Types: Both planetary mixers and vertical cutter/mixers blend dough and batter, or slice, shred or cut food.
Capacities/Footprints: Vertical planetary mixers come in models as small as 41/2 qts. and take up about 1-sq.-ft. of counter space and those as large as 140 qts., which occupy about 3” x 4” of floor space. Common sizes in between include 12-, 20-, 40-, 60- and 80-qt. mixers. While some food processors can be considered cutter/mixers, the term cutter/mixer usually applies to a floor model with 40 qts. or more capacity.
Energy Source(s): Vertical cutter/mixers employ 5-hp motors because they need to work at high speeds to produce the powerful cutting action their applications require. As a result, the electrical connection is usually 3-phase, at 200V or 230/460V. Power requirements for planetary mixers depend on their size. Smaller 4 1/2-, 5-, 12-, 20- and 30-qt. tabletop mixers can operate on a household current of 110/115V, while 40-qt. and larger models have electric requirements that range from 112/120V to 3-phase 200V, 208/240V or 230/460V.
Manufacturing Method: Cutter/mixers are usually made from stainless steel with a bottom-mounted motor that drives a mixing shaft and a tilting bowl with a pouring lip for easy dispensing of product. Covers are often made of high-impact, see-through plastic. For safety, an interlock prevents most units from operating when their covers are open or bowls are tilted. Some planetary mixers are made from heavy-duty cast iron; more-expensive models have stainless-steel exteriors.
Standard Features: Cutter/mixers come with a sealed, solid-state motor, timer, blade attachments and strainer basket. Planetary mixers include stainless-steel mixing bowls and cast-iron bowl adapters that accommodate several sizes, as well as a bowl guard for safe operation. An attachment hub accommodates mixing tools.
New Features/Technology/Options: Among the mixer models released in 2006 are some that combine .4-hp (300 watts) direct-drive with 5-speed transmission, providing a strong amount of torque at the beater shaft for maximum batch sizes. Agitators work efficiently to produce quality food products quickly. Rotary knobs on the sides of the mixer can work in tandem or individually, both for speed adjustment and as an opening/closing function. Agitators achieve speeds of between 70 rpm and 400 rpm. A permanently lubricated planetary head and attachment hub case are good additions. Another new model comes with a variable-speed drive system. The mixer frame consists of a column with welded-on feet, and a top traverse closed by a stainless-steel cover. The top traverse contains the transmission system consisting of the moveable pulleys, the intermediate belt drive and the planetary head. For floor-model sizes, features include swing-out mixing bowls, power lifts and the capability to store and call up multiple programmed mixing schemes.
Prime Functions: Vertical cutter/mixers can make various types of dough and batter, and can also be used to make coleslaw, crush ice, chop hamburger, blend mashed potatoes or make mayonnaise and sauces. Planetary mixers can whip, blend or mix various types of dough and batter and, with additional cutting or grinding attachments, make the same products as a vertical cutter/mixer.
Key Kitchen Applications: Planetary mixers are most often found in bake shops and pastry kitchens, although they are useful for eliminating hand-mixing of other items. Vertical cutter/mixers can perform the functions of a food blender on a larger scale, as well as do some rough cutting of salads and vegetables.
Purchasing Guidelines: Low repair costs and maximum service life are powerful bottom-line considerations. To specify the correct unit and attachments, operators must first determine the applications for which it will use the mixer. Because of the density of dough, it requires larger mixing bowls than sauces, for example. Similarly, end-users should be aware that due to the fact water causes products to rise and spread, a mixing bowl should not be filled to the top, but rather filled only 1/2 to 2/3 of the way.
Maintenance Requirements: Motors are sealed, but may require lubrication with a food-grade grease or a gearing oil bath. Moving parts, such as belts, will need to be changed during a mixer's life.
Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Stainless-steel food contact surfaces must be sanitized between uses.