Although cooks in the past were able to get by with beating egg whites with a wire whisk and cake batters with a wooden spoon, a hand-held mixer makes these jobs much faster and easier. What is it? As its name suggests, it's an electronic mixer that's hand-held, as opposed to sturdier stand mixers, which have a removable bowl that fits into a base. Unlike stand mixers, which are very heavy, hand mixers are lighter, more portable and can be used with different sized bowls. What's it used for? Simple things: whipping cream or egg whites, or making cake or cookie doughs. You won't want to use it for heavier, more time-consuming productions such as whipping marshmallows or nougat, because your arm will get tired of holding the mixer before the job is finished. Features: the attachments are pretty standard from brand to brand - they all come with beaters for whipping egg whites or cream, or beating doughs, and dough hooks for making breads. Some mixers have only three speeds - low, medium and high - but a model with more options will be more adaptable to your needs. How to clean: don't ever plunge the whole mixer into water - you'll ruin the motor; of course, it's also wise to keep the plug away from water. The beaters and dough hooks are detachable for ease of cleaning, and the body can be wiped down with a damp towel. What else? It's obvious, but don't let your fingers get in the way of the beaters or dough hooks while the machine is mixing - it won't tickle (fortunately, this is just speculation). To prevent glass or porcelain chips from ending up in the finished product, it's better to use the mixer with a metal bowl, rather than something that might break. Where to buy: the usual spots, such as PanHandler (tel: 2523 1672), Fortress (tel: 2555 5788), Wing On (tel: 2852 1888) and Sogo (tel: 2833 8338).