I love to cook, but I hate to bake. I’m a “throw in a pinch of this and a dash of that” type of chef; my measuring spoons are collecting dust in a drawer somewhere. I use most recipes loosely, tweaking and adapting them on the fly based on years of experience. You can’t do that with baking. Where cooking is an art, baking is a science. I flunked science.
So, when the $800 GE Profile Smart Mixer arrived at CES 2023 earlier this year, I was intrigued. Could this smart kitchen gadget breathe fresh air into my baking skills, transform my flat cookies and dense cakes, and turn me into a real baker?
With unique features, including an ability to “sense” the thickness of a mixture and adjust to avoid overmixing, a built-in scale and timer, voice control, and guided recipes using its app, the smart mixer promised me I’d “enjoy baking like never before.” As I’ve never enjoyed baking, I took this as a personal challenge.
I put the hulking gadget to the test during my busiest (and only) baking season of the year: the winter holidays. I whipped up meringue, pounded some pastry, beat cakes and cookies into submission, and even emulsified aioli with the Beast (my nickname for the mixer because it weighs 42 pounds!). Was it all much easier thanks to the mixer’s extra smarts? No.
While I found the added features useful, the tech really got in the way of my workflow. The app, which is the only way to use certain features, isn’t well designed. It also crashed frequently, and it was fiddly to move between using it and the mixer. I’d prefer it if everything were built into the device, maybe via a bigger screen, perhaps with touch capability, rather than needing to rely on a smartphone to access the features of this expensive gadget.
GE’s smart stand mixer is a modern update to a category ripe for disruption. Stand mixers have barely changed since my grandma used to lug one around the kitchen of the National Trust Orangery she ran in the 1980s.
A stand mixer excels at tackling labor-intensive, boring mixing tasks like creaming butter, whipping cream, and mashing potatoes. GE’s new model adds Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a digital display, a notification LED, a built-in scale, and a timer that stops mixing when it’s done.
The headline trick is Auto Sense. This uses motor torque to monitor changes in texture and the viscosity of whatever it’s mixing to ensure you don’t overwhip your cream or underwhip your meringue. It stops as soon as it reaches the correct texture. This worked relatively well, although it tended to err on the side of underwhipped, and I had to add a few seconds to get my cream stiffer and my meringue peakier.
The downside is Auto Sense only works with six “techniques,” including whipping cream, making meringue, and creaming butter and sugar, and you must use the app to access them.
The same applies to the Active Stir feature, which folds ingredients, slowly rotating forward and backward and pausing to mix it up without your input. Folding is another baking feature I have never mastered; it’s used when making recipes like mousse and soufflé, so I really liked Active Stir. I also found it useful to mix something like a chicken salad slowly without beating it into mushy submission.
But, once again, you have to use the app to activate Active Stir, and the app is not a fun experience. Frequently, when I went to use it, I just gave up in frustration. (Note: Active Stir and Auto Sense are the only mixer functions that require the app; otherwise, the mixer can be used entirely offline.)
The app is GE Appliances’ SmartHQ app. This is the same app you use for all of the company’s connected gadgets, and it’s as good as you’d expect an appliance manufacturer app to be, which is to say, it’s not. The app is slow and buggy, it disconnected and crashed frequently, and it makes terrible use of the screen real estate. It’s in a permanent dark mode, and there’s no option for an iPad app; using your phone to follow recipes is not a good smart kitchen experience.
There are a lot of guided recipes to choose from, but they’re not organized in any clear manner, and there’s no way to favorite them, so you have to scroll through a long list or remember the name to search.
These guided recipes work with the mixer by sending the correct time and speed for each mixing step to the device and setting the built-in scale to weigh your ingredients as you add them. I really liked these features, which take a lot of the guesswork out of baking. (When a recipe says “medium speed,” is that 4 or 5? No such worries here.) The chime it makes when you’ve reached the correct weight is especially neat and a great accessibility feature.
But the scale is a fraction of a second slow to display the weight, making it easy to add too much, and it’s not so easy to remove ingredients once they’re added. This is why most bakers measure before mixing. It also only measures in five-gram increments, which isn’t precise enough for more advanced baking tasks. The app can connect the mixer to Amazon Alexa and Google Home, where you can enable voice control. However, I couldn’t get voice control to work with either assistant. (I’ve reached out to GE Appliances about this and will update the review if I ever get it to work).
This smart mixer’s connected features are underbaked
As a mixer, the 7.5-quart, 540-watt Beast does everything my existing midrange 325-watt KitchenAid can do but with a more powerful motor, a bigger bowl, a slower stir setting, and a faster top speed. It literally goes to 11. My KitchenAid, which goes to 10, is nowhere near as fast.
Interestingly, the smart mixer works with front-mounted KitchenAid attachments, like the meat grinder or pasta maker. However, it uses its own mixing implements in the bowl — the dough hook, beater, and whisk — and has a different attachment method, which KitchenAid implements aren’t compatible with.
