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The five

What are the five key points I need to look at?

Durability

Blenders with plastic bases and other plastic parts tend to be less durable than blenders made partly or wholly of other materials, like metal. Ignoring dishwasher-safe claims in favor of hand washing extends the life of the blender and its parts. Some warranties cover up to six years of use—pay attention and send in the warranty card.

Power

Most experts say three speeds are all you need. Manufacturers focus on wattage in their specifications, but more wattage doesn’t mean a better blender (only a more expensive one). For daily, non-professional use wattage of 300-600 should suffice.

Blender jars

Blender jars can be plastic (light but scratchable), glass (stable and clean, but breakable), polycarbonate (shatterproof but crackable) or metal (light and durable, but opaque). A tapered jar will direct food down toward the blades; a wide mouth makes for easy pouring. What you’ll be doing will dictate what jar type is best for you.

Noise

All blenders are noisy, but some are noisier than others. Manufacturers will advertise quiet operation, but quiet, like noise is relative. Before you click the “buy now” button, check out user reviews for their opinions on noise.

Ease of cleaning

Touchpads are easiest to clean; switches and dials are fairly easy to clean, but can limit blending control; and old-school buttons are easiest for control, but the hardest to clean. Blenders with non-removable blades may be less prone to leaks, but they’re harder to clean.

Shop talk

What are the terms and definitions I need to know about?

Immersion blenders

Good for use with soft food items or if you need to blend and cook at the same time—you don’t have to remove your mixture from the stove while you use an immersion blender, and you can use it in practically any type of container.

Wattage

Blender motors will often be rated by wattage. Wattage determines the size of the motors by rating the amount of power that they process. More isn’t necessarily better, though more power costs more money.

Pulse

Pulsing delivers short, controllable bursts of power to your ingredients that helps ensure you don’t over-process what’s in there. It’s also the preferred method for crushing ice.

Durability

When you’re researching blenders pay special attention to what materials the base and gear assembly are made of. Blenders where these components are made of plastic tend to get lower marks for durability. Stainless steel and other metal-based blenders hold up better over time. What kind of jar the blender comes with (plastic, glass, polycarbonate or metal) also contributes to how long your blender will be of good service. See the section on jars below for more details information and recommendations.

Above all, pay attention to the warranty that comes with your blender just as you would with a more expensive purchase. Some manufacturers may offer only six months while others offer up to six years of protection. Lastly, while many blenders are advertised as dishwasher-safe, delicate parts, like rubber gaskets, tend to break down more quickly. We recommend washing by hand as much as possible.

Power

Not all blenders are created equal and the way manufacturers advertise this is with wattage claims. Countertop blender wattage can range from 300-1,500, but this isn’t as important as they’d have you think. While it’s true that the more wattage a blender has, the better it can work with hard substances like ice or large quantities of nuts, if you won’t be using your blender for those things, you don’t need to pay for the extra power. For regular daily use, a blender with 300-600 watts should be fine.

Similarly, blender speed options run the gamut from 2-16, but before you go spending the extra $50 for a fancy model with as many gears as Lance Armstrong's bike, some experts say that any more than three speeds is overkill. Regardless of how many speeds you think you want to have, you’ll probably want your blender to come with a pulse button. The short bursts of speed and power it delivers aren’t just for ice crushing anymore. Pulsing gives you more control over the ingredients you’re working with and ensures you don’t over-process.

Blender jars

Blender jars are usually made of one of four different materials: plastic, glass, polycarbonate and metal. Plastic jars are the least expensive option and their lightweight design makes them easy to handle when full. However, they’re prone to scratches over time and may retain food odors. A good choice if all you’re going to use the blender for is pesto, but if you’ll be using the blender for a variety of recipes you’ll want to consider other materials.

Glass jars are the heaviest and thus the most stable blender jars, a big advantage when it comes to evaluating durability over time. The only caveat is, if you drop it and it breaks, you’re out a blender jar. Glass jars are more scratch-resistant than plastic and won’t retain odors or strong flavors.

The newest blender jars are made from polycarbonate and manufacturers claim they’re shatterproof. That’s an advantage over glass blender jars, especially in a busy kitchen, but polycarbonate jars are so new that there’s little information as to how well they hold up over time. We’re not convinced that news means better, but if you’re want to try the latest and greatest in blender technology, you may be interested in blenders with polycarbonate jars.

Lastly, stainless steel and other metal jars offer the benefits of being lighter weight, and more durable than glass or plastic. You’ll pay extra for these benefits, so if sleek, shiny blender jars are catching your eye (or match your other appliances), keep in mind that you can’t see through metal when you’re blending which makes checking for uneven mixing a challenge.

Regardless of which blender jar type you choose, you’ll want to make sure it’s also the right size and shape for what you’ll be doing. If you’re making anything in large batches, the more capacity the blender jar offers, the better. Jars that are tapered (tall and deep) are designed to funnel ingredients toward the blender blades for more even blending. Consider what you’ll use the blender for most often and make your decision accordingly.

Noise

No question—blenders are noisy. Typically, the more power a blender has the louder it’s going to be when running (another reason not to choose a blender for wattage alone). If you think you’ve found the perfect blender and you’re hovering over the “buy now” button, take a few minutes to read user reviews to see what they say about noise and keep in mind that noise a relative thing—if only one out of 10 users says it sounds like it’s breaking the sound barrier, you’re probably okay. Blender noise may seem like a minor point, but it could make a difference in how often you’ll actually use your blender.

Ease of cleaning

How easy it is to clean your blender will definitely affect how you feel about and then actually use your blender. Entry-level blenders come with switch or dial controls which contribute to ease of use but not necessarily ease of cleaning—spills and grime may collect around the buttons or even in the switches. Touchpad controls are easy to clean, but are usually only available on higher-end models and some users find them more difficult to control than traditional buttons or switches, but we think the ease of cleaning makes it a wash. Removable blades also make for easy cleaning but blenders that feature these may be more prone to leaks than their non-removable counterparts. Is there a clear winner here? It’s a matter of preference than anything else.

Need to know more?

Experts say

  • Reluctant Gourmet - "My top pick for the money would be: the Cuisinart 40-oz. SmartPower Electronic Bar Blender, 7-speed, Brushed Chrome. Doesn't have all the bells and whistles, but I'm not sure you need all those buttons." Source: Reluctant Gourmet
  • Cooks Illustrated - "Any testing of blenders has to begin with crushing ice and/or making frozen drinks, two tasks that food processors simply cannot perform. We filled each blender jar with 15 ice cubes and ran five 1-second pulses. We were shocked that only two of these reportedly powerful and expensive blenders, the L'Equip 228 Blender and the Jenn-Air Attrezzi Blender, produced a fine, chunk-free snow." Source: Cooks Illustrated
  • Happy Juicer.com - "This blender comes with an impressive 6 year warranty, hats off to L'equip for this. In view of the power, design, capabilities and warranty that the L'Equip 228 Blender delivers; it has to be considered when debating which home use blender to buy. We say the best blender at this price." Source: Happy Juicer