A blender makes a great gift for keen cooks and clean eaters alike. If you were lucky enough to unwrap a blender this year, either underneath the tree or stuffed inside your stocking, then you've found a great kitchen companion.
With a top-quality blender, you can make so much more than fruit smoothies. Once you learn how to get the most out of a blender, you'll be able to make your own soups, sauces, dips and dressings for a fraction of the price of the store-bought stuff.
All this might sound a bit intimidating to a blender beginner. That's where I come in. As a professional product tester, I've worked with some of the best blenders on the market. I know what makes them tick, which is why I've written up a few dos and don'ts to help you get the most out of your gift.
I'm a shopping writer, not a salesperson. If I think your blender won't be up to a particular task, I'll tell you as much, and recommend an alternative appliance to help you get the job done. You can put it on your wish list for next Christmas or bag it at a bargain price in the Boxing Day sales.
Use it for: creamy fruit smoothies
Fresh fruit smoothies are delicious, nutritious, and unbelievably easy to make in a blender. All you need to do is chop and chunk your produce, throw your fruit in the pitcher, and press 'blend'.
Any blender worth its salt can mix soft fruits into a smoothie. It takes a special sort of machine to pulverize firm produce. The most powerful blenders can blast through skins, seeds, and stems, and tackle tougher textures, from frozen fruit to leafy greens.
Once you've mastered a simple smoothie, you can switch up the recipe to vary your fresh fruit intake. You could spoon in yogurt to thicken up a smoothie bowl, using the 'pulse' setting on your blender for controlled blasts to reach your desired consistency. Gym bunnies or health fanatics could add a few scoops of protein powder into the mix to up their gains.
Use it for: chunky dips and sauces
Once you've made your own hummus and guacamole, you won't want to go back to the store-bought stuff. Homemade dips and sauces are easy to season to your personal taste, and you can make them free from any additives and preservatives.
You should be able to load your ingredients straight into the pitcher. A top-quality blender can slice through cilantro stems and grind pine nuts to cut down on prep time. Use the pulse setting on your blender to give your ingredients a quick blitz. If you find that food sprays up the side of your pitcher, take a beat and scrape down the sides with a spoon or spatula.
Give your ingredients a few more blasts until they reach your desired consistency. You'll be able to judge it by sight and by taste. Dips can be thick and chunky, while salad dressings, sauces, and vinaigrettes should be on the smoother side. Don't be afraid to keep pulsing: you can always thicken up the mix with a little yogurt or a few more nuts and seeds.
Use it for: hearty, healthy soups
If Santa was exceptionally kind to you this holiday season, you might have unwrapped a hot blender, or a combination blender and soup maker. This sort of appliance opens up so many more culinary possibilities.
The best hot blenders can prepare and cook hot soups and sauces, right there in the pitcher. When I tested The Ninja Foodi Cold & Hot Blender, I made a delicious butternut squash. This blender chopped my aromatics, sautéd my onions, and blended chunks of butternut squash into a silky smooth soup.
Normally, when I make my own soup, I need at least three different pots and pans and a few hours to pull it all together. With a top-quality hot blender, you can make it all inside the pitcher in mere minutes.
If you can make hot soups, you can make cold soups and gazpachos to spice up your summer dinner party. Even if you don't own a hot blender, you could use your pitcher to chop your produce into fine chunks for quick and easy simmering.
Use it for: your commute to the office or the gym
If your brand new blender is small enough to fit inside your stocking, it's probably portable. These little machines are designed for busy commuters to grab and go, so that you can blend a fresh fruit smoothie or protein shake in the office or at the gym.
Almost anything an ordinary blender can do, a portable blender can do, too, just in smaller quantities. You could use a portable blender in your home kitchen to make smoothies, sauces, and even ice shavings, though you wouldn't be able to make soup.
The best portable blenders are cute and compact for easy transport in a bag or backpack, though you could also store them in your kitchen cabinets or pride of place on your countertop.
