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. It should have a long cord so you can reach around the kitchen. The blending shaft should be detachable and dishwasher-safe. Any included blending bowls or utensils should be dishwasher-safe on the top rack at the very least. It's a pain, users say, to have to wash a hand blender when the shaft does not detach, so that should be a top priority.
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. This is another reason to avoid hand blenders without a detachable blade, they are much 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. We recommend the best full-sized blenders in our report on blenders. Mixing dough or dealing with larger quantities of ingredients for emulsions or salsa, or pulverizing tough veggies requires a good food processor, which we cover in our report on food processors. 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. In general, cordless immersion blenders are not as well-reviewed as corded blenders. As is often the case when comparing cordless kitchen appliances to corded ones, cordless immersion blenders simply don't have as much power as the corded models do, and most get dismal reviews for their ability to hold a charge. They're also more expensive than corded versions. Which brings us to Braun. For many years, German-based Braun was a popular manufacturer of kitchen appliances, including a few excellent corded and cordless hand blenders. In 2008, Proctor & Gamble discontinued sales of Braun kitchen appliances in the North American market. Braun cordless hand blenders were among the few that got top ratings for performance and there still are some available online. Most are sold with 110-volt adaptors for use in U.S. kitchens. We also found a couple that are widely available in the U.S., but recommend them only if you need a cordless immersion blender for a specific reason: such as needing a hand blender and not having easy access to an electrical outlet.
Finding the right immersion blenders
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, Cooking.com, BestBuy.com and BedBathandBeyond.com to see how all of these stick blenders perform and endure in the real world. The results of all this research is the best in immersion blenders, so you can find the one that works in your kitchen.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Multi-Use Immersion Blender: Some immersion blenders come with enough attachments and accessories to perform a wide variety of tasks. We review several all-in-one hand blenders with whisk and chopper attachments.
Best Basic Immersion Blender: The original and most common use of the immersion blender is for blending soup or pureeing ingredients. These basic hand blenders will do that job quickly and efficiently.
Best Cordless Immersion Blender: Although they're not as powerful as corded immersion blender, a cordless hand blender can be a handy tool if you don't have constant access to an electrical outlet or just don't like the hassle of wrangling a cord.
Buying Guide: Want to avoid buyer's remorse tomorrow morning? Our Buying Guide explains what to look for in the best immersion blenders.
Our Sources: Links to the expert and user reviews we use to select the top immersion blenders, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.