KitchenAid mixers have been the must-have appliance in homes for decades but with so many models and options which mixer do you really need? After exclusively using KitchenAid mixers for over 20 years professionally & at home, you can say I’m a bit of an expert.
I learned to bake on a Hobart KitchenAid bowl lift model, slugged my way through college with a KitchenAid hand mixer, then bought a KitchenAid Artisan tilt-head stand mixer in 2010 when I finally had the counter space.
I hated the Artisan. I’ll explain why later.
Then in 2018, my husband surprised me with a vintage 1978 K5SS! The same model Julia Childs swore by. She’s a beast to say the least.
The Professional Heavy Duty Series is the modern day “equivalent” to my vintage model.
Quick KitchenAid History
KitchenAid stand mixers have not changed for the most part since Hobart Manufacturing introduced the iconic design to home cooks in 1969. Hobart is the manufacturer of the huge mixers you see in bakeries that are built like tanks. They didn’t skimp on their home models either.
In 1986, Hobart sold KitchenAid to Whirlpool and things slowly went downhill from there in the name of profit.
New vs Vintage Kitchenaid Stand Mixers
All newer Kitchenaid mixers leak oil
That’s right. Kitchenaid is aware of it and doesn’t really see it as a problem. It’s a major problem. I cleaned up oil ALL. THE. TIME. It leaked constantly and got everywhere no matter what I did. Disgusting.
The only way to stop oil leaking is to open the gearbox up & replace the cheap lubricant with a higher quality food grade lubricant like Super Lube. You’ll need 2 tubes.
Consider it a full day project to find the service manual, disassemble, clean out & replace lubricant, and then reassemble.
Internal Parts: Gears
All new KitchenAid stand mixers have plastic gears except the Pro Line. Plastic gears break and crack all the time and can’t handle dense doughs like bread for long. Plastic also breaks down, especially when heated. Your machine will get hot depending on what you are mixing and for how long.
Vintage mixers like mine have solid metal gears which are more durable.
New Paddles, Bread Hooks, & Whisks
Plan on replacing new white paddle beaters and bread hooks yearly. Yes, yearly. They state they are dishwasher safe but no matter how careful you are, they will chip. Even with handwashing, the paint flakes within the year. It’s a manufacturing problem. The aluminum base is not properly cleaned before they are nylon coated and leads to bonding issues.
This also goes for the Flex Edge paddles. I loved mine but the paint failed after a year and the rubber scraping edge had to be reshaped often.
In the short term, individual replacement is inexpensive but over the life of the machine, it gets quite expensive and frustrating. Nothing like paint chips in your muffins to add a bit of crunch.
Also none of the aluminum whisks, beaters, or bread hooks are dishwasher safe. They develop a residue that will leave a black film on your hands and black streaks in your batters & doughs. Yum, white cake with black stripes.
Replace Coated & Aluminum with Stainless Steel
KitchenAid just came out with a 100% stainless steel option for paddles, dough hooks, and wire whips. Run and buy all three!!!!! They are pretty hard to come by online but I have had great locally at Dillard’s. If it’s less than $30 per accessory, it’s not 100% stainless steel.
Seriously. The stainless steel beater, wire whip, and bread hook by Kitchenaid are the best purchases I have ever made. I have even given them as gifts to fellow bakers. They are 100% dishwasher safe and have made the need for yearly replacements a non-issue. They literally will never need to be replaced.
Reviews on KitchenAid’s website are terrible but I think it’s because people are mixing up the burnished aluminum accessories with the stainless steel. They do look similar but when you pick up the stainless steel ones, they are significantly heavier. Like “be careful not to drop them on your foot” heavy.
Vintage KitchenAid Stand Mixers
If you can find a vintage KitchenAid stand mixer model (1970 – 1986) on eBay, Facebook, or an estate sale; snatch it up! This includes models like my K5SS, K45SS, and KSM90. They are usually only $100, and in my opinion, built better than brand new mixers. Replacement parts are easy to find and modern accessories/attachments work on these vintage models as well.
I do recommend replacing the gearbox lubricant as it’s probably pretty old and newer silicone based lubricants like Super Lube keep machines cooler. This is especially important if you plan on making bread.
On the topic of bread, the hook that comes with old machines, especially bowl lift models, is shaped like a long J. It’s terrible at kneading bread and the dough works its way up the hook instead. Replace it with a spiral hook.
Tilt Head or Bowl Lift?
If you have wall cabinets above your counter, KitchenAid stand mixer tilt head models are a pain in the butt. They will hit the underside of your cabinet when you tilt it up. You will also need to pull out tilt head models to the edge of the counter so it doesn’t bonk the wall behind it. I prefer bowl lift models for these reasons alone. No pulling the mixer back and forth aways from the wall all the time.
Bowl lifts are also easier to scrape down with the paddles, whips, or hooks still attached. Simply lower the bowl, scrape, lift, continue. The tilt head attachments tend to get in the way and you end up with batter on the back of your hand. Not a deal breaker but kinda annoying when you’re already a messy baker.
Stand Mixer Accessories
I love my KitchenAid glass bowl for the Artisan. It is really great for things I need to keep cool like whipping cream and it’s beautiful for my tutorial photos. There are a ton of beautiful bowls to choose from and I highly advise buying an extra bowl to have on hand. Nothing like a dirty bowl ruining your baking flow.
There is a glass version for bowl lifts but they have major issues with breaking. I highly advise against them.
Stand Mixer Attachments
Every hub attachment works with every mixer no matter what.
My favorite attachment is the pasta maker. Anyone who have ever cranked a manual pasta knows it takes major coordination to operate the machine and wrangle the dough. It’s never an enjoyable or neat process. The Kitchenaid Pasta Maker makes it fun.
My next attachment will likely be the ice cream maker.
Best KitchenAid Stand Mixer for Bread
If you intend on making a lot of bread, you need an all metal gear system. Metal is only used in vintage bowl lifts or the brand new Pro Line Series 7 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer. This does not include Pro 600, Professional 6500, Professional HD, Professional 5,
Pro Line Recommended Products
Making bread in a tilt-head stand mixer is like wrestling a bucking bronco. You have to hold the machine down from the top as it kneads so it doesn’t buck off the counter. Yes, I’ve come close to this happening.
Bowl lifts tend to be heavier and more stable so you don’t have to worry about holding it down to while kneading bread dough.
Best KitchenAid Stand Mixers
Budget: Vintage 5 Quart Bowl Lift or Professional HD
Vintage KitchenAid stand mixers were built to last. They are still great machines and can be bought for around $100. Get a vintage 5 quart bowl lift mixer in good condition. They are the best bang for your buck with plenty of available upgrades like modern attachments and accessories. Replacement parts are easy to find and they can handle kneading bread.
New: Pro Line 7 Quart Bowl Lift w/ 5 Quart Bowl add on
A note on 6 Quart KitchenAid Stand Mixer Models
KitchenAid 6 quart stand mixers seem to be sold mostly at Costco for very little money compared to their other models. There’s a reason people. Finding replacement accessories is about impossible. Even the official KitchenAid website only lists the wire whip as a replacement option.
5 quarts models are the easiest to find replacement paddles, whips, hooks, and bowls for. Make it easy on yourself and resist the low 6 quart price.