Picture your perfect pizza. Do you enjoy the classics like pepperoni or sausage? Or do you have a sense of adventure, loading it up with toppings like pineapple, bacon, and jalapeno? A quality dough mixer is at the heart of any pizza masterpiece, and can really help your product standout against competition. As such, strategic thinking will need to be applied when choosing the best pizza dough mixer for your intended use.
In This Article:
- What Are The Main Types of Mixers: Planetary Mixers vs. Spiral Mixers
- What is the Best Mixer for Pizza Dough
- Determining What Size Mixer You’ll Need: Mixing Capacity Chart
- Planetary Mixer Considerations
- Popular Mixer Attachments, Accessories, and Best Uses
The two most prominent types of commercial mixers are known as planetary and spiral. Both are capable of mixing pizza dough; however, they each have their unique sets of benefits that make them ideal for varying situations.
Planetary mixers feature a more versatile functionality, the more traditional of the two main types of mixers and ideal for general applications. Planetary mixers can accommodate varying attachments and accessories, like dough hooks, flat beaters, and wire whips. Not only can they be used to mix and knead dough, but also a variety of other products like batter, whip cream, mashed potatoes, meat balls, and more. They get their name by the planetary attachment that orbits around the bowl; the bowl staying in place the whole time and can readily be removed to switch out attachments. Planetary mixers are referred to by the size of their bowl (i.e., 20 quarts, 60 quarts, etc.).
Given their more generalized applications, planetary mixers are the most common types of commercial mixers used in establishments.
Spiral mixers have a much more specialized function compared to their planetary counterparts. They’re specifically designed to gently mix and knead dough, featuring a permanently fixed dough hook and mounted bowl that cannot be removed. During mixing, the locked-in-place bowl rotates the dough into the stationary spiral hook, gently kneading it while a breaker bar divides the dough, so only small portions at a time go through the hook. This process keeps the friction heat low and provides a more uniform mix, assisting the dough in developing a proper gluten structure while not overworking it.
Whereas planetary mixers offer much more versatility and flexibility, spiral mixers offer operators more control in the quality and quantity of their dough production output. Instead of being referred to based on the size of bowl, like planetary mixers, spiral mixers are generally referred to by the amount of dough that can be mixed at a given time (i.e., 130 lbs., 175 lbs., etc.).
Both spiral and planetary mixers feature multiple speed levels ideal for different tasks. In the case of spiral mixers, the multiple speeds facilitate dough development. The first speed (low) helps bring the dough together. Switched into the faster second speed, the gluten structure of the dough starts to take shape.
Vertical Cutter Mixers
Vertical cutter mixers, similar to food processors, are a third type of mixer most ideal for mixing batters or sauces, chopping nuts, salads, bread, or cooked meat. They feature a covered mixing bowl and a high horse-powered motor.
Immersion blenders are another mixing solution, handheld for efficient control over product consistency. Their versatility makes them ideal for blending large batches of liquids and batters, emulsifying dressings, pureeing soups, and more.
As noted, both spiral and planetary mixers feature their independent sets of benefits that make them ideal for different establishments and situations. Even in cases specific to pizza establishments, there are strong arguments in support of both styles of mixers.
Genuine pizza aficionados swear by spiral mixers based solely on the quality of dough. Again, this is due to the amount of control operators have over the production, the preservation of the gluten structure and the more uniform mix of ingredients detailed above. However, this shouldn’t discount the unique benefits a planetary mixer provides.
You can still use a planetary mixer with a dough hook attachment to mix a quality dough. In addition, you can also apply different attachments and accessories to assist in other types of pizza prep, such as slicing ingredients, shredding cheese, griding meat, and more. Spiral mixers may be preferred for craft pizzerias in which the artisan quality is the primary selling point, but if your menu offers an assortment of food products in addition to pizzas, a planetary mixer is recommended as the time and labor savings in food prep, and the versatility of uses has a direct impact on your bottom line.
After determining whether a spiral or planetary mixer is best for you, the next step is choosing the size. Again, the size referrals are different for both types of mixers (planetary mixers are based on the bowl size, usually in quarts; spiral mixers are based on amount of dough that can be mixed at a given time).
Commercial mixers are built to meet high volume demands, but the longevity of your mixer ultimately depends on how well you treat it. If you opt for a 20-quart planetary mixer, like the industry-renowned Globe SP20, a 20-quart capacity is the absolute max. Keep in mind, the mix will expand during the process, so you’ll want to make sure you have some additional room so everything mixes consistently. If you put more than the max capacity in at a single time, you risk overworking it and the motor and parts will wear quicker. Therefore, knowing your batch size is one of the most important considerations to make when purchasing a new commercial mixer.
