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A blender is a relatively simple machine—a blade, a jar, a couple of buttons that get everything going. If used properly, it can whip up smoothies, puree soups, and even blend nut butters. But use it incorrectly and you’ll have a sludge-like smoothie or, even worse, a blender that’s jammed and just can’t do the job. Here are 9 way to make sure your blender is doing its best for you every time you hit the power button.
1. Sometimes it’s okay to go cheap
If you’re constantly making hummus and nut butter and soups, you're going to want a high performance blender and not the $29 one. But if you're just doing basic icy drinks and smoothies, you don’t need to spend the extra money. A mid- to lower-priced blender will do a great job.
2. Order matters
One of the most important tips to keep in mind with any blender is the order of the ingredients that you're adding. As a rule of thumb, go from lightest to heaviest. That mean you should ALWAYS start with liquid, and make sure it covers the blades (usually that means about a cup of liquid). "When liquid goes in first, it helps move the ingredients around the jar,” says Pat Schweitzer, Director of the Consumer Test Kitchen at Hamilton Beach. “Then add fresh fruit, then frozen fruit, then ice last.”
3. Avoid bubbles
The issue of cavitation—when your blender gets stuck because of a big air bubble—is one that can literally stop you in your tracks. To prevent lock-up, be sure to keep a good balance between the ice (or any frozen food) and the liquid that you're combining. You can also use the "Pulse" feature to dislodge it. Also, feel free to impress your friends with your new vocabulary.
4. Tamp it down
If you’re using your blender to make thick and creamy foods like hummus or nut butters, the blades can also get stuck and stop moving. But adding more liquid may not do your recipe justice. To get everything back in motion, use the blender’s tamper—a piece that fits in the top of the blender and can be used to move the food around while the device is running.
5. Cut to fit
For round food objects such as apples, chop them in half before placing them in the jar. Cut all fresh food items to fit in half the height of the jar.
6. Make soup hot without a stove
If you’re using a high-performance blender (something like the Wolf Gourmet Blender), there’s no need to heat your soup on the stove because your blender can heat it up for you. The friction of the whirring blades creates enough heat to actually warm up the soup. Seriously.
7. Aerate wine
No more waiting one to two hours for a newly-opened bottle of wine to "breathe" in a fancy decanter. Instead, just pour the contents of the bottle into your blender and give it a quick whirl for 30 seconds. Voila! It's perfectly aerated and ready to consume in under a minute. This tip is also great if you realize you don't love the wine you're sipping. After a spin in your blender it's likely to taste much better too.
8. Use the emulsion cup
Lots of blenders come with an emulsion cup, which is ideal when making salad dressings or marinades. Just pour the oil into the cup, turn on your blender, and it drizzles it into the jar in a steady stream. No need to lift the lid and drizzle it in by hand.
9. Just add dish soap to clean
The simplest, easiest way to clean your blender is not to put your hand into the jar and risk slicing a finger on the blade. You also don’t need to waste dishwasher space. "Instead, put a few drops of dish soap in the jar and fill it to the max line with warm water and turn it on and clean it that way,” says Mary Rodgers, Director of Marketing Communications for Cuisinart & Waring. Rinse in the sink. Done.