Getting started - Blender guide
Blenders are one appliance that consumers are more likely to leave on the countertop—so upscale looks, increased power, and sturdier construction are driving blender sales. Many colors and finishes, including stainless steel, are now available, but appearance isn't everything. Our top-rated blenders cost less than $100 and excelled at chopping, puréeing, mixing and crushing ice (piña coladas anyone?).
Other options include handheld blenders (good mostly for stirring powdered drinks or puréeing vegetables in a saucepan) and all-in-one machines (which claim to replace food processors and, in some cases, add cooking capabilities). But you might sacrifice performance or have to pay more if you follow either route.
Consider the types of food and drink you prepare, and use our Ratings to find the blenders that perform best in those areas. For example, if you're going to be mostly mixing drinks, look for a machine with enough oomph to crush ice.
Spending more for any of these appliances will typically get you touchpad controls, extra speeds and power, and designer styling or colors to match your kitchen's décor. Inexpensive units usually have glass or plastic pitchers. You'll pay more for a blender with a stainless steel or other metallic jar than you will for one with a plastic or glass container.
Big, visible measurement marks and easily decipherable controls add to ease of use. Our noise Ratings can spare you the trouble of listening to a grating, high-pitched whine—one model was so loud as to require hearing protection.
Types of blenders
You needn't spend a bundle to get a decent blender. Many of the models we tested, even the less-expensive ones, were competent at various tasks. Different types of blenders have different strengths, so choose one that suits your needs. The bottom line: Price, styling, or the word "professional" is no guarantee of excellent performance or durability.
In addition to mixing, puréeing and chopping, crushing ice for drinks is one of the key attributes that shoppers look for in a countertop blender, manufacturers say.
Containers are made of glass, plastic, or stainless steel, and have a capacity of about 5 to 8 cups. A glass container is heavier and more stable. In tests, the blenders with glass jugs tended to perform better because they didn't shake. Glass is also easier to keep clean. Plastic might scratch and is likely to absorb the smell of whatever is inside. Stainless steel might be attractive, but it prevents you from seeing how the blending is going.
Three to 16 speeds are the norm, but more is not necessarily better. Controls vary from programmable touchpads to push buttons, dials and flip switches.
Hamilton Beach and Oster account for more than 40 percent of countertop-blender sales. Other brands include Black & Decker, Braun, Cuisinart, GE, KitchenAid, Krups, Proctor-Silex, Sharp, Sunbeam, Vita-Mix, and Waring, a product pioneer.
Handheld, or immersion, blenders are long, thin appliances that you hold in your hand and submerge in the food or drink you’re preparing. The shaft has a long neck with blades at the end, so you can mix and chop food in the cooking container—say, purée soup vegetables right in the pot they simmer in.
Immersion blenders are also handy for mixing smoothies, milkshakes, and powdered drinks (although you do have to hold down a switch to keep the blades running, which can be tedious.)
While handheld blenders are great for a few tasks, they don’t replace a countertop blender or handheld mixer. But they're handy and many come with an assortment of blades and attachments, including a measuring beaker.
With blenders, power, performance, and price don't always go hand-in-hand. In our tests, some modestly powered, inexpensive blenders turned out smooth-as-silk mixtures, while some bigger and fancier blenders left food pulpy or lumpy. Here are the blender features to consider.
Blenders generally range from 300 to 500 watts. Manufacturers claim that higher wattage translates into better performance, but in our tests, lower-wattage models often outperformed more powerful ones by, for example, making icy drinks faster and smoother. Power seems to make more of a difference with immersion blenders than with countertop models. An immersion blender in the 100-watt range didn't even have the energy to mince onions in our tests.
Touchpad controls are easiest to clean, and some touchpad units have programmable controls to eliminate guesswork. But you have to press the button twice: once for on, once for off. Push-buttons easily change from one speed to another with a single touch but are difficult to clean. A dial control is easier to clean than push-buttons, but you must dial through all the settings to reach your desired speed. A flip switch is simple but limits your options to one or two speeds and possibly a pulse setting.
Number of speeds
Three to 16 speeds are the norm, but more is not better. Three well-differentiated speeds are adequate; a dozen or more that are hard to distinguish from one another is overkill.
This makes loading food and washing easier.
Look for easy-to-read notches and numbers on the container to help you to measure more accurately.
This helps you to fine-tune blending time. There's no lag time between when you push the button and when the blender starts or stops.
It might seem that an attached blade makes a container sturdier, but in fact, it makes it harder to clean.
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