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Remember my story about how I used to religiously watch the FoodTV Network as a kid? (and still love to…)
Growing up, the KitchenAid (KA) stand mixer was one of those kitchen “toys” that the chefs always had on the FoodTV Network (aka the Food Network, as we all know it.)
One year for Christmas, I think I may have been 8 or 9 years old, my grandparents, together with my mom, decided to buy me a stand mixer as a Christmas/birthday present. My mom said she picked it up from Macy’s, which I’m sure was at the height of the Christmas shopping rush, and lugged it through the store to her car.
I don’t remember how I reacted to receiving the mixer for the holiday that year but to this day, it was probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
Since we have Dave’s KA mixer, mine is still at my mom’s house, but it has served me well over the last two decades. It feels so strange to say that it has been “two decades” of using that machine. I couldn’t tell you how many things I’ve made in it or hours I’ve put on it and it still runs great (knock wood.)
On the flip-side, I think some of the attachments for the KA mixer are gimmicky. Based on my experiences, here is a quick run-down of the good, bad, and ugly of the KA mixer attachments to watch out for if you are doing any holiday shopping for yourself or friends and family members that love cooking.
Spiralizer—I used to have an apple peeler, corer and slicer that was a pain to use. It was mounted on a wooden stand and would wobble all over the place when trying to use it, no matter how much I tightened (and re-tightened, over and over again) it to the wooden stand.
This KA attachment is essentially the elevated version of that. It comes with a few different slicers and it’s much easier to use and of better quality than the one I had. Thick and thin slicers come as part of the set, which are perfect for peeling apples for applesauce or a pie and making zucchini, carrot and other “noodles” out of veggies.
Zucchini noodles are of course known as “zoodles” to everyone except my mom, who calls them (and regular pasta) “zoozles.” They are now affectionately known to Dave and I, too, as “zoozles.” Whatever you call them, they’re a great side dish to make when sauteed with some garlic, butter, and fresh herbs like chopped parsley and basil.
We also love combining them with cooked spaghetti, linguini or other long strands of pasta for a dish that is half-pasta and half-zucchini noodles—so it’s low carb but not zero carb—the best of both worlds.
One of our favorite dinners to make is a quick peanut noodle salad: toss zucchini noodles with cooked linguini or rice noodles, shredded carrots, matchstick cut red peppers, scallions and peanut sauce (which you can make homemade or use a bottled one, if you’re in a hurry.) Sometimes we’ll add cubes of cooked tofu, shrimp or sliced chicken, too.
Dave and I bought the spiralizer attachment last year and get the most use out of this compared to any of the KA attachments we own.
Pasta roller and cutter set—The pasta roller and cutter was probably the “OG” KA attachment that I saw the TV chefs use and was fixated on buying. I must have picked it up and put it back down fifty times or more at stores over the years.
Earlier this year, though, when I saw it on sale on the Best Buy website as a package deal with the new-style food slicer (although, it’s no wonder this one was essentially free…), I decided a little splurge wouldn’t hurt. Some quarantine entertainment, plus learning something new? Sure, why not?
The pasta maker, in contrast to the new-style food slicer, works exceptionally well. Along with the spiralizer, this renewed my faith in KA mixer attachments.
The K-A pasta roller and cutter set that I got has three roller attachments: the flat roller for making pasta sheets, the thick pasta cutter for fettuccini or linguini, and the thin pasta cutter for spaghetti and angel hair. Each of them simply attaches to the front of the machine, then you start the mixer and go. A dial on the right-hand side controls the thickness settings, from #1—the starting point—to #6—for really thin sheets.
Of course, there are less expensive alternatives. A tabletop, hand-crank pasta machine like Cuisinart makes is a fraction of the price and works perfectly fine, too. I liked the convenience of the K-A one, with the ability to use it with the mixer to have the benefit of letting the machine do the work. It made the experience of making pasta for the first (and second) time fun, easy and enjoyable.
Old style food slicer—This is the older model slicer that still comes in several KA stand-mixer attachment packages along with the meat grinder and fruit juicer/strainer attachments, neither of which I own or have used. I haven’t seen this one a lot in stores anymore, since it has been replaced with a newer model slicer as well as a mini food processor attachment.
This slicer (also called the Roto Slicer in some descriptions that I have seen online) has three, interchangeable cone-shaped blades that fit into a funnel-shaped plastic housing that shoots out the veggies that you are slicing and shredding. It works fine once you dial in the right speed setting to make it slice more efficiently, which can be a little annoying since the blade starts spinning as soon as the mixer turns on. It required some trial and error to know the right speed and when to add the veggies so it starts cutting properly. The blades can also get stuck in place and require a tool to insert and tighten as well as remove.
After using, if you clean the metal cutter cones with water or put them in the dishwasher and don’t dry them completely, they can rust where there is residual water left on the surface, so be cautious about that. This happened to ours at the flat base of the cone-shaped blade, where it locks into the rest of the machine, but cleaned off easily.
Since we have a food processor that does the same work while being easier to use, we don’t use this attachment that often. This one isn’t bad but also not as good as the pasta roller or spiralizer attachments. It also works worlds better than the new model…
New-style food slicer—If I purchased this one by itself, which is called the Fresh Prep Slicer/Shredder Attachment, instead of receiving it as a bonus to the pasta maker set, then I would have returned it by now.
