What the best blender has

  • A tight-fitting lid. There were more than a few blenders that were downgraded in professional tests because of splattering. In addition, the lid should have a removable plug for adding liquids, and be easy to put on and take off. Pour spouts in lids can make it easier to transfer ingredients.
  • A stable base. Blenders that feel wobbly or vibrate a lot when they blend are likely not performing at peak efficiency, which means they take longer to blend.
  • Easy cleanup. Some blenders require a whirl of soapy water in the pitcher immediately after using, while others can be loaded straight into the dishwasher. Shy away from jars that have to be hand washed -- you're in danger of cuts from the sharp blades.
  • Versatility. If you only want a blender to make smoothies, or to perform other single tasks, stick with a cheap blender with just a few settings, but if you want one that can perform a wide variety of blending, mixing and chopping jobs, buy the best blender you can afford.
  • A good warranty. Because blenders take such a heavy beating, the standard one-year warranty is a must, but heavy-duty blenders carry much longer and more appealing warranties. Some experts say that the longer warranty is worth the extra money.

Know Before You Go

How will you use the blender? If you're looking to blend basic smoothies and shakes, there's no need to invest in a heavy-duty blender. Stick with an inexpensive, single-serve blender, or buy a cheap full-size blender, there are plenty out there. If you want to do a variety of tasks, and perhaps save having to buy another tool to do them, buy the best general use blender you can -- they generally run between $100 and $200. If you're a serious from-scratch baker and want to make your own flours and nut butters, a heavy-duty blender, usually around $400 and up, will be your best friend.

Are you blending for a crowd -- or for one? Full-size blenders can hold anywhere from 5 to 9 cups. They're great for families or if you often blend drinks at parties. Single-serve blenders hold 2 cups or less, plenty if you want to blend one shake -- and you can drink straight from the blending jar, so there's less cleanup.

How often will you use it? If you plan to blend the occasional milkshake or batch of soup, reviews say a good, inexpensive blender will suit you well. But if you're an avid cook or you blend multiple smoothies a day, you'll be better off with a sturdier, more powerful blender.

Where will you store it? The standard space between a kitchen countertop and the cabinets above is 18 inches. Most blenders are designed to be shorter than this, so they'll fit neatly on the back of the counter -- but a few are taller, notably the 20.5-inch Vitamix 5200. Consider the weight if you plan to store the blender in a cabinet; heavy blenders can be a chore to wrangle from an upper shelf, or lift from a lower cabinet.

Does your blender need to match your décor? If so, then color is a consideration for you; especially if you plan to store the blender on your countertop. Many blenders come in black or brushed-metal finish, while some manufacturers offer a rainbow of colors. .

Do you want the bonus features? Some extras add convenience and save time: a lid with a removable plug for adding ingredients while blending, and pre-programmed settings, such as "ice crush" or "smoothie," let you press one button and walk away -- the blender will run the cycle and stop itself.

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