Our 2016 guide to buying man’s favorite kitchen appliance and healthy-eating status symbol: the all-powerful blender.
Mark Ellwood 1 / 5
The Best of the Blades
IF YOU ASKED ME what my favorite moment in a Will Smith movie was (because, why wouldn’t you?), my answer wouldn’t be the time he flashed his inner bad guy in the summer hit Suicide Squad. It wouldn’t be when he played a certain pugilist named Ali, either.
No, it would be a forgettable scene from the forgettable 1998 thriller Enemy of the State. When his house gets ransacked by government agents, Smith is incensed. “They took my blender!” he gasps, before explaining his attachment to the kitchen appliance: “Some people meditate. Some get massages. I blend.”
It’s like he was speaking directly to me.
I swear by my blender, regardless of whether I’m making margaritas, banana smoothies, or tomato soup. But the big problem with blenders? Choosing one. There are more than 3,000 on Amazon right now, all of varying degrees of power and quality. So I gave the top-of-the-line best sellers a rigorous testing and decided on my favorites.
Word to the wise: Prolonging the life of your blender means keeping it gunk-free—but that doesn’t mean putting it in the dishwasher, as prolonged exposure to water can rust the bottom couplings of the container.
But don’t worry, scouring it is still nearly effort-free: According to Tess Masters, author of The Blender Girl cookbook, just squirt a little dish soap into the carriage, add water, and blend it till it froths.
Mark Ellwood is the author of Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World.
The minimum you should pay for a budget countertop blender is about $60. Why? Well, a countertop blender’s overall performance comes down to three components: the power of the motor, the construction of the blade, and the design of the jug—also known as a “carriage.” The only way to make a cheaper version is to downgrade all three, which is far from ideal.
The old-school Oster Beehive, meanwhile, is a bargain buy. It has almost 1 horsepower of crushing strength, which will easily pulverize leafy greens into a smooth purée. The grooves on the carriage aren’t cosmetic details, either: They help keep the mixture moving while the blades spin, so the blending’s even. It’ll look great on a kitchen counter, too, thanks to its retro styling and stainless steel finish.
The catch: It loses marks for the two-speed setting with a high-low toggle switch, making the Beehive slightly less easy to control.
When it comes to high-caliber, dependable blenders, smoothie elitists are divided into two warring camps: Vitamix guys and Nutri Ninja guys. “If you’re a member of either team, you’re going to brag about it,” says Lauren Slayton, nutritionist of Foodtrainers.
At first glance, I can see the appeal of both. The Vitamix 7500, for instance, is a high-quality, American-made product with the power to pulverize just about anything—nuts, dates, fibrous greens. It comes equipped with a hefty 2-horse-power motor. The company also boasts an excellent customer service apparatus if anything goes wrong or you have a question about how to use it. The problem, however, is the cost: around $500.
It’s for that reason alone I’m staunchly Team Ninja. Its comprehensive BL492 system, which is both a blender and an extractor (which keeps nutrients in the final smoothie), costs less than a third of the comparable Vitamix. Its 1.6 horsepower motor is plenty powerful. And if you break the carriage, replacement parts are easily available online. Finally, it’s generously packaged with accessories, notably the double-wall stainless steel “go-cup,” which will keep your smoothie cold on the drive to work.
The catch: It needs a thorough cleaning each time, because the stacked blade setup traps food easily.
Make no mistake: This Infomercial Hall of Fame-worthy blender really is a badass. But if you go for the NutriBullet, eschew the entry-level model and opt instead for the Pro version.
At 900 watts, the Pro’s motor is 50% more powerful than the basic version, so you’ll have greater control and make less-lumpy concoctions. It has two carriages instead of one, which is useful if you’re planning on impressing overnight guests with your breakfast finesse. Bonus: That second carriage is also 32 ounces, or exactly double the standard quantity of most online smoothie recipes.
The catch: Thanks to the inverted design, it’s almost impossible to avoid leakage, so stick to thicker recipes if you can.
Immersion—aka handheld—blenders are multifunctional tools you can use in myriad ways. (That “whisk” attachment? It’s a nifty way to make an extra-wet cappuccino at home, or churn up a frothy cocktail.) They’re also much smaller than countertop blenders, making them easier to stow away.
Because of its ergonomic design and precise control, the Breville is the best of the bunch. It’s strong enough—280 watts—to crush ice, and comes with a 42-ounce cup, roomy enough to serve a crowd. Bonus: It has a built-in scratch guard so the blade doesn’t damage the container it’s blending in, either.
The catch: The price is higher than some other brands. But for quality alone, this is the one to beat.