The Fresh Loaf

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Kitchen Appliances--You Must Have A Good Frame Of Reference To Properly Purchase One

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baltochef's picture
baltochef

Kitchen Appliances--You Must Have A Good Frame Of Reference To Properly Purchase One

As a chef, and as a person that has been working with power tools (an electrical kitchen appliance is simply a different kind of power tool!!) since I was 5-6 years old (supervised, of course!!) I am often asked "What kitchen appliance should I purchase??"..Invariably, I reply to "Buy the best that you can afford for your anticipated needs"..I also recommend buying a little more appliance than you might THINK that you need..It is far more common (99.99999% of the time) to want to, and to attempt to, exceed one's initial desires in food preparation, and rarely, rarely, rarely do I find people telling me that they purchased more in the way of an electrical kitchen tool than they truly ever feel the need to use..


The main number 1 problem that I find with electrical kitchen appliances is that I find that the vast majority of failures are NOT due to poor design, or bad manufacturing; instead the appliance fails because the user causes the electric motor to over heat and fail because THEY DO NOT KNOW WHEN TO STOP WHEN THEY HEAR THE ELECTRICAL MOTOR STRAINING TO DO ITS JOB!!!!!!!!..Period..  Sorry for the caps, but I am really trying to make this point!!..     


Most modern Americans equate high purchase prices to indestructability..This is especially true with blenders, juicers, food processors, and stand mixers..There is a wide variety of electric motors for a manufacturer to choose from when specing out an appliance during the design stages before the appliance is offered for sale to the public..There can be an astounding difference in price between two elcetric motors that to the untrained eye appear to be very similar..A better quality electric motor that is capable of withstanding more strain (torque on the motor) often accounts for at least 50% of the price increase in a commercial kitchen appliance as opposed to a home consumer one..


I will provide the following concrete example..


On this forum it is generally accepted that the best non-commercial mixer for the home bread baker is the Swedish-made Electrolux DLX mixer..It is a proven design matched by 5 decades of reliable service in many countries..Its primary design is to knead bread doughs as efficiently as possible..It will do other things, but in my opinion it is best used as a dough kneading machine..The current average price in the USA for the DLX mixer is between $570.00 to $600.00 (depending on color choice), with the chrome plated model commanding a hefty premium at approximately $820.00..


By comparison, the smallest commercial stand mixer readily available in the USA is the Hobart N50 5-quart mixer..It has all of the appearance, and accessories, of the Kitchen Aid Professional 600 stand mixer, with the exception of the power control switch and the color..The Hobart N50 is painted a dull battleship, industrial gray, and it has the high-quality 3-position (1st-2nd-3rd speeds) control switch that all Hobart commercial mixers have..The speeds on a Kitchen Aid mixer are controlled by a sliding rheostat switch that regulates the amount of electricity that the electric motor recieves..The speeds on the Hobart N50 are controlled by the 3-position lever switch which in reality IS NOT an electric switch, but instead a gear shift lever..Unlike the gears on a manual transmission car, which is equipped with a clutch that allows for changing gears while the gears are moving; the Hobart needs to come to a complete halt before changing the gears..Otherwise the gears will be stripped, necessitating a VERY costly repair job..Both mixers come with their respectively-sized 5 and 6 quart SS bowls, a paddle, a whip, and a dough hook..The overall quality of EVERY component on the N50 mixer, as well as the attachments, is light years higher for the Hobart compared to the Kitchen Aid..This is especially true of the gears, the gear changing mechanism, and the electric motor on the Hobart N50 mixer..


I offer the following prices as a comparison..These prices were taken off a variety of internet sites while writing this thread, so that they are very current..


Kitchen Aid Professional 600 6-quart stand mixer, w/ 6-qt. SS bowl, paddle, whip, dough hook, splash shield @ $350.00


Electrolux DLX Assistant 2000 8-quart stand mixer, w/ 8-qt. SS bowl, fluted roller, scraper, dough hook, white plastic bowl, spindle, double whisk attachment, spatula @ $570.00 to $600.00---($820.00 in chrome)


Hobart N50 5-quart commercial stand mixer w/ 5-qt. SS bowl, paddle, whip, dough hook @ $2,035.00


Other commercial 8, 10, and 12-qt. stand mixers are going to be priced between $2,400.00 and $5,000.00..Commercial electrical kitchen appliances are designed to be used all day long, sometimes 24-7, with only short periods of downtime to allow the electric motors to cool off between uses..Home appliances are simply not designed for such use..What a commercial kitchen appliance will deal with without even straining, will generally destroy the average home kitchen appliance..


