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A heavy, metal base is an indicator of quality, and will remain steady on the counter. Blenders only need three settings to be effective (high, low, and pulse). Soft-start and ice-crushing features can be convenient, but are unnecessary. Heavy glass jars are the most versatile.
A good blender should have a tight fitting lid with a hole for adding ingredients.
Introduction to Blenders
Invented in 1922, the blender quickly became an indispensable tool in home and professional kitchens alike. The best commercial blenders can pulverize ice to snow, mill legumes, grains and spices, puree whole fruits and vegetables, and produce hot soup from cold ingredients by the friction of the blades alone.
Blenders are ideal for making cold iced drinks like margaritas and smoothies, grinding pastes like pesto and peanut butter, emulsifying mayonnaises and salad dressings, mixing batters, and sifting dry ingredients for cake and muffin recipes. They are versatile machines, often touted as 10 appliances in one.
The general rule with appliances is the heavier the base, the more rugged the machine. A solid, heavy base is essential for blenders as the torque of the motor alone will cause a light-weight blender to bounce around the counter top. We consider a solid metal base to be a good indicator of a well built blender. Blenders with wide bases will stay in place better than blenders with narrow bases.
Avoid blenders with plastic bases, as they are almost always inferior. Some manufacturers build sound dampening buffers inside the bases of their blenders to cut down on the noise of the motor. Whereas this kind of feature can be an added plus in the kitchen, it is by no means necessary.
The Motor of a Blender
Blenders are manufactured with a wide range of motor sizes, from 150 Watt single serving blenders to 1500 Watt commercial work horses. Although we generally use 500 Watts as a reference point for the quality of a blender, the technical power specification of a motor is not a reliable indicator of how strong a blender’s motor really is, how much torque it can deliver. A well built 350 Watt blender is usually more effective than an inexpensive 600 Watt blender which will burn out quickly under heavy loads. Look for a blender constructed of solid metal instead of a blender with a powerful motor.
Although a blender only needs three speeds to be effective (high, low, and pulse), a few optional speeds can provide some advantageous versatility. Some manufacturers produce blenders with up to 12 speed settings, but this is generally a marketing gimmick to distract the consumer from the inferiority of the motor. We think a range of five settings is ideal for providing sufficient control over how finely chopped or pureed you want your ingredients.
Some blenders also offer a graduated startup feature that slowly bring the blades to the desired speed, keeping ingredients at the bottom of the jar and reducing splash back. The same effect can be achieved by pulsing a blender up to speed, but startup options are nice as they reduce human error and allow for hands-free blending. Ice crushing features automatically pulse the blades up to speed, but are unnecessary and often wholly ineffective.
Control consoles on a blender may feature push buttons, toggle switches, adjustable dials, or touch-pads. Touch-pad controls are nice to have as they are easy to clean, and we generally recommend them. However, a high-quality blender should not splash or spill so the cleanliness of the controls will usually not be a concern.
The jar of a blender may be made of stainless steel, glass, or plastic:
Steel jars are dishwasher safe and virtually indestructible, but they do not allow you to see the ingredients inside.
Glass jars are resilient, transparent, and dishwasher safe but may crack or break if dropped.
Plastic jars are durable as well as transparent, but will scuff over time and react poorly with harsh dishwasher detergents.
We recommend blenders with thick, heavy-duty glass jars as they will not wear with time and will resist breaking if dropped.
Jars come in a variety of shapes. Some are squat and cylindrical, some are round and tapered, and some are tall and square. All have their merits, but we find that food sticks less to the sides of round jars in everything but commercial grade blenders.Blades may be permanently secured to the bottom of a jar or may be screwed in place around a rubber O-ring. Whereas one piece jars will never leak, a well constructed jar with a removable blade will rarely give you problems so long as it is used properly. Jars with removable blades are easier to clean, but all blenders can be washed by blending a little hot, soapy water in the jar.
Some jars may also feature lids with push sticks, letting you safely move ingredients around inside the jar while the blender is running. A good blender, however, should never have a problem evenly grinding the contents of its jar. We believe the a good lid features two things: a tight seal at the top of the jar that prevents leakage and a removable center cap that allows you to add ingredients to the jar while the blender is running.