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Kitchen Matters

Blend In

From cake batters to smoothies, the right blender can make all the difference for recipe perfection.

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Invented in the early 1920s, the blender was intended to make soda fountain drinks such as milkshakes and malteds, though it was quickly adapted to libations for the cocktail hour. Nowadays, it presents itself in multiple iterations and can be used for a wide variety of tasks, from the kitchen to the bar to the laboratory.

Faced with a bewildering array of manufacturers, models, and motors, how do you choose just one? We’ll assume you don’t need it for laboratory experiments, like Jonas Salk, who used a blender while developing the polio vaccine. But for basic kitchen and bar tasks, here’s a brief rundown of options and considerations. You have three general categories of blenders: countertop, bullet, and immersion. (Sometimes food processors are included in this category, but since they are restricted to solid foods as opposed to liquids, they’re best examined separately.)

Magic Bullet

This is for all of the daily smoothie fanatics out there. Its primary function is making those healthy concoctions that ensure five daily servings of fruits veggies-and then some. The action is simple-you press on the cup untilthe desired consistency is achieved, then invert and remove the container. Voila! A splendid smoothie, with all the nutrients intact and available. In a pinch, you can also grind nuts and coffee beans. The Nutri-Bullet is a good choice here-well-reviewed and effective.

Immersion Blender

Also known as a “wand” blender, this is a tall narrow device that allows you to purée in a variety of containers, from hot soup in a pot to fruit in a bowl. You “immerse” the tip of the wand in the chosen medium, and hold the button down as you move it about, until even purée is accomplished. For parents, it’s an indispensable tool for making fresh baby food; simply combine a little bit of everything you’re having for dinner with some water or juice in a tall container (one often comes with these blenders) and give it a whirl. In seconds, you have a healthy, tasty meal that will delight little ones. There are any number of well-received immersion blenders, so choose one that fits your design aesthetic and your budget.

And be sure to peruse the recipe ideas that come with your blender-they will definitely expand your culinary horizons, and enable you to get the most out of your favorite new appliance!

Traditional Countertop

This is your all-purpose blender. It can be simple to operate, with just a few switches and dials, or it can be elaborate and high-tech, with multiple speeds and digital displays. It can be used for multiple tasks, from puréeing soups to crafting smoothies to mixing cake batter.

In my experience as a chef, simple and powerful is best. The Vitamix, in particular, is a personal favorite. With only three switches-on/off, high/variable, and a numbered speed dial-it can be easily configured to accomplish any task. It purées hot soups without dangerous top-popping; it pulverizes fruits and veggies in seconds for creamy smoothies; and it crushes ice expeditiously for an impeccable margarita. The Ninja is also an excellent (and less expensive) choice for quality and performance.

Blend or Juice? 

Blending your fruits and veggies, as opposed to juicing them, retains more of the fiber and nutrients-and flavor too!

Did you know?

Purple carrots taste sweeter than their orange cousins; the pale variety has the most mild flavor of the bunch.

Romanesco broccoli was reportedly first grown by Italians in the 16th century. It has been described as a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.

Blender Recipes