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Blenders

Blender buying guide

Last updated: September 2015
Getting started

Getting started

In the market for a new blender? You're not alone. Sales of this small appliance have been humming in recent years, thanks in large part to the popularity of smoothies and whole-fruit juices. So-called personal blenders, featuring smaller containers that can double as a travel mug, have also driven interest to the category. 

Whether full-size or personal, a blender is one appliance that's likely to be left out on the countertop. With that in mind, manufacturers are coming out with more upscale looks, along with the increased power and sturdier construction that we've seen for some years now. 

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 mostly mixing drinks, look for a machine with enough oomph to crush ice. Spending more will typically get you touchpad controls, extra power, and designer styling or colors to match your kitchen's décor. Most have glass or plastic pitchers. Big, visible measurement marks and easily decipherable controls add to ease of use. Our noise Ratings can spare you the grating, high-pitched whine. In fact, some blenders from our tests are loud enough to require hearing protection.

Other options in the blender category include handheld immersion 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. In most cases, a top-rated full-size blender will be just enough machine for your needs.  

Types

You don't have to 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, and the word "professional" don't guarantee excellent performance or durability.

Along with mixing, puréeing, and chopping, crushing ice for drinks is a key attribute in a countertop blender.

 

Containers are typically made of glass or plastic with a capacity of about 4 to 8 cups. Most top-rated models have plastic containers. Glass tends to be heavier and more stable, though it can break.

 

Three to 16 speeds are the norm, but more isn't 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, Breville, Cuisinart, GE, KitchenAid, Krups, Ninja, Proctor-Silex, Vita-Mix, and Waring, among others.

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 right in the cooking container—say, purée soup vegetables in the pot they simmer in.

 

Although you do have to hold down a switch to keep the blades running, which can be tedious, immersion blenders are also handy for mixing smoothies, milkshakes, and powdered drinks.

 

Handheld blenders are great for small tasks, and typically come with an assortment of special blades and handy attachments.And they can fit in a drawer. But they tend to complement a countertop blender rather than replace one.

Features


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.

Wattage

Blenders generally range from 300 to 1,000 watts. Manufacturers claim that higher wattage translates into better performance, but in our tests, lower-wattage models have outperformed some more powerful ones. Power has made more of a difference with immersion blenders than with countertop models.

Controls

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 more 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 are not necessarily better. Three well-differentiated speeds are adequate; a dozen or more that are hard to distinguish from one another may be too many.

Wide-mouth container

This makes loading food and washing easier.

Big markings

Look for easy-to-read notches and numbers on the container to help you measure more accurately.

Pulse setting

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.

Attached blade

It might seem that an attached blade makes a container sturdier, but in fact, it makes it harder to clean.

Brands


Hamilton Beach, Oster, and Waring account for a large portion of countertop-blender units. Other brands include Black & Decker, Breville, Blendtec, Cuisinart, Kalorik, KitchenAid, Ninja, Omega, Proctor-Silex, and Vita-Mix. Many of the same brands also make handheld blenders. Use these profiles to compare blenders by brand.

Black & Decker

A major brand that offers a wide range of models in low-to-mid-prices; most products are of the push-button type. Black & Decker is available through online retailers, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and other retailers. Prices range from $30 to $80.

Blendtec

Like Vita-Mix, this brand also offers a high-priced multifunction machine that acts as a blender and also produces dough, soups, and ice cream. It is sold online on Amazon.com and by specialty retailers. Price is $400.

Breville

Breville is an Australian high-end brand offering upscale small appliances.  

Cuisinart

This mid-range-to-premium brand offers dual-purpose models that come with interchangeable parts, allowing the machine to double as blender and food processor. Individual models include push-button and touch-pad controls and LED displays. Cuisinart is widely available in department, specialty, and appliance stores, and through online retailers. Prices range from $50 to $150.

Hamilton Beach

This market-leading brand has long been known for its Wave Action System technology. Its upscale Eclectric line is available in six colors. In 2008, the company introduced the Dual Action Blender with two sets of blades featuring a double jar or two single jars. This offers the flexibility of blending or mixing different items at the same time. These products are widely available through department stores, appliances stores, and big-box retailers. Prices range from $20 to $100.

KitchenAid

One of the category's premium brands, whose products include die-cast metal bases. Most models are available in various colors. Products are sold through department stores, specialty stores, appliance stores, online retailers, and big-box retailers. Prices range from $60 to $270.

L'Equip

L'Equip started several years ago as a high-tech blender company and was recently acquired by Bosch. Prices start around $300.

Ninja

Ninja is a popular brand from Euro-Pro. It features multifunctional products at fairly affordable prices, ranging from $60 to $100.

Oster

The market-share leader offers a basic line and the upscale Fusion, Counterforms, and Classic Beehive lines. The flagship Fusion line includes touch-pad controls and preprogrammed settings. Oster's products are sold through department stores, online retailers, Walmart, Target, appliance retailers, and many more outlets. Prices range from $20 to $100.

Vitamix

Vita-Mix touts its high-priced machine as a multifunction product that includes some of the functions of a food processor. The machines are sold online and by specialty retailers. Price is $400 and up.

Waring

Offers include high-mid-range to premium-category products. Most of Waring's blenders incorporate die-cast-metal bases, two-speed operation, and the Waring toggle switch; its trademark metal jar is also available as an option. Products are available at department stores and specialty stores. Prices range from $60 to $400.

   

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