This may be the least exotic piece of kitchen equipment we’ve covered in this column, but even if blenders don’t have the nearly the cache of food processors and juicers, they’re still pretty useful little machines. We may, in fact, underestimate the blender—a good one (which doesn’t have to mean an expensive one) can mix soups and juices and dressings just as well as smoothies and frozen strawberry margaritas.
“Many models can also double as food processors, grating cheese and chopping vegetables,” say the folks at ConsumerSearch, a site that rates consumer products by compiling reviews from other consumer news sites, users, magazines and experts. “But unlike a food processor, blenders can chop ice and do an excellent job of pureeing soups.”
Aside from price (and whether it looks pretty in your kitchen), here’s what you should look for in a blender:
- Pulse button: Pulse blending can be helpful in crushing ice.
- Speeds: More speeds doesn’t necessarily equal a better blender (experts say three speeds are enough)
- Ease of cleaning: Is the jar dishwasher safe? Are the blades removable? “Pass on push buttons,” ConsumerSearch warns. “The tiny nooks and crannies between this type of button can be very difficult to clean. Instead, opt for dial, touchpads or switch controls, which can be wiped down more easily.”
- Container: What is the jar made of? Does it have grooves? Tapered blender jars may help food funnel down; plastic can crack and lead to smells and germs getting trapped in there.
- Your needs: Are you planning to whip up soups and puree veggies and chop ice in it all the time, or just make the occasional fruit smoothie?
Fancy blenders can even handle baby food, coffee beans and nut butters, or double as juicers—though these ‘multifunction’ options get pretty pricey (upwards of $500). There are powerful and well-reviewed blenders at much, much cheaper than that, though—like the six we’ll show you below, all well-rated and under $100.