Immersion Blenders

From Cook's Country | February/March 2017
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Overview:

We use immersion blenders—also called stick blenders—to puree soups in their pots, eliminating the messy, dicey transfer to and from a blender or food processor. They’re also designed for small blending jobs such as making mayonnaise, salad dressing, pesto, or whipped cream.

The top part of an immersion blender, the handle, houses the controls and motor and trails the electrical cord. The business end is at the bottom, where the blending wand ends in an umbrella-like hood that covers the blade; the hood protects the user and has perforations that help circulate the food for even, efficient blending. Most models come with accessories such as blending cups and whisk attachments; some come with extras such as chopping bowls or potato mashers. A majority of the blenders from our last testing have been discontinued, so we tested 11 new models, priced from $14.99 to $129.99, alongside our old winner from KitchenAid.

One blender’s chopping wand fell off miduse—plop, right into the soup. Another model’s wand didn’t detach, also a no-go.… read more

We use immersion blenders—also called stick blenders—to puree soups in their pots, eliminating the messy, dicey transfer to and from a blender or food processor. They’re also designed for small blending jobs such as making mayonnaise, salad dressing, pesto, or whipped cream.

The top part of an immersion blender, the handle, houses the controls and motor and trails the electrical cord. The business end is at the bottom, where the blending wand ends in an umbrella-like hood that covers the blade; the hood protects the user and has perforations that help circulate the food for even, efficient blending. Most models come with accessories such as blending cups and whisk attachments; some come with extras such as chopping bowls or potato mashers. A majority of the blenders from our last testing have been discontinued, so we tested 11 new models, priced from $14.99 to $129.99, alongside our old winner from KitchenAid.

One blender’s chopping wand fell off miduse—plop, right into the soup. Another model’s wand didn’t detach, also a no-go. Speaking of safety, there was another deal breaker: Cuisinart recently added a safety lock to almost all its immersion blenders, including the two we tested. It requires the user to press a button to unlock the blender before it starts. This meant that every time we took our finger off the power button to shift our grip or adjust the pot, we had to stop and use our other hand (which was busy steadying the pot) to unlock it before we could start again. “I’ve child-locked myself out of this stupid thing,” said one tester.

We noticed that manufacturers seemed to be trying to add flash to their blenders with features such as “turbo” buttons and up to 15 blending speeds. To better understand how blade speed correlates with performance, we used a tachometer to measure the blade speed (in revolutions per minute, or RPM) of each model at various settings. Unfortunately, our results showed that faster blades don’t necessarily make for better blending—a blade can move rapidly but not have a lot of power behind its rotation. As for the blending speeds, the 15-speed Breville sounded impressive, but we found that speeds 1 to 13 varied very little, and it wasn’t until speeds 14 and 15 that we started to see some action. More puzzling, speed 1 was slightly faster than speed 2, and 3 was slightly faster than 4, so these settings were superfluous and inaccurate. We concluded that two speeds were plenty: one low and one high, ranging in speed between 10,000 RPM on the low end and 14,000 RPM on the high end.

Some brands bragged about high wattage (a measure of how much electricity their motors draw), which ranged from 150 to 700 watts. Did more watts equal better blending? Not in our tests. To find out why, we spoke to Professor Igor Mezic, director of the Center for Energy Efficient Design and head of UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. He explained that more power, as measured in watts, might make things go slightly faster or give a slight edge in blending very liquid-y substances, like a big batch of thin soup. But for cutting, chopping, and pureeing more viscous foods, the design of the blade and its encircling guard is more important.

We examined the wands for common design attributes but found no pattern. Guard designs, guard vents, and distances from blade to guard varied and didn’t track with performance. When we looked at the blades themselves, we saw that some were straight and even and others were irregularly shaped, but that didn’t track with performance either. At best, we can say that sharp blades with guards designed to maximize food movement into the path of the blades were very important.

