Immersion blenders are a handy tool for any kitchen
Immersion blenders -- also known as hand or stick blenders -- can save you a lot of time, hassle and cleanup in the kitchen. Shaped like a wand, with a control button on one end and a guarded blade on the other, a hand blender can quickly mix smoothies and milkshakes, or puree soups and vegetables right in the pot. No more wrestling hot soup into a full-size blender or food processor, or washing a big countertop appliance and all of its parts every time you want to whip up a few scrambled eggs or one serving of homemade baby food. Serious cooks also say that immersion blenders excel at making emulsions, such as homemade mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce. They're also a great choice for salad dressings, dips, pesto, hummus, and whipping cream.
The best immersion blenders are easy to use and clean. If it's corded, the cord should be long enough so you can reach around the kitchen. Any included blending bowls or utensils should be dishwasher-safe on the top rack at the very least. Some stick blenders have a detachable, dishwasher-safe blending shaft. That's a top priority for some, who say it's a pain to have to wash a hand blender when the shaft does not detach -- others just run it under hot water or "blend" it in a soapy water-filled sink or bowl.
A note on safety
Accidents involving immersion blenders are not common, but they can be gruesome and they get a lot of press. Most happen when the cook tries to clear stuck ingredients from the inside of the blending hood when it's still plugged in and the power is accidentally triggered.
First of all, hand blenders are NOT intended to be used for heavy-duty ingredients like cookie dough or blending stringy veggies like celery. Second, if you do get food stuck in an immersion blender, always unplug it before attempting to clear it out -- and use a rubber spatula, not your fingers. Be especially careful if you have a blenders without a detachable blade, they are more difficult to clean and that can result in more accidents.
Last, but not least, make sure you're using the right tool for the job. Large quantities of liquids require a full-sized blender, not a stick blender, for optimal mixing performance. Mixing dough or dealing with larger quantities of ingredients for emulsions or salsa, or pulverizing tough veggies requires a good food processor. If you're a serious juicer and you love vegetable smoothies, you need to see our report on juicers -- no machine handles kale and spinach as well as those dedicated appliances.
Types of immersion blenders
Multi-use immersion blenders. Ranging in price from $50 to $100, these are highly versatile hand blenders that include a variety of attachments and accessories. These usually include whisks and chopper attachments, making them a good appliance not only for immersion blending, but also chopping nuts and cutting vegetables into smaller pieces. You'll need to pay a bit more if you want to make nut butters or have the silkiest of purees, but even the less expensive models in this category are highly versatile, triple-duty tools.
Basic immersion blenders. This is the hand blender you want for your basic kitchen tasks such as blending soup or mashed potatoes, or making smaller quantities of purees. They're very straightforward -- just a stick blender and a container -- but reviewers say it's great to have one around for the convenience factor.
Cordless immersion blenders. Thanks to the advent of the lithium-ion battery, cordless immersion blenders are more powerful than they used to be, and can hold a full charge longer. However, they're still not quite as powerful as corded immersion blenders. You also pay for that cordless convenience as they're more expensive than corded versions. Still, plenty of users say they can't imagine being tethered to a cord once they cut it and some cordless stick blenders get reviews that rank up there with corded models.
We found some good professional tests for immersion blenders, including ConsumerReports.org, Cook's Illustrated, and TheSweethome.com. All had thorough roundups of hand blenders that compared and contrasted a number of models, and included both testing and research. Men's Journal had a helpful roundup of a few models tested and recommended by professional chef, Matthew Lightner. We also examined hundreds of owner reviews at sites such as Amazon.com, BedBathandBeyond.com and Williams-Sonoma.com to see how all of these stick blenders perform and endure in the real world. The result of all this research is the best in immersion blenders, so you can find the one that works in your kitchen.
The best immersion blenders
While some people just need a basic immersion blender for pureeing soups or mashed potatoes in a pan, others would like to use their stick blenders for other tasks, such as chopping up vegetables and nuts or making nut butters. For those, the best of these multi-use hand blenders is the Breville BSB510XL (Est. $100). It tops professional tests and expert reviews, and is also a top-rated blender at consumer review sites. It's extremely versatile, reviewers say, with 15 speeds, a 25-ounce chopper bowl, 42-ounce blender jug and a whisk attachment.
