and cookie doughs, a dough hook for kneading bread, and a whisk for aerating things like egg whites or whipping cream. These attachments are usually metal, sometimes with a nylon coating, and most are dishwasher safe. Although nylon coating runs a small risk of chipping, we’ve never had that happen to our coated KitchenAid attachments, so we think either style is fine as long as it does its job effectively.
Size and heft: Baker Anne Gordon noted that a quality mixer should be heavy enough to handle its own force—which means it won’t rock around on the counter on a high speed setting. Some reviewers complain about the heavy weight of stand mixers, which is understandable if you have to pull one out of a cabinet or down from a shelf every time you need to use it. But stand mixers are really designed to be left on the counter. If you want something more portable, we recommend a hand mixer. The added heft of a stand mixer is crucial to keeping it stable and prevent it from rocking on a counter during more intensive tasks.
As for bowl size, we recommend 5 to 6 quarts, which is big enough to make about four dozen standard-size cookies or handle just about any home baking task you might want to tackle. With a larger bowl, the beaters will make less contact with small amounts of liquids or foods.
Optional accessories: Many mixers come with a power hub that allows you to attach additional accessories, like a meat grinder or pasta maker (which you have to buy separately). While this feature is not essential, we like having the option to get even more use out of what is usually a large, expensive machine.
We also considered cost when looking for mixers to test. You might be tempted to go for a cheap option if you’re shopping for your first stand mixer, but we’ve found that more expensive machines are worth it for the added mixing power, stability, and versatility. Carey recommends getting the best mixer you can afford. More money will likely get you more features and attachments, and for a tool that takes up a decent amount of counter space, we think it’s wise to get a multitasker.
How we tested
For our original guide, we selected four recipes to test various aspects of a mixer’s performance: seven-minute frosting, sponge cake, kitchen sink cookies, and bread dough. For the 2018 update, we repeated all of these tests, but made pizza dough instead of bread.
We chose to make seven-minute frosting (which is the same as meringue) to test each mixer’s whipping prowess. The recipe requires you to cook egg whites, corn syrup, and sugar over a water bath until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, then whip the mixture on high for several minutes until it’s thick, white, and fluffy. Besides noting whether the mixers strained during such a long, high speed task, we also measured the volume of the frosting to see how well each machine aerated the mixture. The stated yield of this recipe is 8 cups, but getting more than that indicates better whipping abilities.
We also made a genoise (a type of sponge cake), which requires whipping whole eggs with sugar to give the cake its light, fluffy texture. Because the addition of flour in the last step of this recipe deflates the batter about 25%, it needs to be nice and airy to begin with to get tall, tender layers. So to judge how well each mixer aerated the batter, we measured the height of the baked cakes (down to 1/16 of an inch) and looked for an even, delicate crumb.
We also checked for an even distribution of raisins, nuts, coconut, and chocolate chips in each batch of cookies, an indication that the mixer could power through a big, dense bowl of cookie dough.
Then, we kneaded pizza dough, aiming for a springy, uniform ball that was resilient to the touch. When we made bread dough in our original tests, we examined the crumb on the loaves of bread to check for an even distribution of air bubbles, signaling that the dough was mixed and aerated sufficiently.
Finally, to see if the mixers could handle small-batch recipes, we used them to whip only one egg white, and then just ½ cup of cream. And every step of the way we also took note of how easy each mixer was to use, clean, and store.
When testing the Breville Bakery Chef for a 2021 update, we repeated all the tests except for the sponge cake batter test. We thought that one duplicated the findings of our seven-minute frosting test, which also tested for how well a mixer could whip air into ingredients.
Our pick: KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer
After multiple rounds of research and testing and continuous use since 2013, the KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer remains one of the few models we’ve tested (apart from the company’s larger Pro 600 and the Breville Bakery Chef) that can handle every one of our mixing challenges without rocking on the counter. It churns through chunky cookie mixes, doesn’t strain when kneading bread dough, and whips up lofty frosting and perfect cake batter faster than the competition. In the Artisan’s deep-sided bowl, the whisk and beater attachments can even blend small quantities. The motor runs much quieter than those of some of the other models we tested, too. This model is also easy to wipe clean and comes with a pouring shield to keep mixing relatively mess-free. The Artisan isn’t cheap, but it’s a time-tested appliance that we’re confident will last you for years.
In both the cookie and bread tests, the Artisan mixed dough without rocking or straining the motor. The cookie recipe we used involves more mix-ins than your usual drop-cookie dough, and several of the mixers in the testing lineup strained with the effort, including the Breville and the Cuisinart Precision Master. Though all of the mixers ultimately made beautiful and tasty loaves of bread, the two KitchenAid stand mixers we tested were the only ones that didn’t wobble while kneading.
