Recently I wrote about Electric Pressure Cookers and how to choose the best one for you. I received a great response and a few requests to expand that topic onto others...blenders, food processors, etc. And I can't WAIT to dig in! I can talk about kitchen equipment for days, weeks, hours. Heck, I bought kitchenware for 15 years and never got tired of it. So here we go.
For those of you who don't know me, I was the Merchandising Manager at CHEFS Catalog when Target closed the company. I started at CHEFS in 2005 and worked there until 2015 (with a brief hiatus in there somewhere). I started as an Assistant Buyer, then moved into a Buyer position, then Senior Buyer and finally into Merch Manager. I worked here, I moved with CHEFS to San Francisco, when that office closed I came back to our home office. Then once we closed, I moved onto open Cooks Marketplace and continued buying kitchenware and retailing amazing kitchenware. What that means is that I had hands on contact with the best kitchenware brands and products for 15 years. And I LOVED it. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it!! I tested products until they failed, I took $5,000 espresso machines apart just to see what was inside and how they worked, I developed recipes for products and I hoarded products for my own personal use. Which now reside in a very LARGE storage unit. If you ever came to a CHEFS Warehouse sale, I can guarantee we crossed paths somewhere. I was either the one with the pricing gun that you followed around waiting for me to mark things down, or I was at the appliance tables helping you piece together a food processor and make sure that it worked. Or maybe you were really nice to me and I marked some All-Clad to $20 just for you - it pays to be nice :)
I digress, but what I am getting at is there is an enormous pool of knowledge about kitchenware in my brain that isn't being utilized. But it should, because it could help you. And now I have the added benefit of not having to only focus on selling and recommending products that the company that I work for sells. I don't have a horse in this race - I just want to share my knowledge with you so that you can find the very best products for you and your kitchen.
So, let's start with Blenders...
The very first thing to know is which one of these products is a blender. They get commonly confused. The Merriam-Webster definition states that a blender is "One that blends. Especially : An electric appliance for grinding or mixing." See the confusion? All three of these things do that.
But a blender is better for items that contain liquid. Smoothies, milkshakes, sauces, condiments and even soups. With today's high-tech appliances, a few things have changed. The newest blenders on the market can also make ice cream, peanut butter, hummus and so much more. But which one is the best?! Well, I have my preferences, but it's really all up to the user and how you plan on using it. As a guide for your blender journey, here are my recommendations, in order of my favorite:
The king of all blenders. Vitamix started in 1921 in Ohio, and continues to be an American brand. The blenders are
assembled in the USA (yes, there are some components in the motors manufactured in Asia) and the highest quality. The biggest difference? We're talking horsepower, not wattage. These blenders are extremely powerful. They can go from making a frothy protein shake (mine makes one every morning), to making hot soup that actually cooks in your blender. They also use more durable materials in the housing, switches and the pitchers. Compare a Vitamix pitcher to any $99 blender and you'll see what I mean. Mine was purchased as a "return" at a CHEFS Warehouse sale almost 8 years ago, has endured almost daily use, an accident with the pitcher (oops!) and it just keeps running. And trust me, I am HARD on my kitchen equipment. The Vitamix really lives up to all the hype and offers so much more than an entry level blender. Notice that price is not listed under cons - this is one of those instances where you get what you pay for, and this one is worth it.
Pros: High Horsepower, Durable, Multi-Use, Best for smooth texture
Cons: Icons on control panel (not always intuitive), Height - some models won't fit under counters
Recommended for: The Foodie, The Health Nut, The Gadget Geek.
Tip: Check out the Vitamix refurbised models on their website to save a little $$.