It’s important to know whether you’ll be mixing small batches daily or larger batches less frequently. Specific to pizzas, what type of crust are you hoping to produce? Thin crust, hand, tossed, deep dish? The type of crust depends on the moisture content. This is also referred to as the absorption ratio and is calculated as a percentage by dividing the water weight by the flour weight. Let’s use the example of a 50 lb. of flour mixed with three gallons of water. The water weighs 8.33 lbs. per gallon, so the water weight of this recipe is 24.99 lbs. (we’ll use 25 lbs. for simplicity). 25 divided by 50 equals 0.50, giving the dough a 50% absorption ratio and a total batch size of 75 lbs. (25 lbs. of water plus 50 lbs. of dough.)
This downloadable mixer capacity chart makes these calculations easier, outlining recommended capacities based on planetary or spiral mixers, referenced with common product uses and the necessary attachments. Additionally, Globe’s interactive mixer capacity calculator allows users to enter the product they’re mixing and the intended batch size, and it’ll recommend the best mixer for your needs.
As planetary mixers are the most commonly used commercial mixer, given their versatility that makes them ideal for several types of tasks, let’s look at some of the most common factors to consider when making a final purchase decision.
Controls & Timer
What type of control and timer is used, and where are they located? There are mixers with digital or mechanical timers, and those with no timers at all. Some are on the front of the mixer for easy visibility, allowing operators to quickly glance at how much time is left from across the kitchen, while others are located on the side. Digital timers are often thought to be more accurate than mechanical timers, which provide more consistent batch results each time.
What type of transmission does the mixer have? Gears, belts, or electronic speed control (variable speed motor?) All three transmission types have pros and cons. Generally, the gear type of transmission is preferred when mixing dough to provide torque under a heavy load.
Does the mixer have an attachment hub that’ll increase versatility? Attachments greatly assist in food prep, reducing time and labor. These include, but are not limited to, adjustable slicing plates for vegetables, shredder and grater plates for cheese and lettuce, meat grinders for burgers, sausage, and meatballs.
What About the Mixer Bowl?
What type of bowl guard is on the mixer? Is it removable? Does it have a built-in chute to easily add ingredients like oil or seasonings during the mixing process without stopping? Bowl guards are placed around the top of the bowl and are made of either plastic or wire. This guard is used to protect the operator by preventing clothing, hands, or other foreign objects from getting into the mixer while in operation. Most mixers will require a guard to comply with OSHA regulations.
Does the mixer bowl include clamps to secure the bowl to the yoke? Are they spring-tensioned to securely hold the bowl in place, or does it just sit on a pin that can cause rattling during operation?
Does the bowl swing out? This requires a larger area for operation, a crucial consideration if floor space is limited.
Is the bowl lift manual or power-operated? A power lift allows the bowl to be raised or lowered easily; however, there is usually an additional cost associated with this as a secondary motor is required.
Do you need a bowl truck? These allow operators to easily maneuver the bowl around the kitchen on a dolly.
There are two general types of drive system options for commercial mixers.
- Belt-driven mixers tend to be less expensive to repair, should an issue arise. They come in a range of speed options that can be adjusted as the mixer is in motion. However, there’s a greater risk of the belt slipping and the overall life is much shorter than their gear-driven counterparts.
- Gear-driven mixers are better equipped to power through heavier ingredients. There’s no risk of any slipping and therefore have a more dependable velocity than belt-driven mixers. However, though repairs aren’t as frequent with gear-driven units, they often cost more to repair should an issue present itself. They also tend to be noisier and only have two fixed speeds, sometimes resulting in more limitation to the types of product they can be used to produce.
Always consult the manufacturer’s Owner’s Manual prior to operating your mixer. Some perform best on a particular speed. Depending on the drive system, some mixers will allow you to change the speed while it’s in operation. Others will require you to shut it off first.
The larger the mixer capacity, typically the higher the horsepower it’ll have. The heavier the ingredients you’re mixing (pizza dough is a good example here), the larger the mixer and higher the horsepower you will want to opt for.
Noted as a key benefit for planetary mixers over spiral mixers, attachments and accessories can save significant time and labor when it comes to food prep. The most common attachments for planetary mixers include:
A standard mixing tool for general mixing; ideal for batters, mixes, mashed potatoes, meatballs, and more.
Ideal to use whenever you’re mixing anything that needs to have air mixed into it, such as whip cream, or meringue. When using a wire whip attachment for these purposes, it is recommended you switch the mixer to a high speed for best results.
Usually includes a feed pan and stomper to direct and push meat through the chopper. Ideal for use when mixing pizza toppings, like sausage.
Chase joined Central Restaurant Products in February 2016 as a Content Specialist, bringing to the role years of various foodservice experience, including front-of-house service (slingin’ chicken wings and libations with a smile on his face) and back-of-house food prep using heavy-duty commercial cooking equipment to prepare for peak dining hours at his university’s dining hall.
He puts this experience to use writing for Central’s Resource Center, website, and print catalog. ServSafe certified, he enjoys educating on food safety in the commercial setting, researching new dining room and tabletop trends, and sharing innovative solutions to enhance operational efficiencies. He also enjoys (in no specific order) long hikes with his dog, bingeing 90s sitcoms, red wine, and live music.