Buying a blender used to be something you only did when you needed a wedding present. In the past few years, though, blenders have become a kitchen staple. Today, people use their blenders for much more than making a smoothie, including sauces and soups, whole juices, and even batters and nut butters. There are a lot of blenders to choose from, and knowing how you plan to use your blender can help narrow the choices.
This guide can help you easily find the perfect machine to complement your style and your blending usage. This guide will cover:
- Considerations Before Buying
- Types of Blenders
- Blender Attributes
- Maintenance & Care Tips
3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy
- What do you want to use it for?
If you want to make smoothies or frozen cocktails, a countertop blender is your best bet. This is the most common type of blender. It has a plastic or glass vessel that sits on a motorized base. Countertop blenders are strong enough to crush ice and puree frozen fruits. They can also be used to whip up dressings, soups, and sauces. If you mostly want to make smoothly pureed soups and sauces, consider an immersion or hand blender. These stick-style blenders can be submerged into liquid, such as a pot of soup, to blend it without transferring to a new container.
- How much space do you have?
If you're tight on space, consider a smaller blender or a 2-in-1 blender that can reduce the need for multiple appliances for juicing and chopping. If you don't need the ice-crushing quality of a countertop blender, a hand blender is your best option because it can be stored in a drawer.
- Are looks important to you?
Many people, especially those on daily smoothie kicks, choose to leave their blenders on the counter. Appearance isn't everything, but if it's important to you, you may want to match it with the finish of your other appliances. A variety of color and finishes, including stainless steel, are often available.
Types of Blenders
There are basically two types of blenders: immersion and countertop. Because countertop blenders vary greatly in their function and price, we'll break that group into traditional blenders and high-speed blenders.Immersion Blenders
Also known as hand blenders, immersion blenders are long, stick-like appliances that you hold in your hand while placing the blades directly into your cooking container (such as the pot you are cooking in). They are well-suited for small tasks such as quickly blending a milkshake or pureeing cooked vegetables. Immersion blenders often come with a number of attachments (such as a whisk) to add some functionality beyond chopping. Some are even cordless, which adds another level of convenience.
Because of their limited functionality and small blades, immersion blenders are usually not a replacement for a countertop unit. They're still a convenient appliance to have on hand for smaller jobs.Traditional Countertop Blenders
The most common type, countertop blenders are versatile machines used for mixing drinks, pureeing fresh foods, and chopping ice. They typically include a jar and lid, blade assembly, and base. Jars are typically made from materials like glass, plastic, or stainless steel. In some cases, the blade assembly is affixed to the jar and can not be removed, while other blenders have a blade assembly that must be be removed in order to properly clean the jar. The base of the blender will vary in style and design, but traditionally comes with a number of speed settings and a pulse button or lever. Countertop units may also come with a tamper or stirring stick to help push food down to the blades.
The motors on traditional countertop blenders will range from a relatively low 300 watts up to 500-600 watts of power. A typical countertop unit will have somewhere between 300-500 watts of power and a blade designed to handle fresh fruits and vegetables without issue. Some even tout the ability to crush ice for the occasional smoothie or mixed drink.
Traditional countertop blenders are great for simple smoothies with liquid, fresh fruit, and even a little ice. You can also blend milkshakes. If you enjoy making your own salad dressings or marinades, a traditional countertop blender can do the job, depending on the ingredients. High-Speed Countertop Blenders
High-speed blenders are designed to handle tougher ingredients and have the ability to produce a smoother blend. They are rapidly growing in popularity, as more and more consumers are looking for a commercial-quality smoothie or the ability to handle nuts, frozen fruits and vegetables, and ice without issue. Like traditional countertop blenders, high-speed blenders consist of a jar, blade, and base, but with differences in each. The jar is typically made from a thick plastic rather than glass. Blade assemblies range from two extremely thick, dull blades up to 6 razor sharp blades. Base units have extremely large motors from 600 up to almost 1800 watts of power that spins the blades at speeds over 30,000 RPM. This type of power may seem excessive, but is necessary in order to liquefy dense ingredients, crush large quantities of frozen food and ice, and to make thicker recipes like almond butter and hummus.
High-speed countertop blenders are great for smoothies with liquid, fresh or frozen fruit, ice, and even your favorite greens. They also work well for whole juices, batters, baby food, ice cream, soups, and more. There really is not much a high-speed blender can't blend.
- Motor Size: The more powerful the motor, the easier and quicker it will handle jobs like crushing ice.