Another American company! Hello, Orem, Utah!! You may know this brand from their crazy YouTube channel Will It Blend?. They've thrown everything from golf balls to broom handles into these blenders and they just keep on going. We purchased one when we opened Gather and it has survived all of the tasks (and more!) that you have put it through. As a die-hard Vitamix fan, I really do love our Blendtec. Again, we're looking at horsepower and high-power for high-performance. I also really love that the blades on the Blendtec are blunt, so that they don't cut you, your spatula or anything else you stick in there when scraping and cleaning. And they're engineered to be this way for performance, it actually enhances the blending. And you can still make hot soup!
Pros: Price, Buttons Easy to Understand, Blunt-Edge Blades
Cons: Lids Are a Clunky Fit, Height - some models won't fit under counters
Recommended for: The Foodie, The Health Nut, The Gadget Geek, The Bride
Tip: Upgrade to the Wildside Jar for better vortex blending
Don't trust me? Check out what Consumer Reports says in their Blender Face-Off (click to see article)
Taking it down a notch...these blenders are a good fit if you break them out every once in a while for a margarita party or to make milkshakes for the grandkids, but you still want quality that will last:
#3: Breville Hemisphere Blender (Now Called the Fresh & Furious)
This one makes snow - I've seen it. And it's impressive. Although you are occasionally left with a strawberry in your smoothie that just won't quite blend in. But Breville makes quality products that will last. More than what I can say for most blenders on the market these days.
Pros: Hefty base, high-quality clear pitcher, Finely grinds ice
Cons: Might leave a few chunky berries, does not make hot soup
Recommended for: The Smoothie Maker, The Margarita Lover, The Bride, The Gadget Geek
Tip: Always make sure to load liquid first for best blending
#4: KitchenAid Classic 5-Speed Blender
My pick for under $100. This blender will do a stand-up job. It may not always get all of the ice perfectly blended or make hot soup, but for occasional use this would be my pick. Use it as directed and this blender will not disappoint (my fav 1-star review was someone that poured boiling liquid into the pitcher and was mad when the plastic pieces melted). Be realistic about it's performance and what you want to get out of your blender and you'll do just fine with this model.
Pros: Soft-start feature, easy to understand control panel, fun colors
Cons: Might leave a few chunky berries, lowest power of all four, not meant to last a lifetime
Recommended for: The Smoothie Maker, The Budget Buyer, The Bride
Tip: Don't expect that a blender under $100 will last a lifetime. You have 3-5 years with this one.
So there's my take. You'll notice that I don't review the Ninja, Magic Bullet or other made for TV blenders. There's a reason for that...
And here are a few other key takeaways to keep in mind when you're shopping for your new blender:
- Beware of heavily discounted models. Clubs and Big Box retailers will often switch out the internal components with lower quality components to bring the price down. Look for slight differences in the model numbers for an indication that the model might not be quite the same. FYI - No one will EVER tell you this and they will also flat out deny it. But it's true - I had to do a lot of research, digging and making vendors downright mad to get them to tell me why these models were so much cheaper. And now you know, too!
- Unless you are buying a high-end blender (Vitamix or Blendtec), DO NOT expect your blender to last your lifetime, even if it offers a lifetime warranty. Those blenders are not engineered to last - they are engineered to make you spend $100 every 3-5 years. And don't even get me started about the models $50 and under. Don't waste your money.
- Read the reviews. But keep an open mind. While doing this research I looked at all of these model's reviews. And the majority of the low reviews were due to using the product in a way it wasn't intended. Make sure you read the manual and are realistic about it's capabilities.
- Buy from a reputable brand. That way if your blender does not perform or has issues you can contact customer service. A BIG TIP: If you have major problems with your blender, go directly to the manufacturer. Many consumers do not know that they can even do this. Cut out the middle man and go right to the source. All of my recommended brands also provided excellent customer service - it's one of my determining factors for recommendations.
- More speed settings are just more speed settings. Look at the wattage or horsepower. 11-Speeds at 1000 watts isn't any more powerful than 5-speeds at 1000 watts. You just have 6 more settings to get there...
So I hope this helps you find the blender of your dreams and makes your choices a little easier. Go forth and be an informed consumer!