According to the beloved holiday television favorite, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” there’s an actual island where misfit toys are sent to live. It makes me wonder if there’s a place like that for misfit kitchen appliances.
You know the ones I’m talking about. Like those multipurpose kitchen countertop blenders, people are sure they need it.
They use them a few times and realize it’s totally overkilling. No there’s this significant unused kitchen appliance taking up all that space on the counter.
It was supposed to help you cook better and eat healthier, but all it’s doing is giving you a daily guilt trip when you walk past it in the kitchen.
Don’t let this happen to you. Even if you don’t believe in Santa Claus or Rudolph and his Island of Misfit Toys, you should be confident in your purchase of a blender. Here’s what you need to know to make the right purchase choice.
Newsflash: Buying a new traditional blender as a way to start a healthier is a resolution doomed to failure if this kitchen appliance ends up collecting dust instead of making smoothies.
A blender is a kitchen productivity tool, and like any other tool, you need the right one for the right job.
You’ve got to ask the right questions to figure that out. “What will I blend with it?” is an obvious one – but don’t stop there. “If I get a countertop blender, what else could I do with it?”
A blender can certainly make nutritious smoothies to contribute to good health, but it can also take your culinary adventures in the kitchen to the next level.
A quality standard blender can be an indispensable tool. Have you ever seen a celebrity chef not use a blender in one of those cable television cookoff contest shows?
Here’s the thing about deciding to buy a quality countertop blender. Your inner accountant isn’t going to go along with the idea if you only ended up using it a few times a year.
It makes more sense to invest in something versatile and durable if it’s going to get daily use. And hey, isn’t this where the healthy smoothies come in?
So, how do you know if you need a traditional kitchen blender
Don’t worry. Figuring it out doesn’t involve Santa Claus. But you do have to make a decision. Do you want to turn your kitchen into a place that contributes to good health and meals made at home? Or do you want the over-processed microwave meals you’ve been snagging at the supermarket?
That’s because a blender extends your capacity for culinary creation way beyond smoothies. A high-performance model can juice vegetables and fruits, grind the coffee, turn nuts into butter, and even transform wheat grain into flour.
What to look for in a great standard blender?
It’s time to bust the first myth about what’s important in a countertop blender. Are blades important? Absolutely. Do they have to be razor-sharp?
No. Have you ever heard of anyone sharpening their blender blades?
On the other hand, even the beginners among us know that a kitchen knife should be regularly honed and sharpened. Some high-end blenders have top settings pushing blade speeds toward 30,000 RPM. A blade coming into contact with food at those speeds will ultimately lose sharpness over time.
Durability is more important. The blades must be strong enough to retain their shape over the years of use. It’s not their job to cleanly cut – the way you think of a very sharp chef’s knife – as much as it is to pulverize and displace.
There’s no better material choice for this than high-quality stainless steel. This durable material is known for the ability to retain its shape for extended periods. Stainless steel also is resistant to corrosion and rust.
It would be inappropriate to say that stainless steel is nonstick, but the nonporous surface makes the blender blades easier to clean.
The design of the blades determines its efficiency at accomplishing different types of blending, depending on speed. Some blenders provide a series of blades – each type has a specialized function.
Other blenders, such as the Vitamix, feature containers with blades that are not removable. You’ll use a different container for a specific type of function.
Motor size and power wattage
Something has to get those blades spinning, and it’s the electric motor housed in the base of the blender. There are two ways to measure the capacity of an electric motor:
Generally, one electrical horsepower is equivalent to 746 watts. From there, science starts to get foggy and confusing. Manufacturers can rate horsepower as “rated HP” or “peak HP. Blenders don’t maintain their maximum horsepower.
Instead, the motor moves to a lower horsepower after reaching the desired speed. It’s why sometimes a blender manufacturer will provide the motor’s maximum wattage, but not the horsepower.
Don’t get too caught up in computing horsepower. Just remember that a higher wattage, the more means that the blender’s motor is more powerful and versatile. How powerful should it be if we use watts as a measuring point?
- 300 to 400 watts is sufficient if you plan to use your blender mainly with soft ingredients and do things like make milkshakes.
- 500 to 700 watts is a good power range if you plan to make smoothies or frozen cocktails. You’ll need some extra power so the blades can pulverize the ice.
One thousand or more watts provides you with the power to turn spice seeds into a fine powder. You’ll need a blender with this much power if you want to process dry ingredients. You can find blenders that exceed 1,500 watts.
A blender must have a rating of at least 1,200 watts to be considered professional grade. What does the extra wattage of a pro-grade blender offer? Mostly versatility. You’ll be able to make your own fresh peanut butter with little added oil or even liquify almonds into milk.
Besides power ratings, countertop blenders are often commonly sorted and rated by their container capacity. For the sake of comparison, a personal blender will feature a travel-size container with a capacity of between 9 to 12 ounces.
- High-performance blenders feature containers that can hold up to 80 ounces, which translates to impressive 10 cups. It can be challenging to blend small amounts. The ingredients in the container have to interact with the blade.
- Conventional blenders offer containers that can hold between 56 and 64 ounces and can work for small families or larger households.
Container material and design
The majority of countertop blender containers are made of plastic or glass. Both materials have benefits and drawbacks. A high-performance blender container filled with 80 ounces will weigh more than 5 pounds.
Add the weight of the glass, and you’ve got a workout. It’s why many of the more expensive high-end high-performance blender manufacturers elect to go with plastic containers.
On the other hand, plastic in the past has earned a negative reputation for absorbing stains and odors. Glass is nonporous and incapable of absorption.
This is also mostly true of today’s high-tech plastic, which is less prone to scratches and contains no BPA compounds.
There is a third option, which is more commonly found with commercial blenders. Several noncommercial blender manufacturers now offer stainless steel containers. These are obviously more durable than glass or plastic, but they are costly.
Even this option has drawbacks. Plastic and Glass allow you to see what you’re blending. You’ll give that up to go with stainless steel.
The choice is yours – unless it isn’t – meaning that a manufacturer may offer only plastic or Glass. Pay attention to how snugly the lid fits.
You don’t want to struggle to remove it, but you also don’t want the lid to fly off during use unless you don’t mind wearing some of what you are blending.
Ease of cleaning
Talk about irony. Some of the most expensive standard blenders feature containers that do not have detachable blades. Their marketing department has spun it as a non-issue.
Cleanup is a snap because you just partially fill the blender container and a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap. The powerful motor and high speed with thoroughly clean things, leaving you nothing more to do but rinse.
This may be the case, but many owners have taken to the online review sections to suggest going with a blender that offers detachable blades. This also offers you the option of putting the container and lid in the dishwasher after you remove the blades.
Speed and RPM
It’s difficult to find a traditional blender that has less than three speeds, and it’s not uncommon to find models that feature as many as 16 speeds. These speed options refer to how fast the blender blades are revolving, and it’s measured in revolutions per minute (RPM).
A quality standard blender should be able to achieve speeds of between 20,000 to 30,000 RPM. This level of performance is what provides smoothies free of fruit lumps and silky smooth sauces.
Zero to 100 miles per hour in a matter of seconds is exhilarating. Zero to 30,000 RPM in a matter of seconds? Let’s just say you want to make sure the blender’s lid is secure.
Some manufacturers have added a graduated startup feature which gradually brings the blender blades up to these high speeds. There’s less chance of damage to the motor, too.
Faster isn’t always better, even in the world of blenders. You might never have considered it, but a quality blender is a versatile appliance that can even mix the ingredients for bread dough. A low RPM speed then allows the blender to do the kneading, too.
You shouldn’t have to guess which speed works best for a blending gravy versus making whipped cream. It’s why most traditional blenders feature pre-programmed speed settings. Just dial in “margarita” and your blender will get that ice crushed just the way you like it.
It’s common to find standard push-button controls on countertop blenders. They’re straightforward and offer easy operation. A percentage of online reviewers do point out that some blender button designs make it difficult to clean up drips and spills.
If the thought of blending brings out your inner control freak, seek out a model with dials for a precise adjustment of speed.
Technology has provided a logical answer to gummed up push buttons in the form of digital touchpad controls. Some owners have left online review comments that these touchpad controls aren’t always intuitive. Keep your owner’s manual handy.
Stop and think about the concept of a warranty for a moment. It’s a promise, a gesture of assurance that your purchase is protected against defects or operational problems that are the fault of the manufacturer.
If you made a poor product and had little faith in its operation, would you offer to protect it for an extended period of time? A warranty’s length is often a good indication of how long you can expect the trouble-free operation of your blender.
It’s why a budget-friendly countertop blender might offer a short 1-year warranty, while a more expensive high-performance blender will provide a warranty with protective coverage of up to a decade.
Regardless of the length, be sure to follow the registration instructions. Take the time to read through the warranty, so you understand what’s covered. The motor might be covered for a more extended period than other parts of the blender.
Countertop blender buying guide
The electric blender will celebrate its centennial in 2022. Nearly 100 years ago, Stephen Poplawski put a spinning blade at the bottom of a container to create a beverage mixer and blender. He developed it for Arnold Electric Company and received a patent for his invention.
If you’re looking for a convential blender today, you’ll get upgraded materials, design, and technology – but it’s still the invention of the century.
The most notable recent developments mainly have seen a blending (see what we did there?) of commercial power and ruggedness with consumer-centric convenience.
Your grandmother’s electric blender still might work – and work well. The brand new one you’re about to buy will likely be twice as powerful. It will be larger and capable of making more things. It will be constructed of Space Age materials, too.
Do you need all those bells and whistles? Many buying guides are overly complicated. This one has a simple objective – to help you decide which of three types of countertop blenders is right for you.
Countertop blenders – how they differ from other types of blenders
Conventional full-size countertop blenders
The big thing with the plastic or glass container sitting on a base on the kitchen counter. Yes, that’s a standard or traditional blender. It’s also full-sized, meaning it can blend up to 8 cups or 63 ounces.
These are the most common types of kitchen blenders. It’s powerful enough to crush ice, and it’ll make a mean smoothie. It’s a workhorse, and you’ll find it’s ideal for general use. You can make a slushy margarita, or throw in some stewed tomatoes and herbs to puree a tasty pizza sauce.
High-performance countertop blenders
We have celebrity chefs on cable shows to thank. Home cooks have access to appliances once found only in commercial kitchens.
It’s why manufacturers now offer what are known as high-performance or “commercial-grade” blenders to consumers. The difference between it and a conventional full-size blender is mainly the powerful motor.
It extends the appliance’s versatility beyond blending and pureeing. A high-performance machine can easily and efficiently handle dry ingredients.
Use it to make cashew butter or grind coffee. The powerful motor allows the blades to attain high speeds, which causes increased friction and enable the blender to heat liquids.
Some high-end blenders feature technology-enhanced functions such as digital timers and touch displays.
Bigger and more powerful isn’t a universal desire. If it was, how would you explain the tiny house movement? Consumer desire for convenience at the individual level pushed manufacturers to develop and offer small blenders that make single servings.
They’re at home on the countertop, but they can easily be stored out of sight. Everything about them is on a smaller scale, and it has a less powerful motor. The traditional large jar or container is replaced by one that holds only about 14 ounces.
It’s the size of a to-go cup and for a good reason. It’s meant for making a single serving smoothie and drinking it from that same container. A personal blender is a small blender that makes single servings.
Countertop versus immersion handheld blenders
You might move your personal blender to different places in the kitchen. The smaller size offers more mobility options than its considerably larger conventional or high-performance blender cousins.
In the case of all three of these blenders, you’ll take the ingredients to the appliance. A hand blender turns this idea upside-down. It’s portable and doesn’t have its own container. You take it to where you need it to blend – and you do the blending in the container of your choice.
Immersion blenders are convenient, but they have limitations. It’s not powerful enough to crush ice or grind nuts.
Opt for a traditional blender if you have to choose between it or an immersion blender. The immersion blender is a great space-saving gadget, but versatility is not its strong suit.
How much do countertop blenders cost?
There’s a growing number of manufacturers competing for your money, and that’s good news for you. The competition is spurring innovation while it drives down prices.
High-performance blender. Choose one of these If you’ve got the space on your countertop and don’t want to be limited by what you can do with a blender. Blend, puree, juice, grind and even heat liquids. Expect to pay from $400 to $800 or even more.
Traditional blender. A slight step down, meaning less capacity but maybe not less power, puts you in the land of traditional full-size blenders. Here’s where you’ll find an amazing range of prices. You can find a conventional blender for as little as $30.
It might be friendly to your budget, but don’t expect a blender at this price point to be a friend for life. It won’t last long. Expect quality to kick in when you reach price ranges between $60 to $100.
Personal blender. A personal blender shouldn’t cost more than $100, and you can find a quality model for half that price.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you really need a high-power blender, or is it just a marketing gimmick?
Professional-grade blenders are powerful. If you decide to buy a Vitamix, you’re paying for the brand name – but you also are paying for the powerful motor in its base.
Can all countertop blenders crush ice?
Better safe than sorry, right? No need to worry if it’s a high-power blender. Otherwise, check to see if the blender has an ice crush setting or feature. Lower-quality blenders may have a motor that’s not powerful enough.
I’m not a big fan of kitchen cleanups. What makes a standard blender easy to clean?
Removable blades will make the biggest difference, but don’t let that become a deal-breaker. Conventional blender containers with wide bases allow you to easily clean or remove what might get caught under the non-removable blades.
What’s the best container material for a blender?
Today’s standard blenders have containers made of highly upgraded lightweight plastic. It resists stains and odors. Glass can pose its own safety hazards. Some high-performance blender manufacturers avoid using it for safety reasons.
Your countertop blender takeaway
We started with Santa Claus, and we’ll end with Goldilocks.
Blenders can be too wimpy, overkill, or just right.
A high-performance blender offers the most versatility but comes with an expensive price tag. You really might not need the power of its base motor packs.
An immersion blender does quick work out of blending jobs, but it has a limited range. Going with this choice and no backup means there are no blended margaritas in your future.
A personal blender might be all you need, but the additional money to jump to full-size blender rewards you by removing size and power limitations. It might have to claim a permanent spot on your kitchen counter, but maybe that’s a good thing.
You’ll see it and be reminded that it’s got plenty of ways to help you drink healthier beverages and eat tastier food.