Don't use it for: clear, clean juices
Now, don't get me wrong: it's totally possible to make juice in a blender. If you don't mind a bit of pith and pulp, then you might even prefer it to the store-bought stuff. But if you're set on making smooth, clear juice, then you might be better off with a purpose-built juicer.
Where blenders chop and slice fruit and vegetables into thick and creamy purées, juicers press produce to squeeze out juice, leaving the flesh and pulp behind. There are fast juicers to tackle tougher textures, as well as slow juicers and cold presses to mimic the motion of hand-squeezing, but anything will be better than a blender.
A good juicer can cost hundreds of dollars and you might not have that kind of money lying around, especially not so soon after Christmas. Still, if you'd love to start your day with a freshly squeezed glass of OJ, it could be a great investment. I've rounded up a few of the best juicers at the fairest prices to save you time and money.
If you just can't decide between a blender and a juicer, you don't have to: Breville's 3X Bluicer offers both functions in a single appliance. The blending pitcher and the juicing pitcher come separately, but they share the Bluicer base.
This juicer offers a few of the same functions as the best blenders, from smoothie mixing to sorbet making, but it produces much clearer, cleaner juice.
Don't use it for: slicing or shredding
Blenders work fast: it's one of their biggest selling points. When I'm testing a blender, and I find it can power through tough produce in mere minutes, I send it straight to the top of our buying guide.
As a keen cook, I don't always want a quick and dirty chop. When I'm kneading dough, shredding veggies, or mincing meat, I don't turn to my blender to make a quick job of it. Instead, I use one of the best food processors to keep control in the kitchen.
Where blender blades are short and sharp, a food processor features S-shaped slice and shred discs. These blades rotate at a lower rate to make precise cuts. Sure, it might take a little longer to prep your produce, but you'll get much neater results for prettier plating and presentation.
You might not have the money or the storage space to get a food processor as well as a blender. If that sounds like you, you could always shop for a food processing attachment, or exchange your gift for a combination blender and food processor.
The Ninja Kitchen System covers all the bases. There's a 72-oz. pitcher and 64-oz. food processor, with enough room to make multiple servings and accommodate larger ingredients.
This is the best food processor, bar none. The bowl seals shut for a secure fit, so that you don't have to worry about spills and stains when working with wetter ingredients.
How to get the most out of a blender FAQs
Which is the best blender?
The Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender is the best on test. It can blast through fruit skins, seeds, and stems to create super-smooth soups and sauces. If you're catering for a crowd, you need a big blender: something like the Breville Super Q, which is powered by an 1800W motor and equipped with a 68-oz. pitcher. Commuters might prefer a portable blender to grab and go. The Ninja Blast looks cute and compact, but it's deceptively capacious, with an 18oz pitcher for generous single servings. It's completely cordless for blending on the go.
How should I clean my blender?
We've written an entire article about how to clean a blender. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here are the headlines.
To get a deep clean, I recommend hand-washing each part of your blender. It might take a little longer, granted, but it's the best way to get between the blades and clean your blender's every crevice. Many of the best blenders come with their own cleaning tools to navigate narrow nooks.
If you're tight on time, you could always pour a few cups of warm water into your pitcher, squeeze out a few drops of detergent, and press 'start'. Your blender should start to clean itself. Wait a minute or two before emptying the pitcher, rinsing it out, and leaving it out to air fry.
It's easy to clean the motor body with a damp, soapy cloth. Just make sure to unplug it first.
If you want even more recipe inspiration, and you're keen to learn what else to make in a blender, then you're in luck: we've rounded up 10 of our favorite recipes to whet your appetite, from fresh pesto to cool cocktails.
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Before she joined Homes & Gardens, Emilia studied English at the University of Oxford, where she sharpened her critical writing skills. She also worked on the other side of the aisle writing press releases for regional newspapers and crafting copy for Sky. Emilia combines her business savvy with her creative flair as our eCommerce Editor, connecting you with the products you’ll love. When she’s not in the office, Emilia is happiest when entertaining friends al fresco or out in the country.
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