Both the Bosch Universal Plus 6-quart, 800w stand mixer ($400.00), and the DLX mixer are using a direct drive interface between the SS mixing bowl and the shaft of the electric motor..This is why the Bosch Universal Plus, at only $50.00 more than the KA Professional 600, is so easily able to outperform the KA..The torque of the motor is more efficiently being transfered from the motor to the mixing bowl..With the KA design, a LOT of power is lost as the energy transfers through the motor and down through the dough hook, vibrating away out into space..The Hobart mixers, with their far more efficient and powerful motors, are able to overcome these design inefficiencies..


The main problem that I find with many home cooks is that they want near commercial quality, or actual commercial quality kitchen appliances, but they are simply not willing to pay for that quality..I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people tell me that they will just purchase the less expensive appliance, wear it out, and keep purchasing another, only to trash and wear out that one..I know one person that could have purchased a commercial stand mixer, food processor, and blender for all the money that they have spent purchasing multiples of the cheaper appliances..


A bad behavior that I find increasingly more common is people deliberately purchasing an appliance knowing in advance that they are going to abuse it..Then, they try to claim a replacement under warranty, very often successfully..It is amazing how often this type of person can get 1-2 appliances replaced under warranty before the manufacturer catches on, and refuses to honor the warranty any further..Of course, this is a primary reason for the higher costs of many of todays kitchen appliances..


I cannot overstate the importance of learning to listen to your kitchen appliances, especially if you do not own the best-quality ones that can easily handle the tougher jobs..At the first sounds of the electric motor struggling, STOP what you are doing!!..Take a moment to really evaluate what you are doing..In most instances, removing some of the food from the tool, and proceding to work in batches will keep you from destroying the appliance..By the time that you smell smoke, or that "electrical" smell, permanent damage to the motor has almost always occured..


After that, you either have an appliance that never again works as well as before it was damaged, or else replacement is immediate, or perhaps 1-2 usages away..


Bruce


 


 

ladychef41's picture
ladychef41

Bruce,


You did an excellent job explaining this. As a chef myself, I have seen the same thing happen on way too many occasions. It all goes back to "you get what you pay for". You have explained it in a way that everyone can understand... Thank you for taking the time to do this.....

louiscohen's picture
louiscohen

Thanks for an excellent detailed and useful explanation.  I realized not too long ago that there was no point in using a mixer for bread dough batches up to 3 lbs or so (my usual home batch for 2 1.5 lb loaves).   I can mix the dough by hand in about the same time as hauling the mixer out of the cabinet, mixing, cleaning it up, and putting it back.  And it's hard to overmix by hand.


For other mixer tasks like whipping cream or egg whites, or even mixing cake batter, sure, I'll happily use the mixer. But those tasks put much less strain on the motor.


One of these years I might look at one of those appliances that uses the same motor for a blender, food processor, and stand mixer.  

qahtan's picture
qahtan

Though am only a home baker.


I do have the DLX. wonderful


Kenwood chef that I always use for spongecake, Brought it over from UK back in 1965. :-))


Also have a Kitchenaid,  No I didn't wouldn't buy one. I have it in my kitchen taking up space, but I have to have it there as it was bought for me some years ago by my daughter who said it was too cheap to miss, and she would be peeved if suddenly it was gone, but I only ever use it to whip cream. ;-(((


 Why can't some people see that different machine powers have different jobs.... 


I don't drive a car, but isn't the over straining of a mixer like driving in the wrong gear.???? 


 qahtan

tjkoko's picture
tjkoko

I've seen on ebay Hobart N50's with all attachments and 5 qt bowl selling anywhere from $450-800 - in good running shape and appearance.

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

I don't disagree with anything you said - however I am one of those amateur home cooks who has never worked in a commercial kitchen, and has had to learn about the true range of quality the hard way. 


The problem I have with the "you deserved for it to break because you used it too hard and it wasn't built for that" concept, is the fact that the average consumer is not really adequately made aware of the limitations of many kitchen appliances until well after the sale.


