A blender is a truly versatile addition to the range of appliances in your kitchen. In exchange for a little space on your countertop or in a cabinet, this workhorse will allow you to make delicious smoothies, juices, milkshakes, cocktails and mocktails, salad dressings, salsa, hummus, soup, baby food and more.
But even the best blenders and best portable blenders can’t take on every kitchen task. Yes, they’re suitable for a wide range of kitchen duties, but there are some things for which you’ll need an alternative appliance or even a little work by hand. And it also pays to note that blender models have different capabilities. Some are specified for crushing ice, for example, but this isn’t the rule for every blender.
So, which are the foods you shouldn’t put in a blender, and is there anything else that you need to avoid when using a blender? Use our guide to swerve the errors and keep your appliance doing the tasks it ought to efficiently for years to come.
Foods you shouldn’t put in a blender
A blender is a favorite kitchen appliance for good reason. It makes a whole host of recipes for food and drink easy to achieve as well as speedy. But misuse a blender and it won’t deliver good results in the best case scenario, while in the worst, damage to the blades, jar or lid, or the motor itself can result.
‘Not using the blender in the intended way will also mean you can’t rely on the warranty if damage occurs,’ cautions Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens. ‘Always look at a blender’s features before buying, or in the manual if you already own a blender, to be sure your model is up to a particular task like dealing with ice or frozen fruits, for example.’
To get the very best from your blender and keep it powering on for years to come, we’ve identified the items you shouldn’t put in a blender and those you need to be cautious about blending.
1. Ice cubes
While there are plenty of blenders that are built for crushing ice with ease, some standard models will struggle with the hardness of ice cubes. The results may be rather lumpy or, worse, you could be left with a broken lid or pitcher.
Before you put the cocktail recipe book in the bin, there’s an easy solution; just add at least one cup of water (aim to cover about half of the ice), which will give the blades the purchase needed to get the process going safely and smoothly.
Use the pulse button a few times to get things moving, then switch to the lowest setting for one or two minutes. Once you’re done blending, sieve the ice to remove some of the slushiness, and pick out any lumps that didn’t quite make the blade, before adding your favorite beverage.
2. Frozen fruits
As with ice, this is a be-aware, rather than a never. The most powerful blenders will deal with frozen fruit easily. Conversely, if the motor is struggling, the fruit won’t be broken down as it should.
But don’t despair, there are tactics you can use to make blending frozen fruit a less demanding task for a blender. ‘Ideally, you should thaw the fruit a little before adding it to the blender,’ advises Lucy Searle. ‘Put the required amount in a bowl in the refrigerator ahead of time, if you can.’
Whether you have time to do this or not, always be mindful to add sufficient liquid to the jar when blending frozen fruit as this assists in breaking it down.
3. Boiling liquids
Blenders are tightly sealed when in action to keep liquids contained. Really hot liquids give off steam, which can cause pressure to build up inside, ultimately leading to a lid explosion and, potentially, serious burns.
In most machines, the maximum recommended temperature of liquid foods that can be blended safely is 176ºF (80°C) but do consult the manual.
It’s still possible to enjoy velvety smooth soups, broths and purées, just wait 10 minutes or so before you put the cooked ingredients into your blender.
Reducing the capacity will also help – smaller batches leave more space for steam to circulate inside, but do take care when you open the lid.
Better yet, use one of our best immersion blenders, which can be put directly in the pan with the soup mixture so there’s less mess, too.
4. Too much of any food
An overloaded blender won’t just fail to do its job, it can also lead to liquids seeping out of every nook and cranny, creating a whole world of mess.
Each blender will specify a maximum capacity but, as a general rule, avoid filling the jug above the measurement markings on the side.
It might seem like a good idea to blend potatoes in pursuit of lump-free mash, but it is a big no-no. The blades will release too much starch, leaving a gloopy, glue-like mass that sticks to the roof of your mouth.
For fluffy potatoes without lumps, a ricer is your best bet, or just stick with a good old-fashioned masher and a little elbow grease.
Uncooked broccoli, especially the stalk, is another ingredient that doesn’t fare well in a blender. Its fibrous construction results in shredded stringiness that’s entirely unpalatable.
6. Nuts and coffee beans
Now this is very blender dependent as some of the more powerful options will have no problem grinding hard nuts and beans to dust.
Lesser powered models, anything under 1200W, will give them a good go, but the results can be very uneven, potentially ruining a decent pot of coffee and leaving you with nut butters too crunchy to spread.
However, even if the results are perfection, grinding dry, hard ingredients like these will take a toll on the blades, dulling them down and shortening their lifespan. Reach for the food processor or coffee grinder instead.
7. Whole spices
You can grind spices in a blender, but bear in mind there is a caveat. As it has a large jar and a large blade, it may take longer to grind spices in a blender than it would to use a mortar and pestle, or a dedicated coffee and spice grinder.
The process will be easier if you have a blender with a grind setting. If not, think medium speed. You’ll need to work in 15 to 30 second bursts, then check consistency and repeat as required.
8. Whole foods
By this we mean unchopped foods, rather than healthy grains! Cutting solid ingredients into 1in (2.5cm) cubes will make uniform blending easier.
The order you fill the jug can also yield a smoother blend, and putting solid, especially hard or frozen ingredients, into your blender first will lead to disappointment. Always put liquids, or the softest/moistest ingredients in first, gradually building to harder foods and finishing with any frozen items.
Pulsing the ingredients once or twice, leaving time between pulses for the harder ingredients to drop down onto the blades, will also produce smoother results.
Turned the dial to max power but there’s no movement inside the jug? While it may be very tempting to poke a spatula or wooden spoon handle down through the pouring hole to get things moving, resist at all costs. Sure, you’ll think it’ll be fine as long as you stop well clear of the blade, but it’s surprising how quickly a blender can suction contents downwards into its vortex-like grip.
So, how to tackle a static situation? The safest solution is to turn the blender off, open the lid fully and then use a spoon or tamper to push the blockage down into the mix. Replace the lid, turn it back on, and repeat as many times as necessary.
10. Your fingers
This is basic common sense, but never, ever put your fingers into a blender while it is plugged in. Most blenders have an automatic safety function that prevents blending with the lid off, but there’s always a chance of lock malfunction, and your digits just aren’t worth the risk.
When should you not use a blender?
You shouldn’t use a blender for making bread as it risks overworking the mixture and making the bread tough. Instead, use a food processor with a dough hook which can be employed when you’re making pizza and pasta dough as well as bread and will both mix and knead. You can, of course, hand knead instead, but a food processor can definitely save time as well as spare effort.
‘Don’t use a blender for foods such as garlic or chillies either,’ recommends Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens. ‘These can taint what you blend in future despite cleaning and a garlic-flavored smoothie along the line can be an unpleasant shock.‘
Can you put any food in a blender?
You can put many foods into a blender, including fruits, vegetables, milk, chickpeas (to make hummus), hard cheeses, and bread (to create breadcrumbs), but there are some ingredients that don’t produce good results. For example, swerve raw broccoli or celery which will likely prove too fibrous, and potatoes you want to mash, which will end up with a nasty texture.
‘Never put fish or meat with bones in a blender either,’ warns global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens Lucy Searle. ‘Bones can harm the blades or jar, or cause a jam.’
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Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.
- Sarah WarwickContributing Editor
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