What are professional kitchens looking for in commercial mixers and accessories? Victoria Burrows asks the questions.

In busy professional kitchens, no chef has time to deal with equipment that is anything but perfectly suited to the space and his or her culinary requirements. A mixer is probably one of the most invaluable tools in a kitchen, and having the right machine and accessories can boost efficiency and productivity.

Chefs and pastry chefs should first be clear on what they need from their mixer in terms of product range and production volume and look for qualities to match.

“If the mixer is going to be used for big production of bread, a strong mixer with a good quality shaft, or stem, and motor is essential as bread dough becomes heavier when mixed,” says Linda Cheong, China and South East Asia Area Manager for Salva Industrial. “A thin, lightweight or poor quality shaft might bend or give way.”

A spiral mixer is often considered ideal for kitchens set up largely for bread production. Spiral mixers are designed to gently mix bread dough so that it develops the necessary gluten structure without overworking. The bowl of the mixer rotates as a spiral hook spins and kneads a portion of the dough, which keeps friction heat low and leads to a more homogeneous mix.

Spiral mixers come with variable speeds and sizes. Sweden-based Sveba Dahlen has two models, for example: the spiral mixer with fixed bowl – M Premium in 60, 80, 120, 160 and 200kg, which is for intensive use and stiffer dough and is suitable for bakeries of all sizes; and the MR Professional 80-240 Silent Spiral mixer with removable bowl in 80, 120, 160, 200, 240, 350, 400 and 500kg, which is suitable for medium and larger bakeries. A removable bowl allows bakeries to use multiple mixing bowls for a fast and steady production line.

While a kitchen’s product range will largely inform the type of mixer required, the size of the kitchen will matter in terms of capacity: in a smaller kitchen, the equipment is likely to stay the same except chefs may want to look for a mixer with a smaller capacity.

While Asian chefs and bakers are more at home with using spiral mixers, French bakers tend to favour twin-arm mixers. But Cheong says this is a matter of familiarity and preference.

“Basically, if the bakery makes pastries or bread, it doesn’t matter where in the world the kitchen is, Europe or Asia or elsewhere, the requirements of the equipment remain the same,” she says.

Spiral mixers usually do not have interchangeable attachments. So for kitchens with a wider range of requirements, most popular is a planetary mixer. A planetary mixer is generally valued for its versatility, although this can make it less suited to very specific kitchen requirements. Most pastry shops and bakeries will have at least one planetary mixer.

Planetary mixers come in tabletop and full-floor models and have a fixed, non-rotating bowl which is fixed onto the base of the machine and can be raised into, and lowered from, the mixing position.

A key selling point of these mixers is the wide range of accessories that make completing a variety of mixing tasks much quicker and easier. Standard attachments often include a paddle, whip and a dough hook. The paddle is ideal for blending and creaming such things as scones, biscuit dough, cake fillings and pie crust. The whip accessory is designed to allow air into a mixture so can be used for products such as whipped cream, mousse meringue and sponge cake. The dough hook is the usually used in pizza restaurants and smaller bakeries making bread.

Like spiral mixers, planetary mixers are available in different sizes. Salva’s planetary mixer, for example, is available in 20, 40, and 60 litre capacity. The mixer can handle kneading, mixing, or amassing light dough, melting material, egg whites or meringue. The mixer has three fixed speeds designed to carry out any type of elaboration.

Switzerland-based Kolb’s planetary mixer is available in 7, 10, 20, 30, 40, 60 and 80 litre capacity. It is gear-driven with a 3-speed, gear box that is ideal for cake paste and light product mixing, and comes with a mixing bowl and wire whip as standard. It has an advanced casting technique and special painting for easy cleaning and maintenance and the planetary head is designed to prevent oil leakage, boosting food safety. It also has an in-built motor cooling system for longer lifetime and an automatic shut-off to boost safety of kitchen staff.

Commercial mixers are some of the most useful and versatile pieces of equipment in the kitchen and the right one can be a valuable investment.