It churns through chunky cookie mixes, doesn’t strain when kneading bread dough, and whips up lofty frosting.
When making cookies, the Artisan creamed butter and sugar so efficiently and evenly that we didn’t have to scrape the sides of the bowl. Other mixers pushed ingredients high onto the sides of their mixing bowls, and we needed to stop multiple times to use a spatula to incorporate ingredients back down into the bowl.
The Artisan can also aerate creams and batters like a champ. It yielded 9 cups of seven-minute frosting, proving that it can whip more air into a meringue than most of the other stand mixers we tested, which hovered in the still respectable range of 8¼ cups to 8½ cups. The Kenmore Elite and the KitchenAid Professional 600 actually did slightly better than the Artisan, but fell short in other areas. To further cement its whipping prowess, the Artisan made perfect genoise cake batter. The resulting cake was lofty, with a fine crumb and even doming, while the Cuisinart Precision Master and Hamilton Beach Eclectrics mixers made cakes with big air pockets and an uneven crumb, and the Kenmore Elite’s cake sank in the middle.
And while it had plenty of room for everything we threw at it, the Artisan could also handle tiny quantities, easily whipping first a single egg white and then a ½ cup of cream. Its otherwise stellar sibling, the KitchenAid Pro 600, couldn’t handle such a small batch of ingredients in its larger bowl. The Cuisinart Precision Master’s whisk struggled to fully reach such a small amount of cream, whisking it into a grainy, liquidy mess instead of a fluffy whipped topping.
The Artisan’s design is simple and user-friendly. There’s a speed control lever on the left, a switch to lock the head down on the right, and a power hub for extra accessories in the front. Many mixers will lock the head in place when it’s tilted up as well as when it’s down and positioned to mix, but the Artisan does not. This initially concerned us, but we’ve never actually had the head come crashing down on us. Meanwhile, we found the mixers that did lock the head upright, like the Cuisinart Precision Master, inconvenient. You need both hands to work the mechanism: one to press the release button, the other to simultaneously raise or lower the head. It sounds minor, but when you have a bowl of dry ingredients in your hand, it’s annoying to have to set it aside to put the mixer in place.
The Artisan comes with a nylon-coated beater and hook attachment, and a wire whisk attachment. These hook onto the machine easily, and all are dishwasher safe except for the whisk. Nylon coatings are a hot-button topic among KitchenAid owners because, over time, the nylon coating can chip off. But since we started using it in 2013, we’ve never noticed any chips. If you notice chipping on the bottom edge of your beater, it’s likely that it’s sitting too low in the bowl. Luckily, recalibrating your mixer is easy, and KitchenAid has a YouTube video that will take you through the steps. You can also buy a stainless steel beater from KitchenAid if you’re concerned about chipping.
The KitchenAid’s pouring shield—a plastic attachment that helps guide wet and dry ingredients into the bowl—is a helpful tool for curbing messes, but it isn’t essential. We like that it’s designed so you can slide it on and off at any time while mixing. On some other mixers, like the Cuisinart SM-55, you’ll need to stop the machine, lift the head, and remove the beating attachment before you can take the pouring shield off.
It’s simple to wipe down the KitchenAid Artisan’s smooth and rounded body. You can easily clean the few crevices—the hinge, the spring where the attachments connect, and the bottom where the bowl snaps in—with a damp sponge or cloth (as long as you get at splashes while they’re still fresh). The bowl and attachments are all dishwasher safe, except the wire whip.
The Artisan was one of the quietest mixers we tested. Only the Hamilton Beach was quieter, while the KitchenAid Pro 600 was the loudest and highest pitched, and the Cuisinart 5.5-Quart Stand Mixer was loud in a grumbling-motorcycle kind of way.
The Artisan also has many additional attachments you can buy to make the machine even more versatile. Carey and Jane Lear both mentioned to us how much they like the KitchenAid pasta-rolling and meat-grinding attachments, and we’ve found that the ice cream maker bowl is an affordable alternative to buying a dedicated machine. And though not essential, it’s a delightful bonus that KitchenAid mixers come in a huge array of colors.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
KitchenAid has only a limited one-year warranty on its stand mixers, which isn’t long for such a pricey machine. But we think that if you read the manual about maintenance and know the limitations of your mixer, you shouldn’t have issues with its longevity. This is a tough machine favored by professional bakers and restaurant chefs. The Artisan is a popular and well-loved item on Amazon, and many reviewers say their machines are still going strong after 10 years or more.
Another complaint we’ve heard about KitchenAid mixers is that they’re made by Whirlpool now instead of Hobart (and have been since 1986). But we’ve found no concrete evidence that this adversely affects performance. KitchenAid representatives promise that the machine is the same as when Hobart made it, still with all-metal gears and housing, and with the same patented design.