Say I walk into a Walmart and see a 4qt, 250 watt KitchenAid stand mixer for $200.  I think to myself "that seems cheap for a KitchenAid, but it sure is shiny".  Maybe I buy it.  Or maybe I go to a more "upscale" home-cooking store in a mall somewhere, and see a 6 qt 450 watt KitchenAid, for $350.  It's the biggest and most powerful stand mixer in the store, and looks like a workhorse.  The box says you can make up to 4 loaves of bread at a time, etc.  The average amateur breadmaker may just go ahead and buy it, without going on to the internets to look for more information.  We just don't have knowledgeable salespeople anymore, to educate the average consumer that stand mixers range in price from $150 to $5000.


I'm not saying that people shouldn't have awareness that "you get what you pay for".  But do I feel bad for the companies that have to deal with warranty claims when a consumer overtaxes a crappy machine that has a heavy-duty looking exterior?  Absolutely NOT.  If the manufacturer wants to play that game, they deserve everything they get.


To the OP: seriously, I don't disagree with you.  It's just frustrating that appliances are no longer sold by knowledgeable salespeople.  Have you ever tried going into a Williams-Sonoma and asking a question about one of the appliances?  When both the manufacturer and salesperson insist you're buying a quality appliance, it's hard to know better.  In the case of the KitchenAid I had fail, the thing made an infernal racket whenever I turned it on anyway, and I didn't hear anything unusual when the gear housing started to melt.

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

Nice writeup by the way.  This should be required reading at any store that sells kitchen appliances, with a little line at the bottom for the customer to sign indicating that they have read and understood it.  :)

baltochef's picture
baltochef

For the failure of a lot of electrical kitchen appliances..The points that rcrabtree makes are spot on in their accuracy..Very few salespeople REALLY know the appliances that they are selling..In my case, or in the case of any other very experienced cook, there is a certain ability to extrapolate how an appliance that one has not actually personally used might perform by reading the specs and examining the tool before using it..That being said, it is my very experienced opinion that until one actually puts an electrical kitchen appliance to work under a wide variety of tasks, from the very easy to the very difficult; that it is impossible to KNOW for sure how an appliance is reallly going to perform..NOTHING beats actual experience..Nothing..


Unfortunately, the vast majority of salespeople selling home consumer kitchen appliances simply do not use the tools that they sell..Futhermore, a very high percentage of them are not even very experienced cooks..Thus, they are more often than not simply parroting the manufacturer's promotional literature, often word for word, when they speak to a potential customer..


Prior to approximately the late 1970's to the early 1980's, most manufactures had a policy of NOT over promoting the abilities of their kitchen appliances..They did virtually everything in their power to limit the number of poorly manufactured appliances, and to limit the number of warranty returns, warranty repairs, and warranty replacements..Sometime during the mid-to-late 1980's a shift in consumer thinking began to take hold in the USA..First, as the middle class began to become far more affluent than ever before, they started to cook meals at home from scratch less and less..In addition to far fewer stay-at-home moms, there were / are a host of reasons for the decline in home cooked meals, none of which I propose to address in this post..


Along with this decline in actually cooking food from scratch, came a rapid decline in children growing up around parents that could cook from scratch..A lot of the twenty-something and thirty-something men and women in the USA today simply DO NOT know how to cook very well, in many cases they can barely cook at all..This decline in experience plays a major factor in how someone treats an electrical kitchen appliance..If you have no experience in how to accomplish a specific kitchen task by hand, then the cook will have absolutely NO frame of reference to make sound judgements when using an electrical kitchen appliance to attempt the task..


Without hands on experience in cooking foods without electrical appliances, and without the experience to make sound judgements as to when to shut an electrical kitchen appliance off, the chances of damaging such an appliance increase exponentially to an extraordinarily high level..


Right about this time a lot of the manufacturers that made home consumer kitchen appliances began to be purchased by large conglomerates (think Hobart divesting itself of the Kitchen Aid division)..A lot of these companies began to be run by bean counting accountants that were ONLY interested in bottom line profits, not in the quality of the manufactured appliance, nor in the quality of the Customer Service departments and the Warranty departments..Many of the people making decisions in the conglomerates decided that it was far more profitable to reduce the staffing of the Customer Service and Warranty departments to the bare minimum..


