Buying a handheld blender

If you've lived your life so far without the aid of a handheld blender, you may not know what you've been missing out on

A Cuisinart handheld blender.

A Cuisinart handheld blender.

If you've lived your life so far without the aid of a handheld blender, you may not know what you've been missing out on. These handy household devices are capable of performing a number of chopping, blending, grinding, and emulsifying food preparation tasks in the kitchen. Never heard of the term handheld blender? These appliances are also referred to as a Bamix, immersion blenders, wand blenders, handheld mixers, handheld blenders or Bermixers.

A handheld blender consists of a motorised handle attached to a shaft that has one or multiple blades at the end of it. Handheld blenders can be used for a wide range of food preparation tasks, from chopping or grinding ingredients, to simply blending a milkshake, or whipping up eggs for an omelette. They come in various shapes and sizes, but the two main types of handheld blenders are corded (they plug into a standard AC power point) or cordless (usually operated by rechargeable batteries).

Controls

Technology wise, a handheld blender has a very simple design and it’s straightforward to use, but there are a few key features to consider before purchasing. One of the most important considerations is how comfortable the handheld blender is to use. Any food processing task is about having control, so if the handheld blender is comfortable to use, you’ll be more adept at using it. There is no point purchasing a handheld blender with multiple speeds, sharp blades and a wide range of other features if you find it hard to use, heavy and the controls confuse you. Consider the shape and size of the handle and the weight of the handheld blender. Also get a feel for the controls; note their position and how comfortable they are to use. For example, is the on/off switch easy to access? Are the speed controls easy to press or activate? Most stores will have a range of handheld blenders on display, so you should be able to get a feel for them in store before making a decision.

Corded or cordless

Once you've chosen a comfortable and good looking handheld blender, your next decision is choosing a cordless or corded device. A number of manufacturers make cordless handheld blenders, and these are usually powered by a rechargeable battery. These provide far more flexibility as they don't need to be plugged into a power point – which is great if you need to work outdoors at the BBQ or over the stovetop – but they do need to be recharged frequently and are usually heavier to hold due to the rechargeable battery inside the blender. Generally, cordless handheld mixers can be just as efficient to use as corded models, but if you're planning for long processing tasks a corded handheld blender may be beneficial as you will not have to worry about the battery discharging. If you opt for a corded handheld blender be sure to check that the cord is long enough for your needs and that it doesn’t get in the way when you hold the blender.

Materials and cleaning

When selecting a handheld blender, be sure to consider how easy it is to clean. Some models have a detachable shaft that can be washed in a dishwasher, and most hand blenders can be easily cleaned by dipping the blades in warm, soapy water and then rinsing. It is a good idea to check how easy the unit is to disassemble for cleaning – and look for any crevices or blades that may be difficult to clean.

You'll also need to consider whether to get a plastic or metal handheld blender. Generally, cheaper units are made from plastic, while more expensive ones are made from stainless steel or metal. Many handheld blenders are built using combination of both materials, such as a plastic handle and a metal shaft. In the end it is a personal preference, but metal may provide better durability than plastic, especially when preparing hot foods such as soup. Plastic can also discolour or fade over time, although this depends on the quality of the plastic used.

Other features

The wattage of the handheld blender is also an important but not critical factor to consider. The handheld blender’s wattage will give you a good indication of the motor’s power output. A more powerful motor will mean that the blender can process a larger amount of food in less time and will more than likely produce better blending results as the motor is more resilient.

Some handheld blenders may include interchangeable attachments for different types of food processing; for example, a chopper accessory, a whisk attachment, as well as a plastic beaker for mixing. Some handheld blenders may also offer aerating blades as an additional accessory. If you are considering a device with added attachments, be sure to check if these accessories are easy to remove and reattach. Also check exactly what accessories are included in the box with the handheld blender.

Many handheld blenders are capable of crushing and blending ice, but not all handheld blenders can perform this function. If this is an important feature, check with the sales assistant; attempting to crush ice with a handheld blender that isn’t capable of this function could be dangerous and will probably damage the appliance.

Also consider the speed options available on the handheld blender. Generally, most entry-level handheld blenders simply have high and low speed options, but some may also have a pulse option, and others may have more than two speed settings. The speed options will vary depending on price; entry-level handheld blenders can be purchased for as little as $30, while more expensive models retail for well over $100 and in some cases over $200.

As a handheld blender contains sharp blades at the end of its shaft, safety is a concern, especially if you have children who may grab the device in a cupboard or drawer. Generally, most handheld blenders have a plastic or metal guard that partially covers the blades and stops the food from spraying upwards when blending.

Keep in mind that the blades of all handheld blenders will be exposed from the bottom, so finding a safe and convenient place in your kitchen to store the appliance is important. Some handheld blenders may include a wall mount that can safely house it when not in use. Some wall mounts may double as a recharging dock for cordless units, while others may include storage spots for any included accessories.

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