Blenders are a versatile appliance that can make short work of many tasks
Blenders are no longer just for whipping up the occasional milkshake or smoothie. The top blenders can knead dough, chop nuts, make flour or nut butters, and even wrangle cold blocks of cheese into a usable size and texture. Blenders are popular at parties for their ability to whip up frozen drinks with a quick whirl. However, if all you want to do is get your daily shake or smoothie fix, there's a blender for that too.
The best blenders for general use handle most blending jobs well. However, as Ry Crist at CNET notes, "There are a lot of blenders living in that middle ground of too cheap and too expensive -- if you're looking to hit that sweet spot with an upgrade, it can be hard to tell where to turn."
Most blenders in this particular category range in price from less than $100 to about $200, but there are surprisingly few of them that get really good reviews for performance. Part of the issue is that owners seem to expect a $150 blender to perform like a $450 blender, and that simply will not happen. If you want a heavy-duty blender, you have to budget the money to buy a heavy-duty blender. With the exception of our top pick, the Breville BBL605XL Hemisphere Control blender (Est. $200), which gets ratings that put it up there with blenders costing twice as much, blenders in this class do a good job with traditional blending tasks: Making fruit smoothies and other frozen drinks, blending sauces, pureeing and whipping. However, don't expect them to create the silkiest textures, produce the most even consistencies, or power through kale and other leafy veggies.
If you only use your blender occasionally, or don't really need it for challenging tasks, like making nut butters or flour, you probably don't need to spend more than $100. There a lot of highly-rated blenders for less that are great choices for making batches or smoothies or frozen drinks like margaritas, as well as light food prep. Blenders in this class tend to do very well in tests for ice-crushing, but don't score as highly in test for consistent blending of ingredients that need a specific texture, like pestos, salsas and creams.
Heavy-duty blenders are the powerhouses of the blending world. Costing upwards of $200, and more often upwards of $400, these are the countertop blenders that you need if you want a blender that can do it all. The best blenders in this class can grind grains into flour, blend hot ingredients, heat cold ingredients, and turn out perfectly silky purees. They also do well with 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. They'll last for years and tend to be easy to use and clean.
Single-serve blenders are popular with smoothie fans. These small blenders are just loads of fun, reviewers say. Pop your smoothie ingredients into the easy-to-use 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 (although not full-performance) blender and a single-serve blender. There are single-serve blenders in a variety of price ranges, although most are well under $100. We found several great budget choices that cost less than purchasing one smoothie at a snooty juice bar. And, of course, they're not just limited to smoothies. They can also make smaller milkshakes and frozen drinks as well.
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, a hand 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 kitchen tools is covered in its own ConsumerSearch report.
Finding the best blenders
To make our top picks in countertop blenders, we analyzed blender reviews from nearly two-dozen sources to find the toughest, most effective choices. Experts at ConsumerReports.org and Cook's Illustrated (also known as America's Test Kitchen) 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, CNET, SweetHome.com and Men's Journal.
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.