- Capacity: Refer to your blender's capacity to determine how much it can hold. Mini blenders are perfect for making single serving smoothies. Most blenders hold between 32 and 60 ounces, but 40-ounce containers are average for normal use.
- Controls: Different blenders may only have a few settings and speeds, while others have many. (The typical range falls between three and 16.) A couple handy settings to have are an ice crushing speed and a pulsing setting.
- Extra Features: Some blenders come with additional attachments such as a whisk, juicer, mixing bowl, or food processor.
Once you've narrowed down to the type of blender that will best suit your needs, there are a few additional factors to consider before making your final decision.Safety
Safety is an extremely important consideration for any blender, especially if you have children. Most blenders have extremely sharp blades that can cause significant harm if not handled appropriately. Cordless immersion blenders can be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands!
Safety isn't just important for kids—you have yourself to worry about as well. Traditional countertop blenders typically have sharp blades that can't be removed for cleaning. Ideally, these are dishwasher-safe, but they still may require periodic hand-washing to get hard-to-reach food bits under the blades. Some blenders have removable blades, but that is also a risk since it requires careful disassembly of sharp blades from the base jar.
High-speed blenders have a bit more variety. Jars are often dishwasher safe, and range from dull, thick blades on wide jars that are very easy to clean, to sharp, non-removable blades that still require careful cleaning. There are even models with up to 6 razor-sharp, removable blades that must be handled with extreme care.Durability & Power
Depending on how often you plan on using your blender and the types of foods you want to blend, durability can be a very critical part of the purchase decision. You may save a little money up front with a traditional countertop, but may find yourself replacing it every 6 months because it can't stand up to the frozen strawberries for your smoothies.
It's important to consider the components of your blender that will undergo the most wear: the blades, drive shaft and socket, and motor. With blades, it stands to reason that the thinner the blade, the more likely it is to break. Over time, as blades hit hard or almost solid objects (like a frozen strawberry), the metal becomes increasingly brittle. Eventually, tips and edges can break off and pose a serious health risk if ingested. Try to match your use with the type of blade—the thicker, stronger or harder the food you'll be blending, the thicker, stronger and harder blade you need.
On most countertop units, the motor spins a drive socket, which spins the blade with a drive shaft. On almost all traditional countertop units, drive sockets are made of plastic. In some cases, even the drive shaft itself is plastic. When the blades encounter resistance, the drive shaft and socket can wear down and eventually strip completely, requiring either a replacement piece or a new blender. Even on some high-speed models the drive socket is plastic, which can also wear down over time and require replacement. As with the blades, if you are going to put your blender through more work, it's best to invest in a unit that will stand up to the task.
The motor should also be strong enough to handle the task without burning out. High-speed blenders have commercial-grade motors designed to be used dozens of times a day without overheating or failing, so they'll be able to handle almost all situations at home. If you are blending only fresh foods and sauces, you may be ok with a low-watt immersion or countertop blender. But if you are more interested in frozen fruits, smoothies, nuts and seeds, a blender with 700 watts or more will perform better.
Lastly, pay attention to the warranty on the blenders you are considering. Warranties range from 90 days on inexpensive models to up to 8 years for a professional-grade machine. If you plan on blending often, you may save money in the long run by choosing a brand that costs more and has a warranty to back it up.Design & Features
This may not be as much of a consideration for consumers of an immersion blender, but countertop units often serve as part of the kitchen décor. They sit on the counter alongside toasters, coffee-makers and microwaves, so keep that in mind when deciding. Countertop blenders come in a wide range of colors (basic white, silver and black to bright, modern colors), materials (typically plastics, die-cast or stainless steel), and sizes. Traditional blenders tend to be fairly compact. Many high-speed blenders can be so large they won't fit under a cupboard, while others are so small they are only designed for a single serving.
The design of the interface can be a significant factor in your choice as well. Many have buttons, switches, toggles and dials for controlling variable speeds. This type of design can be difficult to clean. Some more modern blender designs have flat panels with electronic displays and touch-screen controls.
Pay attention as well to what the buttons do. Most people are used to a few speed settings (like chop or puree) and a pulse button, but some brands have pre-programmed cycles and run-timers. With these features, you can press the "Smoothie" button, for example, and the blender will speed up and down according to a pre-set cycle designed to make the best smoothie, then automatically turn off when the cycle is complete.
Maintenance & Care Tips
- Never wash the base of a countertop blender in water. Instead, clean the motorized base with a, warm, damp cloth.
- Most containers, lids, and blades can be washed in the dishwasher, but check for specific instructions from the manufacturer before washing.
- Some blenders are guaranteed to last under a warranty. Details should be found in your blender's manual.