Stick blenders vs food processors: what do they do and do you need both?
So you’re thinking about buying a stick blender or a food processor and you’re wondering whether you need one or the other or both? While there is some crossover with both products, there are some tasks that a stick blender can do better and some for which a food processor is essential.
To help you decide what will work best for you and the way you cook, let’s unpack the benefits of both, what they do and what you can use them for.
Stick blenders - what are they?
A stick blender, also known as a hand blender or immersion blender, is one of the handiest, versatile and easy to use small appliances you may ever own. As the name suggests, this is a handheld blender which resembles a stick or a wand, with a central control button on the stick which powers the appliance and enables the user to control the speed.
Stick blenders are designed to be used in the bowl of whatever you are making, which is perhaps how they also came to be known as immersion blenders, because the attachment is immersed in whatever you are making.
In addition to the main body of the blender, stick blenders will come with a range of different attachments which click on and off the wand. These can include attachments for chopping, blending, mixing, pureeing, whisking, mashing, soup and more. They also come with a measuring beaker and a chopping bowl, both of which may even include lids so you can store food in them as well.
So, let’s take a closer look at the main benefits and features of a stick blender.
What can a stick blender or immersion blender do?
Stick blenders are a handy tool for blending, pureeing, pulsing, mincing or whisking. Their ability to blend soups, baby food and sauces in the bowl they’ve been cooked in is one of their most appealing uses as it saves transferring the liquid to a blender or food processor. They are also great for smaller chopping tasks that you don’t want to have to drag a large appliance out of the cupboard for.
Why do you need one?
Stick blenders are a handy, easy to use tool that you’ll find yourself using regularly for these key reasons:
They love liquids: if there’s one thing that stick blenders do well over a food processor it’s their ability to handle liquids. Blending soups, baby foods and sauces is a cinch with a stick blender as it gives you more control. Variable speed controls allow you to go as slow or as fast as you like.
Easy to use and clean: because they are designed to be used within the bowl of whatever you are making, this means you’re reducing the amount of dishes you are using as you cook. They are also easy to use because they generally only have one or two controls in addition to the variable speeds. Attachments disconnect easily and are often dishwasher safe and blades are easily washed under running water.
Light, compact and easy to store: stick blenders don’t have big motors like food processors which means, in theory, they are a whole lot lighter and easier to whip out of the cupboard than the heavy base of a food processor. They are also generally a lot smaller so they will fit in smaller drawers and cupboards, saving valuable kitchen real estate compared to a food processor or traditional blender.
Affordable: as with any appliance, stick blenders range in price, from $20 to upwards of $200, but in general they are cheaper than a food processor.
Shop stick blenders
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What are the key features of a stick blender that you should consider?
Attachments: the number of attachments play a major role in selecting a stick blender. What’s included - a whisk, soup blender, masher, jug, bowl? Consider how you plan to use it compared to what’s in the box.
Speed: check how many variable speed settings it has.
Power: the wattage will determine what kind of ingredients the blender can cope with. A higher wattage will churn through tougher ingredients like frozen fruit more easily but it may end up taking up more space in the cupboard.
Cord v cordless: traditionally stick blenders have always been electric, but nowadays there are a number of cord-free, battery operated options available which means you can work from anywhere in the kitchen or backyard, regardless of power.
Cordless battery: if you choose the cordless option make sure you choose one with a decent running time and battery life.
Ergonomics: before purchasing, hold the stick blender in your hand to see if the grip is comfortable. The easier it is to hold, the more control you will have as you blend.
Cleaning and care: check which parts are dishwasher safe and which are better washed under running water.
What sort of attachments should you expect with a stick blender?
At the very least you’d expect your stick blender to come with a bowl and a triblade chopper attachment. But in reality, you want your stick blender to be a bit more versatile, so look out for one that includes a whisk, a soup blender, a masher, a bowl and a beaker or jug.
Recipe ideas for your stick blender
There’s so much you can do with your stick blender. From soups to baby food, pesto, dips, mashed potatoes and more. Take a look at this delicious Parsnip, Apple and Pecorino soup which is deliciously sweet, creamy and a little bit tart.
More stick blender recipes:
Food processors - what are they?
Now let’s take a look at what a food processor can do in comparison to a stick blender or immersion blender.
A food processor is one of the hardest working kitchen appliances you’ll ever own. It typically comprises a motorised base, a transparent bowl, interchangeable blades that can slice, dice, chop, grate and shred and a lid with a feeding chute that enables you to add ingredients while you process.
While your stick blender can successfully pulverise and blend both wet and dry ingredients, it really excels with blending wet ingredients. A food processor on the other hand, is designed to tackle bigger food prep tasks and is better at processing dry ingredients, saving you time on tasks that would take much longer if done manually.
What can a food processor do?
The beauty of a food processor is that it combines a number of different appliances into one and it can save you serious time when it comes to food preparation tasks. A good food processor can slice, grate, chop, whisk, blend, knead, juice, press and dice.
A food processor, with its many different chopping and cutting attachments, replaces a box grater, grinder, mixer and mandolin, all of which are labour intensive tools when used manually. While it’s not as fabulous with liquids as the stick blender, it can do a number of things that most people would consider beyond the realm of the stick blender.
Why do you need one
A food processor takes the work out of making your own pastry, dough, dips, butters and batters and can grate, shred and slice hard vegetables, cheeses and fruits with ease via the mandolin style attachments.
If you’re someone that likes to make things from scratch, but doesn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen, then a food processor will play a huge part in reducing the time spent preparing food and it will also reduce the physical labour required to chop, grate and knead things by hand.
What are the key features of a food processor that you should consider?
Bowl capacity: think about how you will be using the food processor and what sized bowl you will need. Look for one that has at least two options for a large and small bowl.
Attachments: what does it come with? It should be able to slice, grate, chop, whisk, blend, knead, juice, press and dice. So check that the different cutting discs cover off various sizes. Do you want it to be able to juice? Check that it has a juice extractor, and if you want to be able to make your own dough, you’re going to need a dough blade.
Feed tube: make sure the feed tube is large enough to take bigger, hard vegetables as this will save you cutting them to size before you start.
Motor: check the wattage on the motor, the higher it is, the more powerful the processor.
Storage for the attachments: a food processor that can store the different cutting discs and other parts within the bowl is always a better option as it will take up less space in your cupboard.
Watertight seal: if you want to use your food processor for blending liquids, then you will need to find one that has a watertight seal and a liquid maximising disc to prevent liquid from shooting up the bowl and out of the lid.
What sort of attachments should you expect with a food processor?
The type of food processor you choose, whether it is a basic model or a premium model, will dictate what attachments are included. You will need to think about how you plan to use your food processor before you purchase in order to work out which attachments you actually need, as the more attachments are included, the more expensive the food processor will be.
Attachments to consider include:
Knife blade: standard attachment used for mixing, mincing, mashing and puréeing as well as chopping.
Dough hook or blade: for recipes that require kneading such as dough.
Shredding and slicing blades: available in different sizes for shredding, fine, medium or thick slicing.
Grating blade: for grating cheese or vegetables.
Potato rasp: good for grating harder cheeses or vegetables.
Blender: for smoothies, soups or milkshakes.
Citrus press or juicer: for quick and efficient juice extraction.
Mill: for grinding and chopping smaller nuts, herbs, coffee beans or spices.