Immersion Blenders: Stick Shift

True to their namesake, immersion blenders are just that: blenders that can be immersed.

Unlike countertop blenders or processors, immersion blenders — or “stick blenders” — are designed to be mobile. Constructed with a motorized top that locks into a shaft, the blades are submerged directly into the liquid and, with the press of a button, food is pureed.

Most models also come with a tall and narrow mixing cup for making salad dressing, mayonnaise, smoothies or other emulsions. Because these containers keep food close to the blade, pureeing is much faster and more efficient.

When buying an immersion blender, first determine what the blender will be used for. Some models are ideal for making smoothies, while others are better for pureeing soups and cooked food. A stronger motor will be better at grinding frozen fruit, but may not be necessary for whipping up mayonnaise.

Another consideration is size and weight. Ideally, an immersion blender is relatively light and easy to handle. Some have a one-touch button and others have multiple speeds. Some buttons are positioned so they are hard to press, while the handle may be difficult to grasp for certain sized hands. The space surrounding the blade should be large enough with cutouts to let food circulate. If the space isn’t large enough, food can get stuck and eventually wear out the motor.

Consumer-grade immersion blenders can cost anywhere from $15 to $400. More expensive models typically have more attachments and larger motors. But before investing in those models, determine if they are really necessary; you may already have a kitchen appliance for those tougher tasks.

Blending low-fat versions of bean or winter squash soup elevates them from boring to luxurious without adding cream. Marinades, pestos and chimichurris made with healthy fats and fresh herbs boost flavor and are a breeze to make. Even baby food can be easily whipped up in an immersion blender. Remember these tips:

  • Immersion blenders may seem kid-friendly, but they can be very dangerous. Only adults should use and clean the appliances.
  • Find a blender that isn’t difficult to clean. Most are dishwasher safe, but check the manufacturer’s instructions first.
  • Hot liquids and food can splatter, so remove food from the heat source and allow it to cool slightly before blending.
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Sara Haas
Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, is a Chicago-based dietitian and co-author of the Fertility Foods Cookbook. Read her blog, The Cooking RD, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.