What else mattered? Comfort was key, as shorter, lighter, slimmer blenders cloaked in grippy rubber were the easiest to hold and move. We preferred buttons to dials because dials required a second hand, while buttons right on the grip let us hop back and forth between speeds with one hand and less fuss. Regarding accessories, we liked whisks (which whip cream more evenly and with more control than the blades) and blending cups, which minimize splatter; we found anything else extraneous.

In the end, the new Braun Multiquick 5 Hand Blender ($59.99) earned our top spot. It is comfortable, secure, tidy, easy to use, and has two well-calibrated speeds right on its grip.

Methodology:

We tested 12 blenders, priced from $14.99 to $129.99, starting with an elimination round in which we pureed potato soup. Five blenders were nixed from the lineup for egregiously poor performance: Blades fell off into the soup, wands didn’t detach, and buttons were markedly uncomfortable. We ran the remaining seven blenders through a battery of tests including grinding pesto, blending smoothies, emulsifying mayonnaise, whipping cream, and pureeing whole tomatoes. We tried them in Dutch ovens, saucepans, slow-cooker crocks, bowls, and their own blending cups (for models that had one). Testers of different sizes and dominant hands used and rated each blender, and we washed all of their attachments and blending cups in the dishwasher 10 times. Prices were paid online, scores were averaged, and the blenders appear below in order of preference.

Blending: How well the blenders puree; there should be no unincorporated food, and textures should be smooth and even.

Comfort: The comfort of the handle and buttons, as well as the working weight; the blender should be comfortable and easy to hold for the entirety of each task.

Handling: How manageable and logical the speeds are to use and set, how well the cord stays out of the way, and how easy it is to move the blender around the pot.

Splatter: How much splatter the blenders make; they shouldn’t spray food, and they should come with a blending cup to minimize splatter.

Durability: How cosmetically and functionally intact the blenders remain throughout testing; they should remain intact and fully functional.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    Braun Multiquick 5 Hand Blender

    This blender’s two speeds were well calibrated and were all we needed to bounce from task to task with ease. It was the easiest to maneuver—light and slim, with a grippy body. It had a whisk for perfect whipped cream and a blending cup that contained splatter. We downgraded it a wee bit for leaving small, precise bits of kale in its (still perfectly drinkable) smoothie.

    • Comfort ★★★
    • Blending ★★½
    • Handling ★★★
    • Splatter ★★★
    • Durability ★★★

    $59.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    KitchenAid 3-Speed Hand Blender

    Our old winner is still a decent choice but was a bit slower and slightly more complicated to use than our new favorite, thanks to a speed dial that required two hands. But it made good food (except for the misdemeanor of leaving very fine bits of kale in the smoothie), and testers still liked its secure rubber grip and narrow, maneuverable body.

    • Comfort ★★★
    • Blending ★★½
    • Handling ★★½
    • Splatter ★★★
    • Durability ★★★

    $59.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    Breville The Control Grip Immersion Blender

    This blender pureed very well—its smoothies were perfectly smooth, unlike some more pointillist specimens. It was big and had a trigger grip that was tiring after a while, but what really gave us pause was its 15-speed control dial that required two hands. The first 13 speeds were superfluous; only 14 and 15 actually got us somewhere.

    • Comfort ★★½
    • Blending ★★★
    • Handling ★★
    • Splatter ★★★
    • Durability ★★½

    $99.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Electrolux Expressionist Immersion Blender

    This blender was slim and easy to grab, but its smooth plastic body was a touch heavy and slippery, and the hard plastic surrounding its buttons dug into our fingers after a while. It was powerful and had two well-calibrated speeds, but it couldn’t make mayo because its guard blocked the emulsification; its smoothie was also a bit frothy and kale-flecked.

    • Comfort ★★
    • Blending ★★
    • Handling ★★★
    • Splatter ★★★
    • Durability ★★★

    $99.99

  • Recommended with Reservations

    Dualit Kitchen Essentials Immersion Hand Blender w/ Accessories Kit

    This chrome blender was excellent at pureeing; its smoothies were “perfect,” and its six-pronged blade zoomed through food with elan. But it was bulky, slick, and had confusing controls: In addition to a nonessential turbo button, the speeds on its dial weren’t labeled, so we had to figure out the setting by touch before every use.