If the lowest paid person in the Warranty department is being paid $35,000.00 per year, and if the company's financial contribution for that employee as far as FICA, Unemployment Insurance, health care, etc. comes to another $25,000.00 per year; then one hell-of-a-lot of stand mixers (fill-in-the-blank with any other electrical kitchen appliance) priced at $250.00 retail, but actually costing the company only $127.53 to manufacture, can be given back to customers for free before a loss in profits begins to occur..$60,000.00 divided by $127.53 = 470.48 stand mixers..


Multiply 470.48 stand mixers by 10-20 employees eliminated from the payroll out of the Warranty and Customer Service departments, along with another couple of dozen to several hundred employees fired, laid off, or retired in a down sizing move; and one can see how it is FAR easier, and WAY MORE profitable to just replace a certain percentage of the stand mixers manufactured each year without holding the consumer as responsible for wrecking the appliance as was done before the company was acquired by the conglomerate..


You do the math..Using the example above, a kitchen appliance company could afford to warranty for free 117,620 stand mixers before the conglomerate would start losing money; assuming that 250 jobs at an average salary of $35,000.00 were eliminated when the family run business was purchased by the conglomerate..And, that is assuming that ALL of the economic factors determining the wholesale price of $127.53 remained static and unchanging during the entire period of time that the entire 117,620 stand mixers were warrantied back to comsumers for free..And that, as everyone here knows, is virtually never the case in business..


The point I am trying to make is that the vast majority of companies that manufacture home consumer kitchen appliances have adopted this model for conducting business..It is far more profitable to warranty a huge number of appliances every year that were never defective in any meaningful way, and to disregard the stupidity and ignorance of the consumer; than it is to staff the Warranty, Repair, and Customer Service departments to the levels that they were staffed at during the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's..


Many of the electric kitchen appliances during this time also had the quality of some of their components reduced..The gears in the KA stand mixers come to mind..


A lot of the better kitchen appliances used to be sold only in well established stores where the salespeople were quite knowledgeable..With the advent of the Food Network, and with the increase in the middle class in eating out at fine dining restaurants serving every imaginable possible cuisine during the 1980's, 1990's, and 2000's; has seen a demand to purchase these appliances from a far greater number of sources than ever before..First there were mail order cataloges, then internet web stores..Today in April 2009 one can purchase a KA stand mixer from hundreds, perhaps more than a thousand, different sources in the United States..


Right along about the time that all these things were happening with consumer appliance manufacturers, and with the buying public, the manufacturers started to make claims about their appliances, that while not truly false, were in many instances misleading..As competeition between manufacturers became more intense, and as additional manufacturers entered the market to compete against the established companies here in the USA; manufacturers that had previously been conservative in their claims as to their appliance's abilities, began to stretch the truth a bit..Especially in the pictorial advertising that adorned the boxes that the appliances were packed in, in the hand outs supplied to retail stores to give away to potential buyers, and in the magazine advertising that they chose to run in cooking magazines..


Some companies have resorted to TV and internet advertising that approaches the level of the old Ginzu Knives advertising..A lot of hyperbole mixed in with a fair amount of very stretched out truth..


Combine all these factors together, and the result is hundreds of thousands of people joining various food-related forums in an attempt to sort through one hell-of-a-lot of conflicting opinions as to which food-related tool or appliance to purchase..I truly feel for anyone that is not as fortunate as I was to grow up in a family of very good home cooks where I could learn through first hand experience how to do things by hand before I learned to use electrical kitchen appliances as a labor saving device..


I also grew up learning to work with my hands building things from scratch, and in taking things apart, fixing them, and putting them back together to work again..This experience, with hand and power tools, has been invaluable to me as a home cook and restaurant chef..Especially as regards to electrical kitchen appliances..


Bruce


 

ladychef41's picture
ladychef41

I grew up in the same type of household Bruce, and learned by trial and error from a mother who allowed me to "make mistakes and learn from them".. 


And rcrabtree is spot on about getting all kinds of conflicting information about equipment. It's a difficult position to be in when wanting to purchase a quality piece of equipment and not really having quality information to rely upon. I feel the same way about negotiating for a new car. I am a total failure at it. But in situations like that, I go to people I can rely on. That's the great thing about this site; people are here to help those who may not have the same experience or knowledge...