Expert testers agree that the Breville BSB510XL is the most powerful blender they've used, making short work of even tough, leafy vegetables. In one test, it was the only immersion blender that could make nut butters and perfectly silky soup with no remaining pulp. It's also powerful enough to crush ice and frozen fruit for frozen drinks. The whisk attachment works well for beating eggs and whipping cream, and the chopper bowl makes short work of vegetables, mincing them evenly and quickly.
The Breville is easy to use and clean, too, say reviewers. It has an ergonomically designed trigger grip, so, rather than just using a finger, you actually squeeze the trigger with your whole hand. That, users say, makes the BSB510XL less tiresome to use than other immersion blenders. It has an anti-suction design to keep it from suctioning to the bottom of a pot, which makes blending more difficult and can scratch cookware. The only real complaint we saw is that this hand blender is big and bulky so, it won't fit in some containers and takes up a bit of real estate on a counter. Cleanup is easy. Just detach the blade and toss everything except the motor housing and chopping-bowl lid in the dishwasher.
The KitchenAid KHB2561 (Est. $95) also gets good results in the same professional tests -- but it only has 5 speeds compared to the Breville's 15 speeds. Still, most reviewers say you really only need a couple of speeds -- low and high -- and this 5-speed hand blender comes with a plethora of handy attachments and a unique design. Instead of changing out blade shafts, the blade assembly itself can be removed and replaced with different types of blades. The KHB2561 includes an S-blade, a multi-purpose blade and a frother/beater blade, as well as a whisk and chopper attachment, a 2-1/2-cup chopper jar, and 1-liter blending pitcher. Best of all, it includes a storage case to keep everything organized and out of the way.
Owners of the KitchenAid KHB2561 rate it very highly for versatility and performance, saying it is great for making a variety of foods, including salsas, smoothies, frozen drinks and baby food. Of course, they love it for more traditional stick blender tasks such as pureeing soup and mixing mashed potatoes and other mashed root vegetables. Many say they did not think they'd use the frother attachment very often, and are surprised at how nice it is to have around. Of course, at least one expert and a few owners say they don't use all the attachments. Some add that they don't need five speeds, and, in retrospect would have purchased something more basic. The storage case gets a lot of love from reviewers who say it's just as compact and useful as can be.
A cheap immersion blender can perform as well as pricier models
You don't have to pay upwards of $80 to $100 for a versatile, powerful stick blender. The KitchenAid KHB2351 (Est. $60) gets nearly as good reviews as its more expensive 5-speed sibling and as the Breville BSB510XL. In fact, it's a close second to the Breville in professional tests; experts say it just doesn't have quite the power of the BSB510XL. However, if you don't need to make nut butters or snow cones, this is a great value for what is included. In addition to the blending wand, you get a 3-cup BPA-free blending cup, a whisk attachment and a 2.5-cup chopper bowl.
In one professional test, the KitchenAid KHB2351 took the top spot for its performance in making pesto, smoothies, soup, hummus, whipped cream and mayonnaise. Another tester said it created an excellent vortex for thorough mixing and did very well in all tests except those that required the most power, such as turning peanuts into peanut butter.
It does get a few complaints for ease of use, with some saying it's tedious to have to hold down the power button to blend, and that the shaft is difficult to detach. A couple of owners say they use something rubberized to grip it firmly enough to pull it out. Still most have no problems and this is a very sturdy, durable hand blender that is backed by KitchenAid's excellent customer service.
If you're a Cuisinart fan and you're looking for an equally well-liked multi-use hand blender, check out the Conair Cuisinart CSB-79 (Est. $45). It's the upgraded version of the Cuisinart Smart Stick (Est. $30) (featured below in the section on basic immersion blenders). Unlike the basic unit, the CSB-70 comes with chopper and whisk attachments. Users say the chopper's abilities are limited, but it's handy for cutting up small amounts of herbs or garlic, and the whisk excels at beating eggs for waffles and cakes. Overall, the stick blender itself earns good marks among reviewers; its two speeds prove perfectly adequate for pureeing vegetables for soups. They also say the buttons are easy to press, and that the unit can be operated with one hand. The product is also easy to clean -- a button releases the blender shaft, which is dishwasher safe along with the whisk head and chopper/grinder bowl. Users say they love the CSB-79's sleek stainless steel finish.