Finally, the mixer doesn’t have a built-in timer. But given that you can set a timer on your phone, this isn’t a huge concern.
Long-term test notes
Since writing our original guide in 2013, we’ve used the Artisan to make many batches of cookies and cakes, and even used it to grind meat with the meat-grinding attachment (purchased separately). In 2019, we used it to mix many, many batches of pizza dough for our pizza stone guide, and the mixer held up like a champ. Many Wirecutter writers, on the kitchen team and otherwise, have used their own Artisan mixers for years with zero problems.
But like any small appliance with a motor, it’s important not to push it too far. The key to longevity for a KitchenAid mixer is respecting its limits: Don’t overfill the bowl; make things one batch at a time; and don’t cram meat into the grinder. Although it can mix a double batch of super thick cookie dough, overloading the machine will shorten the life of the motor. If you respect its boundaries, it will give you many years of service.
Refurbished and used options
If you’re looking for a slightly better deal on the Artisan, you can get a factory-refurbished KitchenAid stand mixer for around $200. But the stock changes all the time, and the mixers that appear on the website don’t necessarily reflect what is actually available, so be sure to call and talk to one of the company’s very helpful customer service representatives for updated stock. You’ll also sometimes see these refurbs from KitchenAid on Amazon for as little as $200, depending on the color.
You can also go the eBay route, which lets you sort by used items if you’re willing to take the (minimal) risk. Although the Artisan is built like a tank, you won’t get a warranty should anything go wrong.
Also great: KitchenAid Pro 600 Series 6-Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer
The KitchenAid Pro 600 Series 6-Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer is a formidable appliance if you bake frequently or in large quantities, whether that’s hearty batches of bread, dozens of cookies, or large layer cakes. A big mixer with a big footprint, the Pro has a more powerful motor than the Artisan and can breeze through tough tasks. But it’s also significantly louder than our top pick and heavy enough that it’s best left permanently on the countertop.
The Pro 600 mixer is a taskmaster designed to tackle big jobs, which, along with the fact that it’s even more durable than the Artisan, is why it’s often found in restaurants and test kitchens. The spacious 6-quart bowl is best for tasks like making multiple loaves of bread—helped by the spiral-shaped PowerKnead dough hook, which was better at keeping dough in the bowl rather than pushing it up around the gear and spring. The heavy-duty motor powered through almost all our test batches. However, because the Pro’s bowl is larger than the Artisan’s and has a much wider bottom, the whisk couldn’t make full contact with a single egg white or whip a ½ cup of cream.
While there’s also a 5-quart bowl-lift mixer in KitchenAid’s Pro Line, we don’t think it’s worth getting over the Pro 600 for the smaller size, because the Pro line isn’t meant for whipping one egg white. If you’re willing to pay more for the extra mixing power, we think it’s best to go for the bigger bowl, since larger projects are where that powerful motor will really come into play. If you don’t bake dense doughs and big batches, you’ll find the Artisan is still strong enough to do anything you need, while also being more compact and less expensive than either the 5- or 6-quart Pros.
Like the KitchenAid Artisan, the Pro 600 has a hub for extra attachments like a pasta maker or a meat grinder, which are sold separately. The same attachments will work on both the Artisan and Pro lines interchangeably. The Pro also comes with a pouring shield that slides on conveniently to prevent ingredients from splashing out of the bowl.
Unfortunately, the Pro 600 Series was by far the loudest, highest-pitched mixer in our testing lineup. That said, this machine is a beast, in a good way. Like the Artisan, it comes with just a one-year warranty, but in our experience working with it in commercial kitchens, it will last for many years.
What about KitchenAid attachments?
One of the great things about owning a KitchenAid stand mixer is that the motor can work with a number of KitchenAid-branded attachments for a variety of food-prep tasks. But not all the attachments are equally useful or effective. We tested some of KitchenAid’s most popular stand mixer attachments, from the pasta press to the grain mill. You can read more about which attachments we found are worth getting and which aren’t.
Other good stand mixers
We tested the Breville Bakery Chef in 2021, and it works well. It was sturdy enough to resist rocking and walking on the counter as we whipped cream, mixed cookies, and kneaded pizza dough, while many other mixers we previously tried were not. And you may like some of its extra features: a timer that counts up and down, an automatically locking tilt-head, a 5-quart borosilicate-glass bowl (in addition to its 4-quart stainless steel bowl), and a silicone-coated scraper beater.