    • Comfort ★½
    • Blending ★★★
    • Handling ★½
    • Splatter ★★★
    • Durability ★★★

    $129.99

  • Not Recommended

    Kalorik Combination Mixer with Mixing Cup/Chopper and Whisk

    This fat, slick blender spread our hands too wide, and the casing around its button hurt our fingers after a while. It did well with smooth things such as cream and mayonnaise, but when we added pine nuts, leafy greens, or fruit, it left whole pieces unblended. It was plenty fast, so its poor performance was likely due to a bad blade and cage design.

    • Comfort ★½
    • Blending ★½
    • Handling ★★★
    • Splatter ★★★
    • Durability ★★½

    $49.99

  • Not Recommended

    Cuisinart Smart Stick 2-Speed Hand Blender

    This blender’s “safety” locking mechanism (a button you have to press every time you take your finger off the power buttons to reengage the motor) made us want to throw it against a wall. We felt like we were stalling out in a car with a manual transmission, jerking back and forth, back and forth to unlock it every time we took our finger off the power button. Any positive attributes were negated by the herky-jerky nature of its confounding safety lock.

    • Comfort ★★★
    • Blending ★★
    • Handling ½
    • Splatter ★★★
    • Durability ★★★

    $47.49

  • Not Recommended

    Cuisinart Smart Stick 700-Watt Hand Blender

    This blender had the same dreaded “safety” lock as its Cuisinart sibling: “a nonstarter for me,” said one tester. It was also slick, tall, and had a massive blade guard that was hard to keep submerged; if it wasn’t submerged, whatever we were pureeing geysered forth like Old Faithful. It also blended somewhat unevenly, its food simultaneously chunky and overpureed.

    • Comfort ★★½
    • Blending ★★
    • Handling ½
    • Splatter ★★
    • Durability ★★★

    $99.99

  • Not Recommended

    Oster 2-Speed Immersion Hand Blender, Red

    This model’s bulbous, smooth plastic body was hard to hold, and its stiff silicone buttons were tiring to press; they were narrow and surrounded by a hard casing, so we had to poke quite firmly with the very tips of our fingers. It also wasn’t very good at blending and made grainy soup.

    • Comfort
    • Blending ★½
    • Handling ★★
    • Splatter ★★★
    • Durability ★★

    $19.00

  • Not Recommended

    Proctor-Silex Hand Blender

    This blender felt chintzy, but it blended soup to a reasonable puree. Its body was made of smooth plastic but was light and slim, so it was fairly easy to hold. Our real gripe comes down to the fact that its blade doesn’t detach, which makes it less safe and harder to clean. It also didn’t come with a blending cup.

    • Comfort ★★★
    • Blending ★★
    • Handling
    • Splatter
    • Durability ★★

    $14.99

  • Not Recommended

    Hamilton Beach 2 Speed Hand Blender

    This blender’s wand fell off while we were using it to puree potato soup, plonking into the pot. We followed the directions for attaching the wand, which simply say to twist it on, but it doesn’t have any visual markers that tell you when it’s attached. This blender also had sharp plastic casing around its buttons that dug into our hands, and it spattered some.

    • Comfort ★★
    • Blending ★★½
    • Handling
    • Splatter ★★
    • Durability ★½

    $20.78

  • Not Recommended

    OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender

    This blender’s unique feature was a light on its shaft, designed to illuminate whatever you’re mixing, but it did nothing except remind us that it was plugged in. It had a nice grip, but its six speeds were unnecessary, and its dial required two hands to use. Worse: Its food was often chunky, it couldn’t make mayo with our method (its guard blocked the emulsification), and it broke on the seventh use.

    • Comfort ★★★
    • Blending ★½
    • Handling ★★
    • Splatter ★★½
    • Durability

    $89.99

  • All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.
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