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Mixing it up with new mixers

Powered commercial mixers have long been around to lighten the load and handle large volumes, but a new generation of machines boasts the versatility, speed, custom colors and compact design to consider an upgrade.

Some of today’s restaurant kitchens are temples of high technology, but hand mixing is still a basic prep function in many operations. It’s a laborious task that can eat into valuable work time. Powered commercial mixers have long been around to lighten the load and handle large volumes, but a new generation of machines boasts the versatility, speed, custom colors and compact design to consider an upgrade. 

{mosimage}The three heavyweights in the category are planetary mixers, vertical cutter/mixers and spiral mixers. Lighter, handheld spindle mixers are a lower cost, portable alternative for kitchens that don’t have the space, budget or daily need for one of the larger types. The type and variety of ingredients to be mixed will dictate mixer choice or at least narrow the hunt. If dough mixing is the only application, a spiral mixer may make sense. Dough is what it was designed to handle and it does it well. Retail and wholesale bakeries, as well as restaurants that do scratch baking, are the best destinations for spiral mixers. A vertical cutter/mixer can quickly mix dough, but its capacity is limited. The real strength of this model is high shear (very high speed) mixing and blending of sauces and purees, plus ingredient chopping, shredding and pulverizing into small pieces.

A planetary mixer, with its different attachments, is the way to go if bakery-related cream fillings, icings and meringues are common applications in addition to dough mixing. Plus, the planetary mixer has the strength to mash sturdy foods like potatoes and refried beans, and many are equipped with a power takeoff that can be used to operate a food slicer or meat grinder attachment. Spindle mixers are compact, portable and a good compromise for occasional, lower-volume mixing.

A note on safety: There’s always the temptation—however risky—to add ingredients or scrape bowl sides while a mixer is running. But with machine guarding now an OSHA safety requirement for heavy mixers, all major planetary and spiral mixer manufacturers provide wire or solid stainless steel bowl guards to keep hands, tools and clothing out of the danger zone. Some provide an interlock switch that cuts off power if the guard is raised.

Vertical cutter/mixers, with the mixing blade at the bottom of the bowl, have a cover for splash containment and safety. Some cutter/mixers add safety interlocks on that cover for extra protection. Handheld spindle mixers require two hands on the upper handle to start the motor, or a safety interlock similar to a power drill, to avoid accidental start-up. In practice, employees should be trained in safe mixer procedures and make sure all safety guards are in place, periodically maintained and fully operational.

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