A variety of foodservice operators — including restaurants, bakeries and pizzerias — use countertop mixers to prepare dressing, sauce, batter, dough and other items from scratch.

breadLower-volume establishments that require lighter-duty mixing tasks typically opt for countertop mixers instead of stand mixers or floor models. Capacity and power define which mixer best suits an operation.

Commercial countertop mixers range from basic, light-duty units to heavy-duty models with advanced features. This equipment comes with multiple speed settings for different applications. Compared with residential types, commercial mixers have more power, incorporate more durable components, offer extra safety features and have an extended warranty. These units also come with larger stackable stainless steel bowls for mixing bigger batches of ingredients. While residential mixers include cast aluminum accessories that require handwashing, commercial mixers come with dishwasher-safe, heavy-duty stainless steel accessories.

Typically planetary, these units use an agitator that rotates on a shaft in a stationary bowl. This equipment, also called a spiral mixer, has a stationary agitator and revolving bowl to mix large amounts of dough quickly.

Countertop mixer sizes range from 5 to 20 quarts. Along with a smaller size, they also have a shorter profile for more confined spaces. While operators generally use 10 quarts or less on countertops or prep tables, mixers larger than 10 quarts may require a separate standing cart.

Operators can choose attachments based on various mixing applications. The three basic ones on many models are spiral dough hooks for kneading; flat beaters for batter, icing, cookie dough and mashed potatoes; and wire whips for incorporating air into mixtures such as egg, meringue and cream. Other attachments include pastry knives for cutting through thicker mixtures and bowl scrapers to minimize labor with manual bowl scraping.

Gear or belt-driven systems are available. Belt types use an actual rubber belt that runs from one gear to the next. Although less costly, the belts on these mixers can break, fail, wear down or become loose over time, similar to belts in a car. This increases the risk of losing torque or motor power. Gear types connect gears to the drive train and motor. While the belt type is less costly to repair, mixers with gear operation are more reliable.

Horsepower will help determine the torque and bowl capacity necessary. This equipment offers 1/6, ¼, ½, 1 or 1.3 horsepower, depending on the model. The thicker the mixture, the higher the horsepower necessary. These mixers run on either 115 or 120 volts.

Countertop mixer speeds vary, depending on the model. Some types allow users to change mixing speeds during operation, while others require the mixer to be shut off prior to changing speeds.

Planetary-type mixers have a yoke where the bowl attaches. These units use either a manual lift that raises the bowl 180 degrees with a lever, crank or wheel, or an electric lift mechanism. On some models, the upper housing tilts back for bowl access.

For added safety, most mixers more than 10 quarts include a metal wire or plastic guard around the top of the bowl to prevent operator injury. In some cases, these are required by law, and a number of companies have written bowl guards into safety specifications to protect employees.

Operators can choose from a number of accessories that work with their countertop mixers. These include bowls, which are not always included with the equipment; splash covers and ingredient shoots that help minimize mess; a digital control panel and timer that require less labor; nonskid rubber bases; mixer tables with or without casters that can be used for larger units or when countertop space is at a premium; and, with some models, a choice of finishes.

Much of the innovation with this equipment is due to advanced motor technology that focuses on quieter operation and more efficient drive trains.