Properly Sizing Your New Commercial Mixer
The mixer is a staple piece of equipment in many commercial kitchens, from the pizzeria that prepares fresh dough to the burger joint that makes its own special sauce. With planetary and spiral, floor and countertop models available, the right commercial mixer can make it easy to whip up your famous dough, batter, condiment, or sauce, while the wrong investment can wreak havoc on your budget and on the quality of your products.
In order to purchase a properly sized mixer for your establishment, you need to consider your densest dough, the biggest batch you'll need to mix in one go, and how often you'll be mixing it. The cost difference between any given mixer and the next size up is generally about 10 percent, so it may be worth the extra amount to choose a slightly larger mixer than you think you'll need at your initial assessment. You can save money in the long run by buying a larger mixer because you likely won't need to pay for as many costly repairs that can accompany an overworked mixer.
The smallest commercial mixers, sometimes called bench mixers, are those that can be placed on a countertop, work table, or special mixer table. All of these are planetary mixers, named for the way their agitators spin on their axes as the mixer hub rotates around the circumference of the bowl, much like a planet spins on its axis while orbiting the sun. A wide range of interchangeable agitators - including mixing paddles, wire whips, and dough hooks - makes these mixers great for general applications like preparing fresh mayonnaise and mixing pancake batter.
5-, 7-, and 8-Qt. Mixers
Compact enough to slide into any extra space you have on your countertop, a smaller mixer with a capacity under 10 quarts is suitable for preparing some whipped cream or sauce, fewer than 5 pounds of mashed potatoes, and a couple of quarts of thinner batters like those for cakes, waffles, and pancakes. These have motors between 1⁄3 and 1⁄2 HP, which will be able to handle a few pounds of dough, but only for a few minutes at a time. Don't expect to rely on one of these smaller mixers if you'll be using it daily to prepare bread or dough - those jobs are best handled by a larger mixer with a more powerful motor.
10- to 20-Qt. Mixers
Like their smaller counterparts, these 10-quart mixers are best suited to prepare lighter mixtures, such as 5 to 10 quarts of waffle batter, 2-1⁄2 quarts of whipped cream, up to a quart of egg whites, and up to 10 pounds of mashed potatoes. They can typically handle between 3 and 20 pounds of bread and pizza dough, depending on the density.
This 20-quart mixer size should work well for medium-sized operations that will normally use the mixer for smaller, occasional batches. Their 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 HP motors give these units plenty of power for those less-demanding settings.
Floor mixers are aptly named, as they are designed to sit on the floor of your kitchen, with some models standing taller than 5 feet. They're usually built with wide, open bases that make them steady, even when mixing hundreds of pounds of dough, and easy to clean underneath. Many accommodate bowl trucks or dollies to help you wheel full, heavy bowls into place. The largest ones typically include powered bowl lifts to take some of the strain out of operating them.
In this category you will find some spiral mixers, which differ from the planetary mixer in that the agitator spins in place while the bowl is rotated to create an even mixture. That design lends itself well to denser products like dough and thicker batters.
30- to 50-Qt. Mixers
These mid-range mixers are needed for medium-to-high volume restaurants, pizzerias, and bakeries. Towards the lower end, 30-quart mixers with 3-HP motors will deliver high volumes of general-purpose mixing, while the power needed for medium volumes of denser dough will be found in the powerful 5-HP motors of 40- and 50-quart mixers.
From this range up, the choice between a planetary and spiral mixer will become a bigger part of your buying decision. For cake batter and other lighter applications, a planetary mixer will provide you with the versatility of many interchangeable agitators. You can whip cream with a whisk and then switch to beater to mix batter. However, if you're working bread, pizza, or bagel dough in high quantities, you'll want to choose a spiral mixer. These units primarily come with a dough hook for high volume, constant production of dense pizza and bread dough.
60-Qt. Capacities or More
A 60-quart mixer or larger is necessary for the highest volume establishments. The largest planetary mixers are found here, but the most heavy duty mixers are going to be the spiral type. Those are designed for pizzerias, bakeries, and other establishments where the core menu items are made with the densest dough or where dough is produced in very high volumes. These mixers feature large motors, some as powerful as 5 HP, which can mix batch after batch of dense products without any negative effects.
If your volume dictates one of these mammoth mixers, you'll want to make sure you also have the tools to handle those large volumes safely and efficiently. Mixing bowl dollies and trucks let you move bowls around the kitchen without compromising the safety of your employees. Most of these units will come with an automatic bowl lift, and you'll definitely want to consider one, as lifting bowls of dense, heavy dough will wreak havoc on the backs of your operators. You may even consider a model with a hydraulic lift, especially if you're working with hundreds of pounds of dough. Those units will hoist and tilt the bowl, so you can empty your mixture out onto a work table for further prep.
Problems with Insufficient Capacity & Power
- Product Damage: Mixing bowls can be too small or too large. If the bowl is too small, ingredients can spill out, and if it's too large, the agitator may not adequately blend all the ingredients. If you have a mixer that isn't powerful enough, it can begin to overheat which can cause dough to start proofing before you're ready. Residual heat can cause meringues and whipped cream to fail as well. The sporadic speeds of an overworked mixer won't work dough or batter well enough to incorporate the ingredients completely.
- Machine Damage: If you're constantly working dense dough in a machine that isn't designed to handle it, the motor will invariably overheat and cause permanent damage to gears, belts, and other internal mechanisms. While many models have a feature that will automatically power down the unit if it gets too hot, repeated stress can shorten the life of your mixer and require frequent repairs.
- Warranty Issues: As with any major purchase, you'll want to check with the manufacturer for warranty details. Many companies offer at least a one-year warranty, while some offer additional coverage on certain parts. Make sure, however, that you refer to the manufacturer's website or the literature that comes with the unit on stipulations related to those policies. Failing to comply with capacity limits or neglecting to use the proper agitator or speed for the job may void any warranty the manufacturer may offer. One way to ensure compliance is by purchasing the appropriately sized mixer for your product and your volume.
A number of accessories are available to help you get the most from your mixer, although you should remember to use the proper agitator for each task. Many units will come with some combination of the following:
- Stainless Steel Bowl: This is the standard with commercial mixers because it is easy to clean and helps keep items cool during the mixing process.
- Bowl Extender: A bowl extender can allow you to mix up larger batches with a smaller mixer, but most importantly, it will reduce splashing or scattering of ingredients.
- Flat Beater: The proper tool for blending or mixing several ingredients together. It's great for whipping up cake and brownie mixes.
- Wing Whip: A wing whip has extra tines to make mashing potatoes, churning butter, and creaming icing an easier task.
- Wire Whip: The wire whip will be the agitator you need for whipping cream and making meringues.
- Dough Hook: If you'll be making bread, pizza, or bagels, you'll want to make sure you have a dough hook. It not only incorporates your mixture, it also kneads and stretches the dough so you don't have to do it manually.
- Pastry Knife: Making pie crust is a piece of cake with a pastry knife agitator.
- Splash Cover: Helps hold contents inside the bowl, keeping areas and employees clean while eliminating waste from splattered contents.
- Bowl Scraper: Since many mixers will not function if the bowl guard is not in place, a bowl scraper can be an invaluable tool. It eliminates the need to stop the mixer to scrape down the sides. The ingredients are blended better and mixing time is maximized.
- Bowl Dolly: Some dough can be very dense and heavy, especially in the quantities that some of the mixers can handle. A bowl dolly will help alleviate strain on operators' backs and will help prevent injury and spills that can create kitchen hazards.
- Ingredient Chute: An ingredient chute will also keep waste and spills to a minimum and allow you to keep the mixer going while you add new ingredients.