Types of Blenders
Most people just need a blender for general use; if that's you this is the type you're looking for. Blenders in this category usually range in price from less than $100 to about $200. They perform well for most basic tasks, such as pureeing sauces; making smoothies and milkshakes; and, usually, crushing ice. They don't do as well at that latter task as heavy-duty blenders, however, and they might struggle to blend tough vegetables like kale and celery.Heavy-Duty Blenders
This type of blender always finishes at the top of professional tests, but they're also at the top end of the price scale. Costing upwards of $200, and more often upwards of $400, these are the countertop blenders that you need if you want to grind grains into flour, blend hot ingredients, heat cold ingredients, and turn out perfectly silky purees. They also do well making things like salsas, where a consistent, yet chunky, texture is important. These high-end machines can even replace your juicer because they can pulverize leafy vegetables, like kale.Single-Serve Blenders
For the smoothie fan, there's no better choice than a single-serve blender. These small blenders are just loads of fun -- simply toss your smoothie ingredients into the container, blend, remove the cup, and drink. Most come with travel mugs so you can take your smoothie on-the-go. Some models are individual units, while others are larger units that include one or more individual serving cups, making them both a full-sized blender and a single-serve blender. These are not particularly well-suited to heavy-duty tasks like ice-crushing and pureeing veggies, but if you stick to fruits, yogurt and other milkshake/smoothie ingredients, they'll be just fine.
do you need for your food prep?
Countertop blenders aren't the only appliance that can come in handy in
the kitchen. If most of your blending involves making emulsions or blending
ingredients on the stove, an immersion blender will be a great tool for
you. This is merely a stick with a blender at the end and it's highly portable
so, instead of bringing the ingredients to the blender, you bring the blender
to the ingredients. If you rarely blend, but you cook or bake a lot, a food processor is almost a must have as it makes short work of a huge variety of
food preparation tasks. Are your only blending interests making a wide variety
of smoothies? Then you definitely need a juicer, which has a dedicated
process for grinding out every last bit of juice, nutrients and enzymes from
soft and hard fruits, as well as the most challenging leafy vegetable. Each of
these small kitchen appliances is covered in its own ConsumerSearch report.
Finding The Best Blenders
To make our top picks in countertop blenders, we analyzed blender
reviews from a number of expert sources to find those blenders that are top
performers, yet easy to use and clean. Experts at ConsumerReports.org and
Cook's Illustrated thoroughly test blenders, powering through everything from
ice cubes to fibrous frozen pineapple to find the sturdiest blenders with the
smoothest results. We also consulted comparison-test results from Good
Housekeeping, Wired.com, CNET and TheSweethome.com.
One shortcoming with professional reviews is that they typically only
analyze a given product over a short period of time, and under sometimes ideal
conditions. Because of that, we also consulted hundreds of owner reviews, which
are a great resource for learning about real-world performance and long-term
durability. The results of our research is a roundup of the best blenders for
any lifestyle need.
The best basic
For a blender that is considered mid-priced, but performs like a
high-end appliance, look no further than the Oster Versa BLSTVB-RV0 (Est. $200). Experts
and owners say it works just as well as pricier blenders in almost every task.
It's a great choice, testing indicates, for those who want a heavy-duty
blender, but don't want to pay upwards of $400.
The Oster Versa gets high scores from experts in comparison testing for
a variety of tasks, from making nut flours and butters to blending consistency
for pesto, soups, sauces and smoothies -- although it won't make quite as
creamy of a smoothie as a high-end blender. In testing at TheSweethome.com the
Versa didn't "achieve the absolute smoothest textures," but they go
on to say that the grainer texture wouldn't be noticeable unless you were doing
a side-by-side taste test using a high-end blender. Good Housekeeping named the
Versa as one of the blest blenders they tested, "smashing through coffee
beans, pureeing soup, and churning out thick and creamy milkshakes in
practically no time."
Owners agree with the experts' assessment and are, if anything even more
laudatory, saying the Versa handles tough greens like kale and spinach used in
spinach and soup with ease. A few say it bogged down on heavier ingredients,
like broccoli, and some say that, when faced with those tough veggies, they
notice a burning smell, something TheSweethome.com testers experienced as well.
While this issue does not seem to affect performance (and there are few reports
of the motor actually overheating), if you blend a lot of super heavy-duty
foods, we'd suggest you visit our section on heavy-duty blenders and
consider an upgrade. The Versa does include a tamper to help process thicker,
heavier items, but it's a bit flimsy, reviewers say.
The Oster Versa is super easy to use, with intuitive controls that take
much of the guesswork out of deciding which setting to use for which job. There
are three presets -- for smoothies, soups and dips/spreads. There's also a
variable speed dial to adjust the blending speed during the manual or pulse
cycles, and that's very popular with those who like to customize their blends.