Is it as bad as the ice cream maker? No, because it’s not defective… but the feed tube is way too small.
This attachment is essentially the top of a food processor feed tube with blades integrated. On some food processors, you may have to cut up what you are shredding or slicing so it fits in the feed tube, but I felt like this required much thinner pieces to fit within the tube, which has an opening of about 2.5 inches.
It’s also inadequate for slicing softer vegetables, like cucumbers. I tried and failed to slice cucumbers for pickles over the summer. It turned into a huge mess of mangled vegetables. The cucumbers didn’t go to waste: as mangled as they were, I chopped them up more for a tzatziki sauce.
If you have a food processor, though, you don’t need this. If you don’t have a food processor and want to save space, then maybe it’s worth the purchase. You can store the parts neatly in the box when it’s not in use, and it may be good for a smaller space or apartment. Given the choice between this or a food processor, though, a food processor is way more versatile. (I can’t speak to how the K-A food processor attachment would work, though, because I don’t have that, but would suggest buying a full-sized one before this, based on capacity alone.)
Ice cream bowl—I’m not going to mince words: unless it has been updated recently (and based on reading some recent reviews, it seems like it has not) the current design of the ice cream bowl sucks.
This was the first attachment I bought over 10 years ago. I was excited to have this because I didn’t have a stand-alone ice cream maker at the time.
I got a few good uses out of mine before I started to notice weird, frozen blue stuff in my freezer. After asking myself What the hell is that…? more than a few times, I came to realize that the bowl leaked. What started off as a few drips eventually turned into more, and had me suspect about if any of it would get in my ice creams.
I still have the ice cream bowl, but don’t really use it anymore. I would not recommend it unless there have been design changes to improve the quality and stop rampant leaks.
Final thoughts and other stand mixer accessories you should have
Hands-down, my favorite attachments are both the spiralizer and the pasta maker. Both are easy to use and good quality. I’m optimistic about the vegetable sheeter, too, which looks to be a hybrid of these two attachments. (I don’t have this one but may look into buying soon, and if I do, I’ll update my post with a review of it. Making veggie “pasta” sheets for cannelloni, lasagna and carpaccio seems like a lot of fun…)
Any of the attachments mentioned here will fit KA mixers dating back many years—like mine, which was purchased around 1998, making it over 20 years old. The reason for this is behind the circular logo on the front of the machine: the power hub. This has been the same design for many years.
A notable exception, of course, is the ice cream bowl: you cannot use this with some models unless you have the adapter for the bottom of the bowl, which comes in the box with the ice cream maker bowl the last I checked. There may also be a different version available for the bowl lift model, but truthfully, my recommendation is to avoid the ice cream bowl entirely and look into an ice cream maker by Cuisinart, as an example. Similarly, save your money on the new-style food shredder and invest in a food processor, too.
Bonus: other stand mixer accessories you should have
Both a cloth cover and the flexible edge beater are great to have—one of course is to keep your machine free of dust and debris when it is not in use, and the other is to make mixing even easier.
You can find many stand mixer covers on the internet in a lot of fun designs and patterns—check Etsy or Amazon—but from the ones that I’ve seen, the official K-A issued mixer covers seem among the best quality. I have one for each of our mixers, one black and one khaki with black piping. They are heavy, quilted cotton fabric with a pocket on the front for holding the mixer attachments (dough hook, whisk, flat beater) when not in use. Unfortunately, it seems like K-A may be discontinuing the covers, as the only two colors I’ve found are khaki and red on Amazon, but several came up on e-Bay, as well.
The flat beater is another one that is worth a buy. It replaces the flat beater attachment and has silicone edges on it that look very much like wide spatulas or bowl scrapers to—you guessed it—continually scrape dough off of the sides of the mixer bowl while the machine is running. It may work best with the stainless steel bowls; from what I remember, on the glass mixing bowl I had, it was fine but not as effective as on the stainless steel. Also, be sure to check model numbers carefully to find the one that fits your mixer: there are different kinds for the bowl-lift vs. tilt-head mixers.
No stand mixer?
It seems like everyone has a stand mixer now, but if you are still on the fence about buying one and have space to store it, do it. You’ll have it for a lifetime and get many years of enjoyment out of it. And some of the attachments are very useful and enjoyable to use—with a few exceptions, as I noted.
Not only that, but there are so many pretty colors to choose. When my mom bought mine, the selection was limited to black, white, gray, dark red and navy blue. Mine is a textured, matte gray; Dave’s is glossy white with black accents. If I didn’t have my heart set on my next one (hopefully) being the copper metallic one when either machine dies, I love the black violet color mixer or the dark teal color that Target has, which is a limited edition color with Magnolia, Joanna Gaines’ brand.
Even if you don’t have the space to make a mixer a permanent fixture on your kitchen counter, we have ours on a shelf in our dining room where it “lives” when it’s not in use but still easily accessible. Fortunately, this is one benefit of a small house—it’s really not too far to walk from one room to the other to get it—but other times, Dave just does the lifting and carrying. 😉