If you already own a stand mixer and use it regularly, or you're considering picking one up in the sales as a special gift for Christmas, you're likely a keen baker (or know someone who is).
After all, stand mixers are a valuable secret weapon when it comes to whipping up a simple cake batter, for effortless hands-free beating of egg whites for a showstopping pav, or easily kneading a dough for a homemade loaf or tart.
But with some stand mixers costing up to a thousand dollars or more, you may be wondering if they can do any other kitchen tasks that'll help justify the high price tag. The answer is, for some models, yes! But there are a few things to keep in mind.
"The new generation of high-end stand mixers are designed to be multi-purpose appliances, spruiking features that can help you achieve professional results with everything from shaving ice and making juices to churning homemade ice cream or making your own pasta," says CHOICE home economist Fiona Mair.
But before you're completely sold, keep in mind that these tasks require extra attachments and, though nifty, each one can cost anywhere from around $150 up to $300 each.
Some of the attachments can be very bulky, so don't forget you'll also need somewhere to store themCHOICE home economist Fiona Mair
"While there are some really handy attachments that could effectively mean your stand mixer can replace tasks performed by other appliances in your kitchen, such as a food processor, the costs on top of an already expensive machine can add up," says Fiona.
"And some of the attachments can be very bulky, so don't forget you'll also need somewhere to store them, even if your stand mixer is out on the bench permanently."
Will all that in mind, you may still decide that the added versatility these attachments bring are well worth the price and storage challenges. Here are some of the things you may not have been aware you can do with your stand mixer.
If you fancy skipping store-bought and have the time and energy to make your own pasta, a stand mixer could be a handy tool.
Many of the high-end stand mixer brands such as KitchenAid, Kenwood and Smeg have various attachments or accessories available that can help you cut and roll pasta.
So you can knead the dough in your mixer bowl, then attach the accessory to cut silky lengths of spaghetti, fettuccine or make your own ravioli.
These attachments don't come cheap, though. The KitchenAid Three-In-One Pasta Roller and Cutter attachment will set you back $299, while the Kenwood pasta attachments are each designed for a specific type of pasta and come in at $199 each.
There are various pasta-making attachments available for stand mixers. Image credit: Kenwood.
Grind and mince meats
For keen cooks who love to make everything from scratch, many of the high-end (and a couple of the cheaper) stand mixers have grinding attachments available, which means you can mince your own meat or seafood to make things such as sausages or burgers. They often come with different grades so you can mince meat at different textures based on your preference. But again, they're not cheap.
The Smeg Multifood grinder attachment is $199 while the KitchenAid meat grinder will set you back $249. If you have a lower budget, the Kogan Premium Stand Mixer ($249) comes with a meat grinder attachment included.
Food processing: spiralising, shredding, slicing
If you don't already own a food processor or you're wanting to consolidate your appliances, you could consider a variety of different 'slice and dice' attachments for your stand mixer.
The KitchenAid Stand Mixer has a Food Processor attachment that costs $399 and promises to slice, dice, shred and julienne. Other stand mixers have various attachments available to help you prepare, chop or even spiralise vegetables.
"If you're looking to reduce the need for multiple appliances, these attachments can be handy," says Fiona. "But they are bulky – they're basically using the stand mixer's motor to operate, and are connected to outlets positioned on the motor head."
A mincer or grinder attachment can help you create a wide range of foods from scratch, such as burgers or sausages. Image credit: KitchenAid.
Make ice cream or sorbet
Smeg, KitchenAid and Kenwood all have ice cream maker accessories available that are compatible with select stand mixer models for making things such as ice cream, sorbet and frozen yoghurt.
"It's essentially an insulated bowl that you replace your standard mixer bowl with, and you can churn your ice cream right into it using the beater attachment," says Fiona.
Remember that you need to have enough freezer space available to fit the bowl in your freezer (you need to freeze it for a minimum of 15 hours before mixing up your ice cream).
Which stand mixer features or accessories do you really need?
Most stand mixers come with a balloon whisk, a flat/creaming beater and a dough hook – these accessories cover off a lot of the mixing you'd need to do for many recipes.
"When choosing a stand mixer and how much you're going to spend, think about what you're realistically going to use it for and how often you're going to use it," says Fiona.
"Although you may be tempted by fancy accessories, I'd recommend looking for one that comes with a balloon whisk, a dough hook and a scraper beater first."
A scraper beater has a rubber blade covering the beater attachment that scrapes the bowl during mixing. This helps avoid having to stop the machine during operation, lifting the motor and scraping the mixture that's been pushed to the sides of the bowl.
Some of the high-end stand mixers have an ice cream bowl attachment available. Image credit: Smeg.
"Also look for a mixer with a bowl capacity that suits the quantity of batters and doughs you'll be mixing up. Bowl sizes on different models can vary from 3.5 litres up to 7 litres," says Fiona.
"And if you are interested in the additional accessories, make sure you buy a model that will be compatible with them and that you have somewhere to store them.
"If you're spending hundreds of dollars on a stand mixer, it's also great if you have the space on your bench top to keep it on display to maximise its use."
When we test stand mixers, we give them scores based on how well they whisk, beat and knead. Read our CHOICE best stand mixer reviews to help you choose the right one for you.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.