Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik
Iconic in both aesthetics and performance, KitchenAid stand mixers have long been a favorite of Serious Eats editors and contributors—but they don’t come cheap. Whether you opt for a Classic, Artisan, or Professional model (our pick is the Professional 600 Series), the market’s most recognizable stand mixer is an investment.
Initially, this bodes well for frequent use. “When I have a KitchenAid mixer, I’ll use it constantly,” we insist prior to purchase, visions of whipped egg whites and perfectly taut bread doughs skittering through our minds. So, we buy. And we do use it! And we do love it! But, there are times in every baker’s life when, simply and for whatever reason, you aren’t baking a lot.
And this wouldn’t technically be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that stand mixers—KitchenAid models in particular—are little machines. They have moving parts and greased gears and a purposeful design meant to, you know, move around, so remaining in a state of disuse for too long can actually cause problems—including oil leaks. (Editor’s note: one Serious Eats staffer has experienced their KitchenAid mixer leaking oil after it wasn’t used for a few months—so we’re not just theorizing here.)
Why Does Oil Separate in a KitchenAid Stand Mixer, and How Do I Prevent It?
Fortunately, KitchenAid has excellent resource pages and is up-front about the fact that their stand mixers may, in fact, leak oil at some point.
“The mixer is packed with enough solid grease to last the lifetime of the machine,” KitchenAid’s product help pages read. “When the mixer is used, the grease is distributed around the gears to lubricate them.”
When the mixer is not used, however, that grease can separate and cause oil to settle into the lowest point of the motor. This oil separation can visibly manifest as drops in the mixing bowl (or on the base itself, if you don’t store your mixer with the bowl attached), or with oil leaking out of either the beater shaft or the levers that control mixing speed and the headlock position.
“This is more likely to happen in warm weather and if the mixer is not used very often,” KitchenAid says. “Using a mixer regularly may prevent this from occurring.”
In other words, it’s a good move to plug in your stand mixer and let it run briefly from time to time—every few weeks is better than nothing—even if you aren’t baking with it. KitchenAid recommends bumping up the speed to 10 and letting things whirl around for two minutes before turning off the mixer and wiping down any errant oil drops that may have escaped the housing.
But, Alas! My KitchenAid Mixer is Leaking Oil—How Do I Fix It?
Serious Eats / Russell Kilgore
First off—don’t panic. KitchenAid uses only food-grade grease in their stand mixers and it’s totally safe should the oil come into contact with food. It might look kind of gross, but it shouldn’t make you sick.
And, according to KitchenAid, oil separation doesn’t harm the mixer, either. It’s up to you whether you wish to do anything about it or not.
“It is not necessary to add oil to the mixer as regular maintenance,” the website says. “If the mixer sounds ‘normal’ and is not grinding, it can continue to be used.”
That said, if the idea of a drippy, oily mixer doesn’t align with your long-term ideals, the machine can be fixed—but it’ll need to be serviced by a proper KitchenAid service facility. If you’re experiencing oil separation in a stand mixer that’s not from KitchenAid, contact your mixer’s manufacturer for next steps.
Oil separation can seem like a “Very Bad Thing,” but it doesn’t have to spell the end of the road for your beloved mixer! Since prevention is the best cure, either vow to actually use your mixer more often, or at least get in the habit of switching it on for a couple of minutes every now and then to keep things nice and greased up. And, again, the fact KitchenAid’s stand mixers are built like actual machines (with metal gears and inner workings and, yes, grease) speaks to their quality and power—two of the reasons we like them so much.
What’s the best KitchenAid stand mixer?
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any model. But if you want to spring for our favorite stand mixer, we’re big fans of the KitchenAid 6-Quart Professional 600 Series Stand Mixer.
Is a KitchenAid stand mixer worth it?
Yes! While we can’t exactly speak to your usage habits, in our experience, by the time someone is at the point of seriously considering a KitchenAid stand mixer, it’s safe to say that the purchase is worth it. KitchenAid stand mixers are the industry standard with good reason—they look great and, more importantly, they’re real workhorses and can last a lifetime.
Who repairs KitchenAid stand mixers?
To ensure optimal service and keep any warranties intact, reach out to KitchenAid as your first course of action should your stand mixer needs repairs.