Friday, October 12, 2007

 

Review: Cuisinart SM-70 7 Quart Stand Mixer

I've used a 5-quart Kitchenaid stand mixer for years, most regularly for mixing doughs (came in really handy while writing my pizza and panini book), sometimes for creaming ingredients and even occasionally for whipping egg whites or cream, though I tend to do the latter two by hand more often than not. But I've found that the capacity wasn't everything that I wanted. Sometimes I'd make a large batch of bread dough, for example, and have to keep an eye on it to keep things in the bowl. So I was happy to try a test model Cuisinart SM-70 sent by the company's PR firm.

It was the 7-quart capacity that caught my eye - a large increase over the roughly 12-cups of the Kitchenaid I've used, or even that company's top-end 14-cup model. A batch of multi-grain roll dough - enough to fill a roasting pan with rolls - was dwarfed in the SM-70. You get what has become the standard attachments: whisk, paddle mixer, and dough hook for kneading. The machine handled the mixing easily and even the kneading with the dough hook, though there was a tiny bit of shaking in the machine. It's nowhere near so heavy as the Kitchenaids (extensive use of plastics instead of all metal), which means a bit less stability, but results in a unit that is also far more portable. I can lift it up to and down from the top of the fridge without a bit of problem. I do wonder whether the sturdiness will be enough to last for 10 to 15 years or more, but there's no way to tell that in the short run. However, as I said, it handled the dough easily, and that size of batch would have put a bit of strain on the Kitchenaid.

I appreciated the close fit of the whisk and paddle to the bottom of the bowl. You can also adjust them easily with a wrench (not supplied) to keep them close. The quality of that fit makes a lot of difference when you're trying to efficiently mix or whip something, because you engage pretty much all of the contents, and not just what the attachment can reach. The top tilts back to open access to the bowl that locks down into the base. I don't generally like tip-up designs in stand mixers, but I don't think Cuisinart had much choice in this case. The unit is very tall as it is, and incorporating a mechanism to raise and lower the bowl would have made it far too tall. As it is, the unit doesn't fit under our kitchen cabinets. I did like the solid feel of the latch for tilting back the head.

There are 12 speeds, to which I say so what? Like Kitchenaid, and virtually every other maker of any type of mixer, Cuisinart feels obliged to offer a lot of speeds, when, realistically, slow/medium/fast would probably be enough. The controls are electronic - not one of my favorite approaches because I find that such systems don't have the lifespan of mechanical ones, and tend to be expensive when it comes to repairs. However, if you're going electronic, might as well include a counter, which Cuisinart does, and it's a handy feature. You no longer have to watch the clock while mixing; set it and it will shut itself off. The unit also comes with a splash guard, and such should be standard equipment with any stand mixer. (Few things get as messy in cooking as flour kicked up into the air by a mixer.) You can also get option (read that as extra money) attachments for such things as juicing citrus, grinding meat, or making pasta.

Overall, I liked using it and found it a convenient way to handle larger volumes of mixing without sacrificing the ability to work with smaller amounts as well. The suggested retail of $449 also makes it one of the more reasonably-priced units you can find, particularly when considering the capacity.

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