Hand blenders -- also known as immersion or stick blenders -- can save you a lot of time, hassle and cleanup in the kitchen, reviews say. Shaped like a wand, with a control button on one end and a guarded blade on the other, a hand blender can quickly mix powdered drinks and milkshakes, or puree soups and vegetables right in the pot. No more wrestling hot soup into a full-size blender, reviews say, or washing a big blender jar and all of its parts every time you want to whip up a single smoothie or one serving of homemade baby food. The best hand blenders can also whisk homemade mayonnaise and salad dressings, concoct dips like guacamole, pesto and hummus, and whip cream.
For about $35, you can get a hand blender that will handle soft foods (like fresh fruit) with ease. If you're willing to spend $60 to $100, you can get a more powerful hand blender with whisk and mini-chopper attachments, making it a triple-duty tool.
But if you want to crush ice finely (to make frozen drinks, for example), hand blenders don't work well. Some users say they don't do a decent job with frozen fruit for smoothies. For tough blending jobs, a regular countertop blender is your best bet; we name the best ones in our separate report on Blenders.
We studied reviews from a dozen sources to determine which hand blenders work best -- and are easy to use and sturdy, too. Experts at Good Housekeeping, Cook's Illustrated magazine and ConsumerReports.org all put hand blenders through their paces -- concocting smoothies, puréeing vegetable soup and more. We also found comparison tests at Real Simple, Food & Wine and The Wall Street Journal. Owners post reviews (both positive and negative) at Amazon.com for most hand blenders on the market, making it a great place to discover whether a specific blender proves durable with real-world use.