I loved the built-in scale, which is in both the base and the bowl, so you can easily use it outside of your baking tasks. The timer feature that stops mixing when the time is up is also super handy, but the connected features are underbaked. I want remote control. I want to say, “Mixer, start mixing for two minutes at speed 6,” and have it get to work. But even if I could get the voice control working to ask this, I’d still need to go to the mixer and press a button to start it.
I understand that remotely activating a mixer with this much power poses some safety hazards, but even when using the guided recipes that assume you’re standing right by the machine, you have to press a button in the app and then a button on the mixer to start. That’s adding a step, not taking one away.
After two decades of muscle memory using my KitchenAid, I was also slightly confounded by not being able to lift the mixer arm up to place the bowl; instead, you lower the bowl mechanism using two side arms, which is simple enough to do but counterintuitive for me.
Placing the bowl on the metal pins is also fiddlier than it should be, although it’s easier than the twisting motion I have to do to get my KitchenAid bowl in place. When locked in, though, it held solid, with no rocking or shaking, even at top speeds.
The size of this thing is a serious con if you ever want to move it anywhere. I don’t like counter clutter, and I prefer to put kitchen tools away after use. That is not an option with the Beast unless you really want an extra workout. It’s also a fraction of an inch too tall to fit under my kitchen cupboards.
As a regular mixer, the smart mixer is excellent, and besides the two features I’ve mentioned, you don’t need the app or Wi-Fi to use it. I love how easy it is to connect the stainless steel attachments. (It comes with three: a whisk, a beater, and a dough hook.) You just push them up to snap into place and then pull down on the shaft to release them — much easier than the twist and push of a KitchenAid.
The front-and-center controls are another welcome change from KitchenAid, and the digital display is a nice addition, showing you the speed at a glance. The manual speed dial is easy to reach and see as you adjust it, and it’s smooth to control. Again, a nice change from my clunky KitchenAid.
The top of the mixer has a control pad with five buttons. There’s the start / stop button in the center, a toggle for the scale and timer, and another for Rev / Zero (reversing the motor and zeroing the scale). A right toggle and left toggle button let you adjust the timer. The control pad was a little tougher to use and quite hard to see, and I’m tall. Short bakers may find it extra fiddly.
I tried several of the guided recipes in the SmartHQ app: chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with Auto Sense for creaming the butter and sugar, a chocolate dacquoise for meringue making, a one-minute aioli for emulsifying (which requires high speeds). I also used it to make pastry for my pumpkin pie and to mash the potatoes on Thanksgiving.
My cookies and cakes were slightly more successful but nowhere near best in show
As an experienced — if not accomplished — baker, I felt the guided recipes overly complicated basic steps and were frequently unclear. Pressing a button in the app to send the weight to the mixer and then waiting for it to appear before adding the ingredients slowed me down rather than helped me, although it did mean fewer bowls to clean.
Weighing is more accurate when baking than using cup measurements, so my cookies and cakes were slightly more successful but nowhere near best in show. The meringue, however, was a disaster. I won’t blame the machine, but it certainly didn’t create a miracle.
I enjoyed the Auto Sense for creaming butter and sugar; once the ingredients were in, I just pressed the button, and off it went, stopping when the mixture was perfectly creamed. This freed me up to grease my baking sheets without keeping an eye on the mixer. I liked being able to use the built-in scale to weigh items either in the bowl or directly on the base of the mixer, and while it is a big boy machine, it does do away with an extra piece of kit in your kitchen (if you were someone who weighed your ingredients).
However, it’s finicky, and when I accidentally touched the side of the bowl when adding chocolate chips, it indicated I had 600g in there when there was barely half a cup.
After two weeks of using this, I don’t feel GE has added enough value here, especially for $200 more than its closest competitor: the $600 seven-quart KitchenAid Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer. Unless you’re feeding a soccer team, it’s an even harder sell compared to my more modest 4.5-quart mixer, which you can get for $330. (When it was first launched, the GE smart mixer retailed for a whopping $1,000.)
However, if you can get it on sale — and there’s one on currently that takes it down to $600 — it’s a lot more compelling. The built-in timer and scale alone are enough to make me want to upgrade from my current mixer. The lackluster smart features may get better, but the thing is never going to weigh less.
Serious bakers will find this more finicky than fantastic
As a new entry into an old category, the smart mixer has innovative features, but they need time to proof. I think version two of this machine will be a lot better, or hopefully, it will get smarter with over-the-air upgrades. As it stands, it’s hard to see who would need this.
Serious bakers will find this more finicky than fantastic — and while the built-in scale and timer are probably the best features, you can only measure in five-gram increments, a potential issue for the pros out there. Beginner bakers will find the guided recipes helpful, but it’s hard to justify the price tag if you’re not already a committed cookie monster.
My other concern is longevity. My 20-year-old stand mixer, while showing some signs of wear and tear, is still going strong. I worry about how well all the GE mixer’s electronic components will hold up and how long the app will be available. At least the motor is all manually controlled, so even if nothing else works, you should still be able to turn it on and get mixing. But unlike my current stand mixer, this doesn’t feel like something I could hand down to my granddaughter.
Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge