A growing number of happy new owners agree: An immersion blender is better than their countertop model.
People like me who love being in the kitchen are always on the lookout for technology-inspired ways to be more productive. We prefer the time we spend there to be about quality and productivity. We look at kitchen appliances and ask, “Will this make it easier to create magic in the kitchen?”
Believe it or not, there’s a magic wand for cooking. Okay, maybe it only resembles one – but an immersion blender does come close to performing feats of culinary magic. I’m going to share with you everything I know to put you under its spell.
Whether you call it a hand blender, a stick blender, or an immersion blender, we’re talking about the same thing. It’s a portable and more versatile version of a countertop blender.
It can mix, puree, chop, and crush – pretty much anything a traditional blender can do. But it’s not bound to a base, and some aren’t even bound to a cord.
Your immersion blender goes to the food, instead of the other way around. How’s that for mixing things up in the kitchen?
Blenders truly are helpful and time-saving devices. But we have a love/hate relationship with these kitchen appliances. Most – especially if they’re of good quality – are big and bulky.
We often decide not to use them. Let’s face it – cleaning a blender and putting it away can be exhausting just to think about.
Those thoughts fly right out the kitchen window if you’ve got this portable kitchen wizard in your hand. An immersion blender will hold its own against any demanding high-end blender.
Immersion blenders have gone from rare and expensive to popular and affordable. At the same time, they’ve excited in the power department so they really can be used for just about anything that a traditional full-size machine or personal blender can do.
But you won’t hesitate to use the immersion blender because cleanup is a snap and setup is even faster.
Why should you get an immersion blender?
We’ve all heard of the kitchen triangle made by drawing lines between your refrigerator, sink, and stove. It’s a good idea in theory, but the reality is that your sink, stove, and refrigerator are pretty much immovable objects. They force you to work around their location.
Many kitchen countertop appliances are the same way. They fit where they fit, and you go to where they are to use them.
It means transferring the contents of a saute pan into the blender. Careful not to spill anything, and keep track of the growing number of bowls and utensils piling up in the sink.
Wouldn’t it be easier if you could bring the blending process to where the pan on the stove is sitting? And wouldn’t it be close to magical if you didn’t have to hunt down a nearby electrical plug that’s not in use?
That’s the value proposition of an immersion blender. Take it where you need it, plug it in, and you’re ready to go. Or maybe even skip the part about plugging it in. A growing number of manufacturers offer cordless rechargeable models.
Immersion blenders are significantly smaller in size than a standard types of blenders, too. That’s important. Imagine trying to hold your old countertop blender in your hand over a pan of sauteed mushrooms you’re planning to puree into soup.
When not in use, the smaller immersion blender tucks away in a kitchen drawer or hangs out hidden on a pantry shelf. It doesn’t need a permanent place on the countertop.
Don’t confuse size with wimpiness. A quality immersion blender can generate a controlled and robust vortex just like your bigger and bulkier countertop blender.
It’s fast and easy to clean a handheld blender after use. Most models detach at the base, giving you the option to toss cleanable parts right into the dishwasher.
Unlike high-end blenders and nearly all food processors, immersion blenders have few pieces to keep track of. A growing number of people who spend time in the kitchen want one of these magic-makers. Braun was the first manufacturer to offer an immersion blender for home use. A fast-growing list of competitors, such as the Cuisinart Smart Stick, has joined them.
What to look for in a great immersion blender
I’ve compiled the list of features you should look for when buying a blender.
Does it puree smoothly and quickly?
You’ll likely use your new immersion blender for this purpose more often than any other – so it makes sense to be super-critical about this capability. Some hand blenders are not powerful at all. You’ll spend what could be an excessive amount of time waiting for it to make a fine puree.
A quality immersion blender should have a motor with enough torque to create a strong vortex. Imagine what you see in your blender, but turn that upside-down. You need the food to circulate in the mixing bowl or pan so that it will meet up and pass through the rotary blade multiple times.
If it’s a weak and narrow vortex, you might get tired of waiting for the required consistency. Or you will never get it, and you’ll have to deal with some chunky bits.
Is it comfortable to use?
Your immersion blender was designed to be used with one hand. That’s because you’ll be using the other hand to steady a pot or hold a mixing cup. It’s why a quality immersion blender must be comfortable for you to hold.
The handle should provide a natural and comfortable fit for your hand. Consider paying a little more to purchase a model that features a textured rubber grip. It’ll give a more confident grasp as plastic is slippery when wet.
From an ergonomic standpoint, you want your immersion blender to be balanced for its weight. You’ll use it with one hand. It shouldn’t feel like the heavier end housing the motor wants to tip over when you hold it.
The one-handed operation also means the controls should be easy to access and adjust. In general, the immersion blender should be easy to grip and light enough so as not to produce fatigue as you hold it and move it for a minute or so.
This time length is an important thing to mention because most non-commercial hand blenders have been made affordable by bringing down the muscle of the motor a few notches.
They’re meant to be operated for a minute or two at the most, and then it’s time to give it a rest, so you don’t overheat or burn out the motor.
Does it have a removable blending wand?
Some lower-end immersion blenders – as well as a few more expensive ones – are all-in-one affairs. Many owners recommend avoiding this because a detachable blending wand makes the part of the appliance that comes into contact with food easy to clean, but it keeps the motor away from water.
The detachable design also allows for a variety of attachments. What you might have considered being useful mostly just for blending and purees now becomes a whisk or a vegetable mincer.
Ironically, many commercial and some of the more high-end immersion blenders, such as Bamix, have wands that are not removable. The likely reason is that you do get what you pay for, and these more expensive hand blenders are durable and designed to protect the motor from liquids.
Does it feature stainless steel construction?
It’s the preferred kitchen metal for pots and pans and knives. Stainless steel resists staining and corrosion because of specific alloys added to iron. The steel is made stronger, and blades retain their sharp edges for more extended periods.
These are the same qualities you want to find in an immersion blender – at least the parts that come into contact with food. It’s not wise to stick your immersion blender in a pot of liquid that just came from a boil, but you will use it on recently cooked food.
The heat could potentially warp an immersion blender component that was made out of plastic. This tends to be the most common complaint online reviewers post about hand blenders with plastic parts.
Is it designed to reduce splattering?
As you check out different immersion blenders online, you’ll notice that some of the more inexpensive models have openings or holes in the “cage” that surrounds the blade. At first, you might think this makes sense. This will allow the rotation of the blades to pull in food.
It’s a sensible theory. But it can produce a big mess if the cage is not submerged in enough liquid to send the food right back out those openings.
What they’re trying to create is an anti-suction head or cage. The design prevents the problem of the blender’s head getting stuck to the bottom of your mixing vessel.
Breville promotes its immersion blender as free of this problem. Watch this video to get a better idea of why it can be a problem and how it can interfere with your cooking.
Some immersion blenders do generate strong suction at high speeds, and the metal cage might cause damage to your nonstick pots or pans. One way to get past this problem if you buy a model that doesn’t offer an anti-suction solution is to hold the wand at a slight angle.
But, be extra careful! If the cage has openings, you’ll be even more likely to send whatever you’re blending out of the pan and onto the kitchen wall.
Would you prefer a cordless version?
This can be a personal preference, or it might be made because you live in an old house where there aren’t that many electrical outlets. A cordless immersion blender will be heavier because the motor will draw its power from batteries.
That’s the tradeoff, and it’s either going to be acceptable for you, or it’s not. You’ll have to accept a heavier weight to get sufficient power. Another consideration is that you will have to remember to recharge it.
Does it come with accessories that are useful and practical?
Let’s be honest. The primary role of an immersion blender is to blend. Accessories or attachments that chop, grind or whisk are fun to have, but they don’t fall into the category of need-to-have.
You also may discover that manufacturers and their marketers have exciting ideas about what these attachments do.
For example, what they might call a chopper could end up being more of a pulverizer. When was the last time you came across a recipe that called for a quarter of a cup of pulverized onions?
On the other hand, it’s easy to find a bunch of online reviewers who rave about the whisk attachment that comes with many immersion blenders.
Why settle for that stuff that squirts out of a can when all you need is a small amount of heavy cream, a deep cup, and your immersion blender with the whipping attachment?
The accessories themselves might not be attachments. Some immersion blenders feature containers that are the perfect fit for the diameter of the cage that surrounds the blade. These containers can double as storage jars.
Does the blender have sufficient length?
There’s no governing body that regulates the acceptable length of immersion blenders. The choice is up to each manufacturer.
It’s unlikely that you’ll complain a hand blender is too long. But you might be disappointed if it isn’t capable of resting on the bottom of your most often used pots and pans.
Make sure you’re confident in understanding how much of the hand blender can be immersed. Often it’s the joint between the detachable shaft and the part of the appliance that houses the motor. This joint where you should stop, so measures from there.
Does it feature multiple speeds?
Very inexpensive immersion blenders tend to offer you a single speed. You might be able to pulse the blender if the control is responsive, but why bother? You have plenty of options that aren’t going to bankrupt you.
Don’t settle for anything less than a hand blender with the choice of low or high speed. Variable speed is even better.
Philips and Braun have introduced immersion blenders that operate with a trigger. Slowly squeeze it to cycle through speeds.
It gives you that variable speed option, but you may discover a new challenge. You must learn how to apply constant trigger pressure to maintain your desired speed.
Does it have a reliable warranty?
One of the most common observations by far in online reviews is about motors quickly burning out. A good warranty that covers both the motor and detachable parts is your protection.
Even so, read the warranty carefully. The coverage will say that your immersion blender is warrantied to be free from defects in material and craft.
What no warranty for any product will cover is negligence or inappropriate usage – and it can be easy to cross this line with your immersion blender. The manual will clearly state the recommended run time. Don’t exceed it. It’ll also give you a list of what types of food items it can process. Don’t ignore this.
Lengthy warranty protection is a sign of quality and sturdy construction. Most manufacturers offer at least one year, protecting that covers parts and labor.
All bets are off, though, if you decided to use your immersion blender to chop twigs. Or if you run it for 20 minutes to blend a gallon of margaritas for your pool party guests.
Immersion blender buying guide
Most people’s introduction to an immersion blender is in a fancy bar. You order a daiquiri and instead of putting your soon-to-be liquor-infused smoothie into one of those industrial and rudely loud blenders, said bartender grabs the magic wand and voila!
Or, you may have been watching one of the countless cable cooking shows and witnessed a renowned chef use an immersion blender to puree his sauce directly in the pan and serve it up on the plate with only seconds to go on the competition clock.
In both cases, you likely thought this was a tool for the professional. Luckily for the average home cook, this commercial appliance has made its way into the kitchens of mere mortals.
There’s not much difference at all between a professional-grade immersion blender and a high-quality non-commercial model.
But let’s not make any assumptions. Just in case you are brand new to the idea of an immersion blender, here’s what’s so awesome about them.
What is an immersion blender?
It’s not your grandmother’s blender, that’s for sure. You don’t put stuff in it; you put it in stuff. It’s hand-held and handy for blending liquids, sauces, and soups.
An electric motor turns an elongated shaft that spins a sharp blade that looks pretty much like the one you’d find in the container of a traditional countertop blender.
It sort of looks like a sci-fi wand. You could easily imagine Darth Vader using it to puree cream of mushroom soup to a silky smoothness.
An immersion blender’s most significant value proposition is its portability and convenience. You don’t bring food to it. You bring it to what you’re preparing. It’s lightweight and made to be operated with just one hand.
These stick blenders are also a cinch to clean. The portion of the blender meant to be immersed often made of quality stainless steel, so you can wash it by only running it under running water.
Compare that to the cleanup routine involved with using a traditional countertop blender, and you can see why immersion blenders have become so popular.
It may be smaller in stature than a countertop blender, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s less capable. Most quality immersion blenders can be used to blend large pans of sauteed vegetables and an appropriate amount of liquid into a silky puree.
Do you need an immersion blender if you already have a full-size blender?
You wouldn’t use a paper towel to try to clean a pan with baked-on food. You’d use an appropriate scrubber. Likewise, a traditional full-size countertop blender is the appropriate kitchen tool for breaking down down fibrous vegetables and fruits, or for crushing ice.
But it’s probably overkilling for a quick blend to get rid of a few lumps in your homemade gravy. That’s where the immersion blender jumps in to save the day.
- It’s lightweight. Most immersion blenders weigh less than five pounds, and they are designed to be used with one hand.
- It’s simple to operate. Some of today’s high-end blenders have a crazy amount of buttons, dials, and displays. Immersion blenders are beyond simple to use.
- It’s much easier to store. Alas, most countertop blenders spend their entire lives out on the counter. They’re too big to put away in a cupboard but not so with your new immersion blender. Tuck it away in a kitchen drawer or cabinet.
It’s convenient. Whether it’s cordless or not, you’ll take your immersion blender to where the cooking action is. The cooking action doesn’t have to travel to it. Could it be any more convenient?
When would you use an immersion blender?
Bigger isn’t always better, but it’s a bummer when size equates to wimpiness. An immersion blender is smaller than a conventional countertop blender, but it can still offer just as much blending power.
Online reviewers tend to agree that an immersion blender excels in usefulness for small tasks. You’re going to use a couple of tablespoons at most of that salad dressing. Does it make sense to drag out the blender for that?
Your cream of potato soup is nearly perfect, but it could be just a little smoother – like 15 seconds in the blender. Are you really up for transferring it from the pot to the blender jar which happens to be on the other side of the kitchen?
Situations like these call for portability, quickness, and convenience. It’s a job for your immersion blender.
- Batters:Saturday morning is slow-down time. It doesn’t mean you want to use it all up making pancakes or waffles from scratch and then having to clean the blender. Let the immersion blender take care of getting rid of those batter lumps.
- Baby Food: More parents are skipping commercially prepared baby food and making it themselves. The most difficult part is blending baby-size portions. An immersion blender is an answer.
- Desserts and Beverages: Homemade is healthier and less expensive. An immersion blender also makes it more convenient to make things like smoothies quickly for an on-the-go morning meal.
- Emulsifying: You may never want to eat store-bought mayonnaise again after you whip up a fresh batch with your immersion blender.
- Pureeing: Face it, you’d eat more soups if they were easier to make. An immersion blender removes any excuses. Simmer the ingredients to a stockpot. Allow it to cool down and insert the blender. Presto! You’ve got homemade creamy soup.
- Homemade Sauces: Just say no to all those ingredients you can’t pronounce listed on a jar of pasta sauce. Your immersion blender and some tomatoes, garlic, and fresh herbs need just a few minutes together for homemade goodness.
What can’t an immersion blender do?
Let’s be clear. Nobody’s saying that an immersion blender will completely replace your countertop blender – especially if you’re a fan of pitchers of frozen margaritas.
Immersion blenders are powerful enough to emulsify eggs and oil into mayonnaise, but they can’t handle reducing ice into slush. Don’t try it.
Pass on trying to turn your favorite nuts into nut butter, too. That’s a job for your countertop blender – and possibly only because you’ve got the right accessory blade attachment. Basically, blending any type of ingredient is a questionable choice.
Do immersion blenders require any special safety tips?
The kitchen can be a dangerous place. You’re literally playing with fire (okay, maybe not if you have an electric stove – but you get the idea).
When used carelessly, a traditional countertop blender could cause serious harm. An immersion blender is no different. Don’t skip the operation manual that comes with your new kitchen appliance. Make it required reading.
This is also the age of YouTube. There are more videos posted about how to use an immersion blender and what works best with it than you could possibly watch. Meanwhile, online reviewers agree on these key safety tips:
- Keep your fingers away from the blade when the unit is plugged in. And keep in mind that it may not even need to be plugged in to operate if it’s a cordless version.
- Don’t turn on the blender until it’s submerged, and turn it off before you remove it from what you’ve just blended.
- An immersion blender is great for blending or pureeing cooked foods, but be extremely careful about splashing yourself with these ingredients. It’s helpful to use a high-sided container.
- Don’t abuse your blender by ignoring the manufacturer’s maximum run time. It’s typically about a minute.
- Don’t try to leave your immersion blender standing up in a pot or container. The motor makes it top-heavy.
Your immersion blender takeaway
Regardless of what a manufacturer claims, or what you may read from online reviewers, an immersion blender is not a replacement or substitution for a full-size countertop blender. Just as a blender isn’t truly a substitute for a food processor.
There’s overlap, but an immersion blender is meant to be an additional tool in your kitchen. It’s an easy accomplishment, too. You can buy one of these high-tech magic cooking wands for less than $50!