Most kitchen mixers come with various different attachments like whisks, beaters, and hooks.
But it is not always clear what they are supposed to be used for. A lot of recipes don’t specify which mixer attachment you should use to achieve the best results.
If you use the wrong kind of attachment for your recipe, it could ruin your hard work and make a mess of your food. It can also cause damage to your mixer!
If you try to beat a heavy mixture with an attachment meant for light whisking, the mixer might overheat and break.
To make things easier for you, I have put together a useful guide on the four most widely used types of kitchen mixer attachments. I will explain what they do and what they should be used for. Keep reading to find out more.
A balloon whisk is perfect for beating a lot of air into a mixture to make it light and fluffy. It works in the same way as a flat beater, but the balloon shape helps to create more air bubbles.
As the whisk moves around the bowl, the mixture is dragged through the gaps between the wires. This mixes the ingredients together whilst forming air bubbles in the mixture.
Delicate foods like angel food cake and meringue get their texture from beaten egg whites.
Different recipes call for different levels of whisking- soft peaks, medium peaks or stiff peaks. You can achieve all of these results with the balloon whisk by controlling the speed settings.
The balloon whisk has a delicate structure so if you use it for heavy mixtures like muffin batter or bread dough, you could damage the whisk.
The flat beater is a versatile mixer attachment that can be used for many things. It is stronger than a whisk and brings less air into the mixture, gradually incorporating all of the ingredients.
It is best to begin on a slow speed and then increase it as the ingredients mix together. It works by pulling the ingredients around the bowl, allowing some of it to go through the holes.
Flat beaters are ideal for creaming together butter and sugar, which is the foundation of many great cake recipes and helps to make them fluffy. You can also use the flat beater to make frosting and cookie dough.
Remember not to over beat your mixture as this will form gluten which is not ideal for cakes and cookies as it will make them chewy.
The flat beater is suitable for use in savoury recipes too. It works really well to beat mashed potato to make it extra smooth and fluffy, and it can be used to make meatloaf.
If you have warm, cooked meat that you want to shred, like chicken or pork, you can do this with a flat beater on a slow speed.
This attachment is not suitable for very heavy mixtures like bread dough, but can be used for most other things and is a good all rounder.
Flex Edge Beater
The flex edge beater is very similar to the flat beater, but one edge is covered with silicone. This edge acts as a scraper, collecting mixture from the side of the bowl.
This prevents the need to stop the mixer periodically and scrape the mixture from the side of the bowl with a spatula. This makes it perfect for stickier recipes which use ingredients like syrup or honey.
Use the flex edge beater instead of the flat beater for recipes that require a smooth and silky finish, or mixtures that have a creamy texture.
The dough hook is perfect for those heavier mixtures like bread and pizza doughs that aren’t suitable for the flat beater. The dough hook replicates the process of kneading the dough by hand, including turning, folding, and massaging the dough.
The dough hook attachment will take on a lot of the hard work for you, allowing you to make delicious homemade bread with little effort required! Kneading for 2 minutes with a mixer is the equivalent of kneading for 10 minutes by hand.
The traditional C-shaped dough hook pushes and scrapes the dough from the side of the mixing bowl. The spiral dough hook pushes the dough from the bottom of the bowl. Both types of dough hook work very well for kneading.
You can use dough hooks to make bread dough, pizza dough and even pasta dough! But keep in mind that dough hooks are not suitable for cookie dough.
They will net mix the ingredients of cookie dough efficiently, so you are better off with a flat beater for this.
How To Choose The Right Attachment
Now that you know what the four main mixer attachments can do, how do you choose which one is right for your recipe?
The main thing to consider is the thickness or heaviness of the mixture. If you are trying to beat air into a light mixture to make it fluffy, then you should use the balloon whisk.
If you have a medium mixture, like cake batter or frosting, and you want to mix all the ingredients together thoroughly, then use the flat beater. If your mixture is sticky, then use the flex edge beater to ensure that all the mixture from the side of the bowl is incorporated.
For heavier mixtures like bread and pizza dough, make sure you are using a dough hook. If you use a different attachment to try and mix bread dough then you could cause your mixer to overheat and break.
If you’re not sure which attachment to use then read ahead in your recipe for key phrases. If the recipe tells you to ‘cream’ ingredients together then you will want to use a flat beater.
If it says that you need to stop and scrape the ingredients from the side of the bowl then the flex edge beater would be a perfect choice. If the recipe tells you to knead, you will need to use a dough hook.
If you are required to beat air into a mixture then a balloon whisk is the best attachment.
Kitchen mixer attachments that are made from metal usually last longer, but not all of them are dishwasher safe.
Having dishwasher safe attachments is a lot easier as it can be fiddly to try and remove all of the mixture from whisks and beaters. Some attachments have an anti-stick coating which prevents mixture from getting stuck on the attachment.
What Other Useful Attachments Are There?
Most stand mixers will come with the four attachments I have described. You can also buy these attachments for hand mixers.
There are lots of other attachments available to add to your stand mixer, some of which are very useful and will give you lots of options for your culinary adventures.
A splash guard is a useful attachment to have. It covers the bowl as you mix to stop any ingredients from splashing out of the bowl and making your kitchen dirty.
This is particularly handy for very wet mixtures, or recipes that involve a lot of flour. Some splash guards have a small opening so you can add additional ingredients into the mix without stopping the mixer or removing the splash guard.
There’s nothing worse than trying to mix a lot of dry flour into a recipe and ending up with a cloud of flour in the air that settles on the surfaces and makes a terrible mess. A splash guard will fix this problem for you.
A jug blender attachment is a great additional feature as you can use it to make smoothies and milkshakes.
By getting a jug blender attachment for your mixer instead of a separate jug blender appliance, you can save money and give yourself more workspace in your kitchen.
Why have multiple appliances and gadgets when you can have one that does everything? You can also get stand mixers with food processor attachments which are perfect for turning bread into breadcrumbs, or crushing biscuits.
Some top of the range mixers come with even more extravagant attachments like pasta makers, meat grinders, spiralizers and juicers. If you want to create professional dishes and recreate specialty recipes in your kitchen, then getting a stand mixer with various different attachments would be perfect for you.
You can impress your friends and family by cooking up a storm! Make your own pasta from scratch, use the food processor to blitz up some fresh pesto- no sauces from jars for you!
Bake a cake or whip up a homemade cheesecake- your dining table will be the best restaurant in town.
Which Is Better- Stand Mixers Or Hand Mixers?
If you are a casual baker then a hand mixer and a mixing bowl will probably be enough. Hand mixers come with different attachments like dough hooks and beaters, and they do a good job of simple recipes like cakes and cookies.
If you bake regularly for friends, family, or even a small business, then you will be better off with a stand mixer.
They have a greater capacity for ingredients so you can make your recipes in bigger batches. Stand mixers are more powerful than hand mixers, and are better for specialty recipes.
Stand mixers are also easier on your arms, as you don’t have to hold the mixer. This is particularly useful for heavy mixtures like bread doughs, and processes that take a long time like beating egg whites into stiff peaks.
With a stand mixer you also benefit from a much wider range of attachments and extras.