The jar is not dishwasher safe, but is reported as easy to clean -- just blend
a bit of dish soap in hot water and rinse.
The 64-ounce capacity on the Oster is plenty generous, most note,
although be sure you fill it at least 25 percent full for optimal performance,
according to TheSweethome.com. In spite of the above-noted "burning
smell" complaints, the Versa gets pretty good ratings for durability,
better than most blenders in this price class.
The Oster Versa has 1,400 watts of power, but it also comes in a
less-powerful (1,100 watts), less expensive version, the Oster Versa BLSTVB-103 (Est. $150). In addition to a 64-ounce blending jar, the Versa
BLSTVB-103 includes two smoothie "blend and go" cups and a 5-cup food
processor. In the only professional review we spotted for the Versa BLSTVB-103,
at CNET, it earns a rating of 3.5 stars out of five, with an overall score of
7.6 out of 10. While they say it performs well, they also note that, "Managing
its many accessories is confusing and tedious, and a lot of the plastic pieces
are flimsy." Still, CNET notes that once you get past the learning curve,
it blends as well as pricier machines.
Owners are equally pleased, with most saying it's plenty powerful for
general blending needs. They do say you need to stick to less-challenging
tasks, though, and use plenty of liquid -- and occasionally take the lid off
and give everything a stir. Still, for the price and features, most are
Our former Best Reviewed blender in this category is still a solid
choice too. The Breville BBL605XL Hemisphere Control Blender (Est. $200) gets ratings that are very close to that of the Versa, earning top
scores for a variety of blending tasks. The BBL605XL even passed what reviewer
Katie Pilkington at CNET calls "the torture test," seeing if it could
pulverize a block of cold cheddar cheese into a usable texture.
The Breville BBL605XL has five speeds and three presets -- including a
very popular "smoothie" button that makes a perfect smoothie in less
than one minute. All parts are dishwasher safe, and the hemispherical shape of
the jar (which gives this blender its name) keeps food from getting stuck and
makes it easy to empty. This blender is also reported to be an extremely
attractive appliance. It's available in brushed silver, black and red. At 16.5
inches tall, the Hemisphere Control blender might not fit under every counter,
but, at 7 inches by 8 inches, it's not a space hog otherwise. The 48 ounce
capacity jug is BPA free.
What knocked the Hemisphere Control blender out of our top spot this
year is that the expert testing and reviews on this blender are becoming rather
dated -- and some of the newer tests don't include it at all -- and we spotted
more durability complaints from owners for the Breville than for the Oster, as
well as more tales of less-than-helpful customer service experiences. In
addition, the Oster blenders come with impressive, seven-year warranties; the
Breville's is for one year.
One final note about the Breville: at the time this report was compiled,
Amazon.com was noting that there is a newer version of the BBL605XL, the Breville BBL560XL Hemisphere Smooth Blender (Est. $150). That is not
correct. According to customer service, the Breville BBL560XL is a different blender
that is new to their line. Although similar in design to the 750-watt BBL605XL,
the BBL560XL has a less powerful 600 watt motor, a plastic base rather than
metal, and fewer presets. It's a step down from the Control blender, not a
inexpensive countertop blender might be all you need
Not everyone needs a pricey blender to adequately fulfill the needs of
an everyday kitchen. For the average person who just wants a multi-use blender
and isn't particularly interested in frequent blending or heavy-duty tasks, we
recommend the Ninja Professional NJ600 (Est. $70). Ninja is a popular name in
blenders, thanks to its regular presence in infomercials and on home shopping
networks, but the company really does make some good blenders.
The Ninja NJ600 gets outstanding reviews from experts and owners for its
ice crushing ability, with users saying that if you want to make everything
from smoothies to snow cones, this is the blender for you. That heavy-duty vibe
helps it perform well at other challenging tasks as well, like chopping nuts
and making nut butters. Users who primarily want to blend salsas or make
smoothies that incorporate leafy greens say that it doesn't blend these tough
items evenly enough and leaves chunks, but it does puree well; creating smooth
soups, dips and sauces.
Another inexpensive blender that does well in expert tests and owner
reviews is the KitchenAid KSB1570ER (Est. $95). It's the
budget pick at TheSweethome.com, where it's found to be a "good, all-purpose
machine" However, in that test, it produces thicker textures, so may not be the
best choice for emulsions or items that you'd like more finely chopped. Still,
owners give it very high marks, and say it's very solid and is plenty powerful
enough even for challenging jobs like crushing ice. A few don't like the
plastic pitcher, however.