Midpriced blenders should crush ice with ease, obliterate frozen fruit and whip up a mean margarita –making them the perfect model for most users.
Finding a good midpriced blender that meets these criteria has been no easy feat. A few years ago, editors at Cook's Illustrated thought they'd discovered one when they recommended the KitchenAid KSB560 (*Est. $100) – it's a good all-around performer, dishwasher safe and attractive. However, staffers and readers who bought one were disappointed when it sometimes broke quickly or worse, chronically leaked from the jar. The same goes for the Waring Pro MBB518 (*Est. $115), a snazzy-looking art deco blender that appears sturdy, but receives durability complaints from owners.
After re-testing, Cook's Illustrated editors think they've found a real winner: the Breville Hemisphere Control BBL605XL (*Est. $200). Though it costs twice as much as the KitchenAid, the Breville's sturdy build and stunning performance nearly matches the heavy-duty Vitamix 5200 (*Est. $450). With the ability to pulverize stringy kale and grind ice to snow cone fluffiness, it's a winner in blender shootouts at The Wall Street Journal and Men's Journal. Owners at Amazon.com agree proclaiming that blended coffee beverages could pass for a Starbucks Frappuccino and earning 5 stars from a 25-year veteran bartender who blends "thousands of frilly frozen drinks every week."
If you're prepared to "unleash your culinary power," there's an infomercial star for you: the Ninja Master Prep Pro QB1004 (*Est. $65). Hesitant though you may be, the novel motor-on-top design really works: It out-performs every blender but the Vitamix 5200 in one top test. But reviewers warn that not all Ninjas are created equal-- the Ninja Master Prep QB900 (*Est. $40) and Ninja Professional Blender NJ600 (*Est. $90) don't blend as well--so pay close attention to model numbers when making your blender purchase.
Although seemingly well designed with a self-reversing motor intended to keep ingredients moving toward the blades, the Oster 7-Speed Reversing Motor Blender BVCB07-Z (*Est. $55) doesn't work well. While some users report that it makes outstanding frozen-fruit smoothies and frozen drinks and has a sturdy glass pitcher with removable blades for easy cleaning, durability and performance issues also exist. Owners and experts at Cook's Illustrated say the blender leaves foods chunky and others say that it is very loud.