A basic hand blender means plenty of soup for you!
There's a reason that immersion blenders are also commonly known as stick blenders. The original immersion blenders were just that: Blenders on a stick. They were created for restaurants for ease in blending soup, sauces and gravies without having to remove them from a pan, while enabling a better, silkier, more complete blend than hand whisking. Eventually, home cooks began adopting the technology, and it evolved from the simple S-blade on a stick to whisk attachments and chopper blades that could be swapped out for different tasks, as well as a vast variety of containers.
If you love to have lots of cool attachments and accessories and you think you'll use them, by all means, see our discussion above of the best multi-use immersion blenders. If not, consider the highest-rated hand blender on the market, the Conair Cuisinart Smart Stick CSB-75 (Est. $30). It's a stick blender with a detachable blade and it comes with one 16-ounce capacity jar. It has two speeds, low and high.
But don't let that simplicity fool you. The Cuisinart CSB-75 is one of the top-rated immersion blenders in every professional test we saw. Thousands of user reviewers say this is the only hand blender you need, powerful and versatile, as well as super easy to use and clean -- the blade is detachable so you can just toss it in the dishwasher.
In professional tests The Cuisinart Smart Stick excels in pureeing soups and blending smoothies. This is the blender for you if you make a lot of soup, mashed potatoes, or other items that need to be blended or whisked while hot. However, it's also super popular with people who make their own baby food and mayonnaise. But be warned, it's not for heavy-duty tasks. This is not the best choice if you want to make nut butters or smoothies that incorporate tough, leafy vegetables like kale. The CSB-75 gets very good reviews for durability as well, and most reviewers say there's no competition when it comes to value for price. Oh, and it comes in 13 pretty fabulous colors. You don't need a storage unit for this stick blender because it's plenty pretty enough to sit out on the counter.
Otherwise, we found very few blenders that were suitable for inclusion in this category simply because most basic hand blenders get dismal reviews for performance and durability. The only exception is the All-Clad K2750DGT (Est. $100). It's much pricier than the Cuisinart Smart Stick, but it's also more powerful, say reviewers, able to handle jobs that are too heavy for most basic hand blenders.
Matthew Lightner, head chef at Altera in New York City, is so impressed with the power and versatility of the All-Clad K2750DGT that he says this is the stick blender he wants for his kitchens. He is not the only professional chef that recommends it either; we read a number of reviews from chefs who use this All-Clad blender in their kitchens and highly recommend it for the home cook as well. Many user reviewers say it's comparable to professional-grade immersion blenders, making quick work of purees and blending soups to a silky texture in a minute or less. The nine-inch shaft is longer than most, which Lightner says is great for getting to the bottom of larger pots. It has variable speeds that are controlled with a dial, and a turbo setting for a burst of extra power.
The All-Clad Immersion Blender is reported as extremely easy to use and clean. The blending shaft is detachable and dishwasher safe. It does not include any accessories at all -- not even a blending jug, but it does have a two-year warranty.
For most people, the Cuisinart Smart Stick will be the only blender you'll need, but if you want the most power in a basic immersion blender, the All-Clad is the choice of professional cooks.
Another well-reviewed, basic hand blender is the OXO Digital Hand Blender with Illuminating Headlight (Est. $90). Its niftiest feature is a headlight that allows you to monitor the consistency of your food as you're blending.
Testers at TheSweethome.com found that this OXO hand blender doesn't offer as smooth a blend as other products, especially when it comes to pureeing tough, fibrous ingredients like ginger. But it makes quick work of fruits, and users say its nylon wand head and silicone-coated wand arm, which protect pots against scratching, are an absolute must-have. The immersion wand detaches from the motor for cleanup, but the wand is not dishwasher safe. Users note that the headlight serves a valuable safety function: it's a helpful reminder that the unit is still plugged in. A number of reviewers say that the product feels structurally solid and durable.