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What Is a Hand Mixer?

Updated May 16, 2024
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A hand mixer is a small hand-held kitchen tool used to blend ingredients. Most are electric, and they tend to be small enough to store in a drawer or cupboard, meaning they can be easily kept out of sight when not in use. The concept is usually quite simple; a small electric motor is usually encased in a house, normally of plastic, that has a handle as well as ports for two blades or paddles. These paddles are removable in most cases for easy cleaning. Once switched on, the motor causes the blades to spin very quickly. Cooks often use these tools as an alternative to manual blending with a spoon or fork. The mixer is able to work much faster and more efficiently, and at high speeds can often do things like whip cream into a froth, which takes a lot of effort when done manually. There are usually a couple of different styles. The first models, which were introduced in most places in the early 1960s, tend to be quite simple, often with just one style of blade and a simple on-off apparatus. More advanced and modern examples often have a number of possible attachments and often come with multi-speed capabilities, too.

Basic Concept and Main Uses

Mixing is an essential kitchen skill, though there are many ways to accomplish it. The simplest, of course, often involves nothing but a spoon; the most advanced usually involves high-powered machinery. A hand mixer usually falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. It harnesses electrical power to blend at high speeds and with accuracy and precision, usually with as little as the touch of a button.

There are a couple of uses for this tool, but blending batters and mixing wet with dry ingredients are some of the most common. Cooks can often hold the mixer in one hand while adding ingredients with the other, which can improve efficiency and also promote a more even blending overall. Hand-held mixers are often able to break up clumps and incorporate things into each other much faster and more accurately than even a very experienced cook could with a spoon.

Early History

The first electric hand mixer was invented by the French kitchen company Dynamic in 1964, and similar models were soon manufactured and sold around the world. The Dynamic prototype was somewhat primitive, at least on today’s standards, but the core way in which these tools work hasn’t changed that much over the years. Before the tools were electric, many innovators experimented with ways of making simple spoon beating more efficient, including adding things like cranks and gears to joined spoons, whisks, and the like.

Variations, Speed Settings, and Advanced Models

The market for mixing tools today is often quite saturated. Customers can often find simple and usually inexpensive models that work for basic tasks, but there are also usually a lot of options and additional features that can make the tools better for more nuanced uses. Many come with a range of different paddle attachments, for instance. In addition to the standard beaters, advanced models can often accommodate whisks, flat blades, and hooks for achieving different results.

Speed settings are another change in recent years. It’s common today to see mixers with three, seven, or even nine different speeds, which can add precision and control when making more exacting recipes. The range of materials these tools are made from is expanding, as well, and fanciful or “vanity” patterns, colors, and designs can sometimes be seen, too.

Cordless Models

Almost all hand mixers are electric, which means that their motors are powered with electrical currents. Not all have cords, though. Some models can park in a charging station that’s connected to AC power and, once their internal battery pack is charged, they can be used any place and in any space, without having to be plugged in. This sort of flexibility is often important to cooks who are on-the-go or who work in tight or cramped kitchens.

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