However, at this writing, the Breville Bakery Chef costs almost as much as the KitchenAid Artisan, and we don’t think it’s quite as user-friendly. So it’s worth considering only if you really value those extra features or prefer Breville’s design, and if you don’t mind some of the machine’s drawbacks. We found the Bakery Chef’s 5-quart glass bowl to be heavy, while the 4-quart metal bowl was too small for us to mix a large batch of kitchen sink cookies—the dough pushed up against the edges and threatened to spill over. (The mixer was able to whip small amounts of cream in both bowls.) The Bakery Chef has a dial rather than a lever to control its speed, and it has a pause function that stops the timer as well as the mixer. However, the dial is a little slower to change speeds than the KitchenAid switch, and it’s too easy to overshoot the pause setting and turn the machine off instead (which resets the timer). Breville covers the Bakery Chef with a one-year warranty on the machine and a five-year warranty on the motor, longer coverage than the one-year warranty KitchenAid provides for the Artisan. All that said, we prefer the streamlined design and larger metal bowl of the KitchenAid Artisan—plus, the Artisan comes in a much wider variety of fun colors and can work with multiple cooking attachments such as a meat grinder or pasta maker.
The Breville Bakery Chef also appears to be out of stock at all retailers at this writing, but a Breville customer service representative informed us that at least one of the colors (sea salt) will be restocked at the end of December 2021.
We tested Cuisinart’s newest stand mixer, the Cuisinart Precision Master Stand Mixer, for our 2018 update. This mixer didn’t impress us, especially compared with the Artisan. The Precision Master is lighter weight, so it’s easier to take out of a cabinet or down from a shelf, but it rocked and strained while making fruit-and-nut–laden cookies, and even pizza dough. The whisk had a hard time whipping a small amount of cream and an egg white—the resulting mixture was loose and grainy, not fluffy. A knob rotates to select one of 12 speeds, but even the highest isn’t as fast as about medium speed on the KitchenAid. The head on the mixer tilts up and locks by default. Like most mixers we tested with this design, locking and unlocking the head slowed us down and felt awkward—you need to reach around the back of the mixer and use two hands to do so.
In 2016, KitchenAid unveiled the Artisan Mini 3.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer. We found the smaller size to be restrictive. The Mini’s 3½-quart bowl was too small for us to finish a batch of kitchen sink cookies, and it doesn’t have a handle, so scooping cookie dough was precarious. And although the Mini is about 20% smaller than the full-size Artisan, it didn’t save a significant amount of space on our counter. The Mini Artisan measures 11¾ by 7⅜ by 12 inches (deep, wide, tall). By contrast, the classic Artisan mixer measures 13¼ by 8⅜ by 13¾ inches. If you really want a stand mixer, we suggest making room for a regular Artisan or getting a powerful hand mixer.
The Kenmore Elite 5-Quart 400W Stand Mixer looks great on paper: It has two bowls (a 3-quart and a 5-quart) plus all of the usual attachments. It comes with a five-year warranty, and its power hub accepts KitchenAid accessories. But the automatic head-locking mechanism drove us batty because raising and lowering the head took two hands. Even worse, this model strained and rocked back and forth while kneading bread, and when it tried to turn thick cookie dough, the paddle pushed the dough up the bowl’s sides, sending the splash guard spinning around the bowl.
The Hamilton Beach Eclectrics All-Metal Stand Mixer was the quietest of all the models we tested, with a pleasant low hum. But again, rocking and walking while kneading and serious motor strain with the cookie dough were both dealbreakers. The head-release button on this model is positioned in the back, which is not a very intuitive design. With a lack of power hubs for extra accessories, this is a basic mixer that’s good for only cakes and lighter baking.
The Ankarsrum Original Mixer is a favorite of Swedish households, but it utilizes stationary mixing. And after viewing about 10 instructional videos, we came to the conclusion that using this thing involves a pretty difficult learning curve. It’s also expensive. We opted not to test it for now.
We didn’t test the KitchenAid 5 Plus Series 5-Quart Mixer because it’s somewhat awkwardly in between the KitchenAid Artisan and the KitchenAid Pro 600. It’s a bowl-lift model like the Pro 600, which means it has a more powerful motor than the Artisan and is also several inches taller and wider, as well as several pounds heavier. But we think the power and heft of a bowl-lift mixer is best put to use on larger batches, like the kind you can make in the Pro 600. If you really like the bowl-lift style, or just want a more powerful 5-quart mixer, the 5 Plus might be a good option. But for most people, we think the Artisan has all the power and capacity you need in a more compact package.
Although the KitchenAid Classic Series 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer got good reviews from reputable sources, the bowl on this model is on the small side.
The KitchenAid Classic Plus Series 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer is pretty much the same machine as the Classic and equipped with the same-size bowl; it simply has a bit more wattage (which doesn’t mean much).