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, critical and strategic thinking will need applied when choosing between a spiral or planetary mixer when choosing the best pizza dough mixer for your intended use.

Pizza Dough Mixers: Is a Planetary or Spiral Mixer best for mixing pizza dough?

What Are the Types of Mixers: Planetary Mixers vs. Spiral Mixers

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 vs. Spiral Mixers

Planetary Mixers

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

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.

Spiral or Planetary? What is the Best Mixer for Pizza Dough?

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.

Determining What Size Mixer You’ll Need

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.

Read also: How to Clean, Care For, and Maintain Your 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.

Globe Mixer Capacity Chart

Key Considerations for Purchasing a Planetary Mixer

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 are 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 provides more consistent batch results each time.

Globe Mixer Controls

The Transmission

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.

Attachment Hub

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.

Planetary Mixer Attachments

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?

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.

Pizza Dough Mixer Bowl

Planetary Mixer Attachments & Accessories

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:

Dough Hooks

A necessity for mixing and kneading dough for pizzas and bread.

Dough Hook Attachment for Mixers

Flat Beaters

A standard mixing tool for general mixing; ideal for batters, mixes, mashed potatoes, meatballs, and more.

Flat Beater for Planetary Mixers

Wire Whips

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.

Wire whip mixer attachment

These are the standard mixer attachments, but there are additional auxiliary accessories that can be implemented to assist in efficient food prep operations, such as bowl scrapers that fold ingredients into the mix while the mixer is running, pastry knives, varying plates to quickly shred, slice, grate, and grind, and more.