Update September 2012:
In 2010 we tested immersion blenders and chose the inexpensive and efficient Kalorik Sunny Morning Stick Mixer as our favorite for the way it effortlessly produced velvety soup and airy whipped cream. Unfortunately, many readers who purchased it found that it wasn’t very durable. In some cases, the machine stopped working after the first use. So we bought two fresh copies and returned to the kitchen for daily tests for more than a month. One of the machines blended more than 360 chocolate milkshakes perfectly (including pulverizing malted milk balls and cookie bits) and pureed 30 batches of chickpeas and tahini into hummus before giving up the ghost. But at the other end of the spectrum, another copy of the same blender stopped working during the first 30 seconds of use (far short of the manufacturer’s recommended limit of not more than a minute of use at a time). Our new winner is our former runner-up. Recently, its manufacturer updated this model and it performed beautifully and consistently in all of our tests.
An immersion blender is a handy addition to any kitchen, saving on time, effort, and cleanup. Instead of awkwardly transferring hot soup in batches into a blender to puree, you simply stick the immersion blender into the cooking pot, push a button, and soon have silken soup. It’s also perfect for small mixing jobs like blending salad dressings, whipping small measures of cream, or making smoothies. Since our first testing in 2006, new models have entered the market, and professional, restaurant-quality brands have dropped in price. We tested our old favorite against seven new models, priced from $25 to $100.
Mixing It Up
We wanted the best all-around performer—an immersion blender that could emulsify mayonnaise, make velvety broccoli soup, and produce light-as-air whipped cream. To test their ability to crush and mix textures of all sorts, we made smoothies and pesto, too, putting the blenders through their paces with frozen fruit and berries, nuts, vegetables, and fibrous leaves. We like immersion blenders because they are simpler to use and clean than ordinary blenders and food processors. Could they produce comparable results across a range of tasks? The answer is a qualified yes. Our winner performs most tasks as capably as a standing blender or food processor.
Cutting It Close
We quickly found out why most immersion blenders come with tall, narrow “mixing cups.” You won’t use them when you’re blending soup, of course. But for other jobs, the tapered cup keeps food close to the blades so that the blender works more effectively. The protective cage around the blades plays a part, too. Its design must allow blended food to exit without being sucked back into the vortex created by the blades. If the blended food couldn’t escape because the cutouts in the cage were poorly positioned, the food overwhipped in spots, even when we kept the immersion blender moving. Making sure the blade extended past the vents in the cage also allowed air to circulate, preventing food from getting stuck. Blenders also needed strong motors to generate circulation, especially for soup, where a big soup pot can’t aid in keeping food near the blades. The best performers were those where good cage design and strong motors combined forces to produce a swirling vortex like that of a stand blender.
Some of these immersion blenders were complicated and uncomfortable to use. Sure, multiple speeds sound great, but we found we only ever used high and low; the other settings were superfluous. For safety, immersion blenders require you to hold down a button during use. We preferred models with big buttons that were easy to press. Small, recessed buttons made our hands cramp. Weight factored in heavily, too (pun intended): Just try slowly drizzling oil into egg yolks to make mayonnaise while holding the blender with one hand. Models that weighed more than 3 pounds became agonizing.
Immersion blenders should be easy to clean: Simply rinse and put them away. Models with dishwasher-safe, detachable shafts were best—no risk of getting water in the motor when we washed the blender. We also considered the cage that protects the blades, as cramped cages trapped food, forcing us to maneuver around dangerously sharp blades as we washed. Wider cages let food circulate so we could rinse it away without danger of getting cut.
Comfortable to hold, quick, a champ at pureeing a range of ingredients, simple to clean, and affordable, one model had it all. The cheapest in our lineup at just $25, it handily upset our previous winner and every pricier competitor, too.
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasn’t sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|Recommended with Reservations|
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.
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