So, you want to buy a mixing bowl.
Should you get stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or plastic? Would you like a bowl with high sides or a bowl that's wide and shallow? A nesting set sounds great, but then open stock gives you lots of options. Would you like a bowl with a lid? A bowl with a non-skid bottom? A bowl with a pour spout? And have I now asked you too many questions and you don't want to buy a mixing bowl after all?!
Fear not, dear reader. It's really not as complicated as I'm making it out to be. When it comes to mixing bowls, our recommendations are pretty straightforward.
The Two Types of Mixing Bowls You Should Have
For home cooks we recommend having both stainless steel and glass mixing bowls, in a variety of sizes:
- Small: 1–1 1/2 quart
- Medium: 2 1/2–3 quart
- Large: 4–6 quart
- Extra-large: 8 quart
Stainless steel mixing bowls are light, unbreakable, and easy to move around. Wide, shallow stainless steel bowls are great for cooking tasks like whisking or tossing, where you don't want to deal with a heavy bowl that's hard to lift. Stainless steel bowls can also be safely used in a double-boiler setup.
Glass mixing bowls are heavier and sturdier. Glass bowls are well-suited for tasks like stirring or mixing muffin or cake batter. Glass can also go in the microwave. It's also nice to have a glass bowl for making bread, so you can see the dough rise through the glass. Glass bowls also double as serving bowls.
What About Plastic and Ceramic Mixing Bowls?
While they're lovely, we don't recommend buying a ceramic mixing bowl set for the purposes of regular home cooking. Ceramic bowls are heavy and hard to maneuver, and they're just not practical for everyday cooking. If you have a set, save it for serving!
We don't recommend plastic mixing bowls because plastic is porous and retains stains and smells. You also can't put it in the microwave or use it in a double boiler.
A Note About Mixing Bowl Sizes
Most mixing bowl sets come in size ranges of 1 1/2 quarts to 5–6 quarts. That's enough to cover almost every cooking need you'd have.
We also recommend picking up a larger 8-quart mixing bowl, separately if need be. An extra-large mixing bowl is great to have on hand when you're making a big batch of something. Plus, you can turn it upside down and use it to cover cakes and pies on the countertop!
Other Mixing Bowl Features to Consider
Rims: We like a little rim on our mixing bowls because it gives us something to grip when we're holding the bowl, particularly when lifting.
Lids: Bowls that come with lids are great ... sometimes. Depending on your storage space, it may not be worth it. I've found it cumbersome to store plastic lids I only occasionally use. In that case, a more flexible reusable lid like these silicone stretch lids is a good alternative.
Depth: Deep bowls are great ... sometimes. A bowl with high sides is very helpful when you're using an electric hand mixer since it keeps splatters to a minimum. But they're not ideally suited for tasks that require more range of motion, like folding an airy batter. Shorter cooks may also find it more cumbersome to work with a deep, narrow bowl.
Non-skid bottoms: Non-skid bottoms are great ... sometimes. (Do you see a theme here?) Yes, in theory, they're made to stabilize your bowl when vigorously whisking or mixing, but you're often paying a premium for a feature that doesn't always work as intended. Plus, that rubber bottom means you can't use the bowl in a double boiler setup.
Pour spout: This is really a personal preference. I don't find them a make-or-break feature for me, but you may differ on that!
Vollrath Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls, Set of 5
Vollrath makes commercial-style mixing bowls, and this set of stainless steel bowls is a great example of that.
Wide, shallow, and lightweight, they're a true kitchen workhorse. You won't have any trouble lifting these bowls to scrape out every last bit of batter or toss a big salad. This set includes 3/4-, 1 1/2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-quart-sized bowls, almost every size you'd want.
Buy it: Vollrath Economy Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls, Set of 5, $24
Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids, Set of 3
If you use an electric hand mixer a lot, then this Cuisinart mixing bowl set is for you. The bowls are deep with high sides, which helps keep ingredients from flying out, but still lightweight and easy to hold thanks to the stainless steel.
The accompanying lids are also very tight-fitting. (I own this set and can attest to that!) The set includes 1 1/2-, 3-, and 5-quart-sized bowls.
Buy it: Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids, Set of 3, $39 from Amazon
Vollrath 8-Quart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl
While there are mixing bowl sets that include an 8-quart bowl, we didn't feel comfortable enough with the quality or the brand to recommend them in this guide. But we do think you should have an 8-quart bowl, so we just recommend buying it separately.
Emma says: "[A bowl this size] is big enough for a double batch of bread, tossing a large salad for a party, or cooling down several quarts of chicken stock. I use it constantly!"
Vollrath's 8-quart bowl is lightweight (a must for a bowl this size), durable, and easy to clean.
Buy it: Vollrath 8-Quart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl, $9 from Webstaurant
Pyrex 8-Piece Glass Mixing Bowl Set with Lids
The Pyrex glass mixing bowls are our top choice for heavier, sturdier mixing bowls that still feel easy to manage. The gently-sloped walls make them well suited for cake batters and bread dough, and the wide rim is crucial for getting a good grip for folding and scraping.
The set includes 1-, 1 1/2-, 2 1/2-, and 4-quart bowls, and comes with lids! And you can put them in the dishwasher and microwave.
Buy it: Pyrex 8-Piece Glass Mixing Bowl Set, $22 from Walmart