Product Knowledge Guide: Standard Mixers

Mixer designs haven’t changed much since this equipment was conceived back in the early 1900s.

iStock-157614033Foodservice operators use standard commercial mixers for a range of applications: producing dough, mashing potatoes, shredding cooked meats, whipping icing and whipped cream, and making compound butters and salad dressings, among other prep tasks. This equipment is most often categorized by type or size but can also be broken down into light, standard or heavy-duty mixer models.

The two main types of standard mixers are planetary and spiral. Planetary mixers are staples in bakeries and pastry kitchens. This type uses a stationary bowl, and the attachment — usually a dough hook, beater or whip — travels around inside the bowl. This type is more geared for heavy dough production requiring a good deal of kneading action. It provides consistent bowl coverage and many touchpoints during operation.

Spiral mixers have rotating bowls, and the hook remains in the same place as the bowl moves. This mix action is ideal for production of Neapolitan pizza dough, artisan breads and other doughs with a very high absorption rate.

Less common are cutter mixers that mix batters, chop and knead dough. With this type, the beater or attachment rotates.

Mixer size can be generic and/or specific. For example, generic size includes tabletop, stand, bench and floor types, while specific would reflect the bowl size.

Mixers range in size from 4½-quart countertop models with a 1-square-foot footprint up to 140-quart floor units, which occupy approximately 3 feet by 4 feet of floor space. The most commonly used sizes are 20, 40 and 60 quarts. Countertop types generally hold less than 10 quarts, while floor mixers range from 20 to 50 quarts on average. Planetary models range from 5 quarts up to 140 quarts in bowl size. The spiral mixing products are measured in pounds and range from 180- to 440-pound bowls.

Most mixers feature cast-iron construction with a hybrid powder-coat finish, stainless steel and aluminum. The units also can be made of zinc die cast or framed with stainless steel. Planetary mixers typically use stainless-steel mixer bowls.

iStock-501125914Most units offer variable speeds that adjust according to the mixing task. Built-in timers also help operators better control the mixer. Horsepower for this equipment ranges from 0.4 hp for a 5-quart size to 5 hp for 150-quart models.

Standard features include multiple operating speeds, bowl lifts for larger sizes and bowl guards. Accessories vary widely. Planetary units offer dough hooks for kneading in either a spiral or J-hook format. Most include standard paddle beaters and wire whisks.

Options also include digital controls, accessory hubs, agitators and attachments. Planetary mixers often have a #10 or #12 power hub to run attachments such as slicers, shredders and meat grinders. Spiralizers and pasta maker attachments also are available. Some units offer variable speed drive systems as well.

New ergonomic bowl trolleys with extended handles allow the operator to stand upright to push the bowl rather than having to bend over. Direct current motors on commercial units provide more horsepower, yet draw less amperage, running quieter and cooler.

The biggest consideration when choosing a mixer is the application. Knowing the menu and the possibilities plays a key role in choosing the right mixer in terms of size and type.

For added safety, most mixers feature an interlocking guard. When this is removed, operation automatically shuts down. Some guards are removable for easier cleaning. Regulations for use of these units varies depending on location. For example, bowl guards are required for use with mixers in Canada, but only with mixers 10 quarts and up in the U.S.