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Article

Test Drive: Blenders

The best blenders combine power, smarts, and bang for your buck. Here are our top picks.

Fine Cooking Issue 106
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Like a Swiss Army knife, a blender is expected to do just about everything, from blending soups and sauces to making nut butters and mayonnaise. Fortunately, today’s designs have kept up with the demanding cook and can accomplish more than ever. Some offer pre-programmed options to make the perfect smoothie, while others have serrated blades for quick ice-crushing. The best-designed blenders offer these new technologies in intuitive, easy-to-use formats and combine simple function with superior performance. Here are our favorites, across the price range.

$

Hamilton Beach Smooth Pour
$45 at hamiltonbeach.com

The Smooth Pour is ideal for the consumer looking for a reliable blender with traditional functions. And while it comes in at under $50, it’s not entirely no-frills. Its innovative Wave-Action System pulls ingredients down into the blades for super-quick and super-smooth smoothies and soups. Its steel blades consistently smash cubes into cocktail ice. The 10 ­settings (plus high, low, and pulse) work for basic tasks like purées though aren’t great at grinding coffee beans. Its 40-ounce glass pitcher is on the small side but has a well-designed spout that reduces drips. It comes with a three-year warranty.

$$

Breville Ikon Hemisphere, BBL550XL
$150 at brevilleusa.com

The Ikon Hemisphere offers creative design and engineering. A cylindrical silhouette with a rounded pitcher bottom means food won’t get trapped in corners. It has five settings (plus pulse). Its mix setting keeps hummus in blade range, producing a smooth purée in less than a minute, while its serrated blades are powerful enough to crush a half-pitcher of ice into snow in just 30­seconds. The 51-ounce glass pitcher is topped with a snug-fitting rubber lid that is easily removed using its convenient ring pull. The Ikon’s flat buttons mean quick and easy cleaning. A one-year warranty is offered.

$$$

Cuisinart PowerEdge 700
$270 at macys.com

With fewer but “smarter” buttons that coincide with common kitchen tasks, Cuisinart’s PowerEdge consistently delivers superb performance. Timed settings create perfect cocktail ice and smoothies: The ice crush function pulses on and off automatically for ideal texture, while the smoothie program switches off after 30 seconds. The blender has four settings (plus high, low, and pulse), with a high setting powerful enough to grind coffee beans to espresso powder in 25 seconds, and a low setting that keeps thick mixtures in contact with the blades. At 56 ounces, the blender’s glass pitcher is bigger than most and comes with a well-designed, removable, die-cast base. It has a three-year warranty.

The splurge

Vitamix Professional Series 500
$600 at surlatable.com

Professional chefs view the high price tag of their Vitamix blenders as an investment rather than an expense, and those who look for restaurant-grade kitchen equipment will, too. With stainless-steel, laser-cut blades, a powerful motor, and a durable 64-ounce polycarbonate pitcher, this blender is up for any kitchen challenge. It chops nuts into uniform bits with just three pulses, incorporates entire parsley stems into thick hummus, and purées sesame seeds. But while more power is good, control is even better. A single dial controls the Vitamix’s ten speeds and various cycles. Its pulse option slows any setting, preventing the overflow of hot liquid and keeping thick mixtures in contact with the blades. Using a combination of settings to make a smoothie, the motor begins slowly, speeds up to medium, and finishes at high speed to produce a velvety drink. Another great feature? The Vitamix heats food, too. When it’s set to the hot-soup option, the blades create enough friction to warm purées to serving temperature. A full seven-year warranty is offered.

What to Consider

Cycles and Speeds Choose a blender with the right speeds—more isn’t necessarily better. Low speeds and pulse settings are useful for keeping ingredients within blades’ reach. Multispeed cycles offer combinations of slow speeds, pulses, pauses, and high speeds.

Cleanup Flat control panels mean fewer crevices for debris to fall into. Wide-bottom pitchers easily accommodate spatulas and sponges for cleaning and do away with the need to disassemble the blade from the bottom of the pitcher.

Capacity Forty ounces is a standard-size blender pitcher. Those that are more than 50 ounces can purée a large amount of soup all at once and hold enough daiquiris for a crowd.

Construction Die casting, quality materials, and long warranties likely mean greater durability. Stability at high speeds and a pitcher that fits smoothly into its base are important as well.

Safety Timers and programmed cycles prevent overprocessing. Master switches are good at heading off accidental geysers and thwarting button-pushing toddlers.

Durability Glass pitchers have a reassuring heft and resist scratches, stains, and odors. Plastic pitchers pour more cleanly than glass and are lighter but can scar when processing hard ingredients and cloud with long use.

How We Tested

We selected 14 full-size, multispeed countertop blenders and evaluated their power, versatility, construction, features, and speeds. To do so, we put them through the following tests:

 • We crushed ice and made smoothies from frozen berries to test the relative power of each blender and to assess whether frozen foods damaged or dulled the blades.
• By puréeing hummus with whole sesame seeds, we gauged how smooth and consistent a paste each blender could produce.
• We put coffee beans and nuts to the test to determine how finely each blender could grind.

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