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Getting soups and sauces as smooth as possible can be a kitchen nightmare. Most of the time you end up ladling small amounts of hot liquid into the carafe of a blender to blitz it up — and still end up finding chunks. This is where an immersion blender, also known as a stick blender, comes in handy.
The small kitchen tool is like having the power of a traditional blender without the carafe. Almost anything you could do with a countertop blender you can do with an immersion blender, including pureeing soups, mixing sauces and even making baby food.
According to Lisa McManus, executive editor of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews, there are a whole host of reasons that an immersion blender should be in your kitchen gadget drawer. She helped us break down everything you need to know about the tool.
How do immersion blenders work?
Immersion blenders at their very basic are handheld, wand-shaped machines that have a motor at one end and a blade at the other, McManus explained. “The very sharp blade is usually spinning inside a little metal dome with openings for food to enter and be cut by the blades and then spin out of the dome. You basically insert the blade end into food and push a button on the handle to start the motor, and it chops, purees and mixes the food,” she says.
What do immersion blenders do that a regular blender cannot, or vice versa?
The number one reason many people buy an immersion blender is for pureeing hot soups right in the pot. This limits the margin to make a mess from transferring the liquid from the pot to a blender or food processor.
“With an immersion blender, you stick it right in the pot or Dutch oven, and it takes no more than a minute or two to puree the whole pot to the exact consistency you want, whether it's pureeing just some of the food to make a creamy base for the soup, while leaving the rest chunky, or making it all silky-smooth. That's the totally genius application for an immersion blender and once you've used one this way you will NOT go back to any other way,” said McManus.
Immersion blenders also are great for making homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, salad dressing, pesto or even whipped cream. However, one thing that was not recommended for immersion blenders were smoothies because the fruit and greens don’t break down far enough with this tool. So you can’t completely ditch your standard blender if you’re a smoothie drinker.
How do you clean an immersion blender?
Immersion blenders are deceivingly easy to clean and put away for the next use. Most have a button to press to release the blade. McManus said the best way to clean the blade is with a soapy sponge, then rinse and dry. The tool can be stored as one piece or with the blade and shaft separate.
What to look for in an immersion blender
When it’s time to buy an immersion blender for your kitchen there are a few things to consider:
- Price: Immersion blenders can be priced anywhere from $15 to more than $200. While price isn’t always the best indicator of quality, McManus suggests going for a mid-range option to give you the best quality for a reasonable budget.
- Style: There’s not much difference among immersion blenders except for how fast they can go and if there are buttons or dials for the speed control. McManus prefers buttons instead of dials. There’s also no need to get blenders with an excessive amount of speed options — high and low are fine.
- Size: McManus says to look for an immersion blender that is light and slim. Also, try to find one that can be controlled by just one of your hands. If it doesn’t fit comfortably in your hand, then it will be hard to operate and control when blending.
- Cleaning: McManus said, “We really prefer the ease of cleaning the detachable blade, so you're not potentially dropping a whole electric appliance in the water.”
Best immersion blenders
This is the number one pick from America’s Test Kitchen. It gained high marks for the affordable price, grippy body and ease of moving from task to task.
Usually extra attachments for gadgets like immersion blenders never actually get used, but the whisk and chopping bowl with this one would get a lot of love. The whisk is great for making batches of homemade whipped cream, and the bowl can chop up just about anything in just a few seconds. All of this can be easily stored in a cabinet between uses.
At just $30, this affordable option comes in a variety of colors to match your kitchen decor and boasts a five-star rating with rave reviews on Amazon. One reviewer even said they didn’t know how they had lived without it for so many years.
This lightweight blender coming in at just over two pounds is a must-try. The blender comes with a small bowl and lid to easily store your creation and is available in a range of colors to match your kitchen — or your mood.
This immersion blender is the only one on our list with a dial. And while that’s not ideal for some, the addition of attachments like a whisk and mini chopper make this blender worth it. The mini chop is great for prepping veggies for a soup, and the whisk is nice for making gravy or whipped cream.
By far the most expensive immersion blender on the list, this splurge has the option to go cordless — which might justify the price for the avid cook who hates untangling wires. The blender charges on a docking base and has a runtime of nine minutes per charge, which should be ample time to blend and puree dishes.
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