The 3 Sins of Using a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, According to a Former Pastry Cook (Who Learned the Hard Way)
By Katherine Gillen | Nov. 24, 2020
I love my KitchenAid stand mixer, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m using it correctly. Sometimes my chocolate chip cookies bake up like rocks, or my cakes don’t rise. And sometimes it sounds like the attachment is scraping the bowl. What gives? I thought this machine was supposed to do all the hard work for me. Any tips?
Dear Stand-Mixer Skeptic,
I’m not surprised you consider your KitchenAid your most prized kitchen appliance. It’s a true workhorse (I use mine for everything from cookies to whipped cream to meatballs) and it can really cut down on prep time…if you know how to use it. There are a few mistakes you’re probably making when you use your stand mixer, but luckily, they’re all easy to fix.
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Mistake #1: You’re not scraping down the bowl with each addition
You know when a baking recipe asks you to “scrape the bowl well” or “scrape down the side of the bowl”? It’s not just to make you work hard. You should be scraping down the mixer bowl every time you introduce another ingredient into the mix. Sure, your KitchenAid does most the heavy lifting, but it can’t reach every corner of the bowl. After incorporating a new addition, stop the motor and use a flexible bowl scraper or silicone spatula to thoroughly scrape down any batter or bits clinging to the side. And don’t be afraid to really get in there, because there’s a sneaky little divot in the bottom of the bowl that has a tendency to hide unincorporated ingredients (like dry flour or butter). That flat cake you mentioned? It’s possible your ingredients weren’t fully mixed.
Mistake #2: You’re mixing on full speed the entire time
A KitchenAid mixer might have ten speeds, but that doesn’t mean you need to launch straight into the highest setting (or even use it at all). It’s totally fine to use a medium-high speed to cream butter and sugar or whip egg whites into a meringue. But when it comes to doughs and batters, you should err on the side of caution, especially when introducing dry ingredients into wet. That’s when there’s a greater risk of overmixing, and overmixing causes too much gluten to form. Too much gluten? Tough cookies. To avoid this, make the few final stirs by hand.
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Mistake #3: You never adjusted the beater-to-bowl clearance
Unless you read the instruction booklet that arrived with your KitchenAid (spoiler: we didn’t), it’s unlikely that you would know to make a few adjustments to your machine. Namely, you’ll want to check the beater-to-bowl clearance, or the amount of space between the attachment and the bowl. If the bowl is too close to the beater, it will scrape and clank around (and potentially damage the bowl, attachment or machine). If it’s too far, you won’t be able to mix anything properly. There’s a small screw on the head of the mixer that allows you to easily adjust the amount of clearance.
These are a few useful tips I learned while working in a pastry kitchen—I hope they help, and happy baking!
Food Editor, PureWow