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This Is What You Need To Know About Kitchen Mixers

It's time to know the difference between a blender and a food processor.

Design by Justine Zwiebel/BuzzFeed

Breaking that down...

1. The STAND MIXER and the HAND MIXER do the same things.

The differences are SIZE (hand mixers are better for mixing smaller quantities, since you can scrape the bowl down with the beaters as you go, ensuring even mixing) and EFFORT (you can walk away from a stand mixer while it works, but you have to hold a hand mixer and the bowl, which makes it less ideal for things that take a while to whip, like egg whites, or kneading dough). And of course, hand mixers make for easier cleanup. But really, you can do anything with a hand mixer that you can do with a stand mixer (not counting all of the next-level stand mixer attachments like pasta roller and meat grinders, which essentially transform it into a different machine).

Stand mixers come with lots of attachments, but these three are the most important.

The paddle attachment mixes ingredients without whipping too much air into them. It's most commonly used to "cream" butter and sugar, which means you beat butter and sugar together with the paddle attachment for a few minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. This is the first step when you make most cookies and cakes, and also when you make frosting.

The whisk attachment also beats, but it whips more air into the thing it's mixing — let's say, egg whites — which increases its volume. It's commonly used to make meringue (which are just whipped egg whites and sugar that have been baked) or to whip a bowl of heavy cream, which is simply how you make "whipped cream."

The dough hook kneads dough. The first step for most yeasted bread recipes (meaning, anything that needs to rise before you bake it, like regular bread, pizza dough, or cinnamon rolls) is to combine flour with water, maybe milk and sugar, and some yeast, then knead that dough for several minutes. You could do it by hand, or use a dough hook and a stand mixer.

Again, stand mixers are better than hand mixers for anything you have to beat, knead, or whip for longer than a minute, since the machine does all of the work for you. Stand mixers are also good for recipes that call for ingredients to be added while mixing, since they leave you with two free hands.

These are the hand mixer attachments.

"Wait, the hand mixer attachments look a lot like the stand mixer attachments!?"


2. Use a FOOD PROCESSOR for chopping, grinding, or blending things into a thick, coarse paste-like mixture.

Food processors come with lots of attachments, but these three are the most important.

The shredding disk doesn't actually mix anything. It's used to grate fruits, vegetables and cheeses. Let's say you have a peeled carrot, for example. You turn on the machine with the shredded disk attachment fitted on it, then feed the carrot through the tube at the top of the food processor, and it gets shredded. You can do this with cabbage to make coleslaw, raw potatoes to make latkes, or cheese when you need tons of grated cheese.

The slicing disk works the same way and doesn't mix anything, either. Use it to slice fruits, vegetables or cheeses super thin. This is helpful with potatoes and turnips or other root vegetables when you want to make a gratin or fry homemade chips.

The s-blade chops ingredients while mixing them together. You rough-chop ingredients by pulsing them—meaning, you start and stop the blade repeatedly, as opposed to letting it continuously run—to your desired consistency. So let's say you want to make spinach artichoke dip: You'd combine artichoke hearts, spinach, sour cream, mayo, cheese, and salt in a food processor then just pulse until you have dip. Same for pesto — pulse basil, garlic, and pine nuts, then add oil and mix a little more. You can also use the s-blade to grind meat (or fish, beans, or tofu) and then add garlic, breadcrumbs, and sauce to the machine to make burgers, meatballs, sausages. (This is called making a farce in traditional French cuisine.) S-blades are also good for making hummus or nut butters: You can use them to pulverize chickpeas or nuts into a coarse paste (which won't work in a blender because blenders need liquid to get moving).

4. Use a BLENDER for puréeing, blending liquids, or emulsifying.

A blender makes soft creamy liquids (purées). For example, you'd put a bunch of cooked vegetables it in with stock to make soup. But if there's not enough liquid in the blender, the blade won't make enough contact with the mixture being blended to churn it around and purée it evenly. Translation: without enough liquid, ingredients in a blender won't blend, and the motor will burn out. So, blenders are better for anything with a thinner consistency, while food processors are better for thicker mixtures. (Also be careful not to fill a blender entirely with hot liquid or when you turn it on, pressure from steam will blow the top off the blender and your kitchen will be a mess.)

A blender can also emulsify (combine any liquid with fat to create a thicker, creamier mixture) vinaigrettes or sauces like hollandaise. First, add liquid (usually vinegar or some kind of citrus juice) to the blender and start blending. While the blade is turning, add oil in a slow and steady stream. The blade moves the mixture around fast enough to emulsify the liquid and the fat, which is how you get a delicious creamy sauce or salad dressing.

Use an IMMERSION BLENDER for blending liquids to a chunky consistency, or blending during cooking.

An immersion blender has the same blade as a regular blender. Since it's hand-held, you can move it around during blending and create a sauce that's blended but not completely puréed, which makes it great for anything that should be a little chunky as opposed to totally smooth like tomato sauce, chunky soups, or apple sauce. Immersion blenders are also useful for blending things during cooking as opposed to before or after, since you can blend a mixture directly in the pot or pan it's being cooked in. This is especially helpful if you need to blend a HOT mixture, since putting a hot mixture into a blender and turning it on can blow the lid off.