Handheld blenders buying guide

How to buy the handheld / wand blender that's right for you
Image credit: Flickr.com/photos/75001512@N00/ (Creative Commons)

Image credit: Flickr.com/photos/75001512@N00/ (Creative Commons)

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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Shopping Checklist: Handheld Blenders

• Comfort

Comfort is the most important consideration when deciding on a handheld blender, especially if you will be using it often. Check the design of the grip and the position of the controls. Does it have a non-slip grip?

• Controls

Check that the controls easy to access when the handheld blender is in use. Do the controls require minimal pressure or are they stiff? A rubber seal may protect the controls from food splatter and debris. Are the controls clearly labelled? Some handheld blenders use contrasting colours so you can change speeds and settings at a glance.

• Weight

A heavy handheld blender can tire out your hand or arm, especially when used over a long period of time. Plastic handheld blenders are generally lighter than their metal counterparts, but metal handheld blenders are obviously more durable. Hold the blender in your hand for about 20 seconds; if it feels too heavy, look for an alternative model. Remember a rechargeable handheld blender will weigh more due to its internal battery.

• Cordless or corded

A number of manufacturers make cordless handheld blenders, usually powered by a rechargeable battery. These provide far more flexibility in the kitchen, but generally they aren't as powerful as a corded unit that plugs into a power point. Some rechargeable handheld blenders may come with a wall mount that can double as a recharging dock. If you opt for a corded unit, check that the cord is long enough for your needs, and that the cord won’t get in your way when using the blender.

• Build quality

You'll need to decide whether to buy a plastic or metal handheld blender. Generally, the less expensive units are made from plastic, while more expensive ones are made from stainless steel or other metals. Many handheld blenders use a combination of both materials, such as a plastic handle and a metal shaft. In the end it is a personal preference, but metal may be more durable than plastic. Some removable shafts and accessories may be dishwasher safe. Note: some plastic handheld blenders can discolour over time.

• Accessories and attachments

Some handheld blenders may feature interchangeable attachments, such as chopper, whisk, measuring beaker or aerating blades accessories. Be sure to check how easy it is to remove and reattach any accessories, and exactly what accessories are included with a handheld blender. If you don’t plan to use these attachments they may not be worth the extra cost.

• Speed options

Most entry-level handheld blenders will offer basic high and low speed options; more expensive models may have a 'pulse' option that gives a short burst of power, making the handheld blender useful for specific food processing tasks (especially dry foods). If the handheld blender offers three or more speeds, this can often be useful for preparing certain food types and offers more control. Make a list of exactly what you will be using your handheld blender for, and how many speeds you will need accordingly.

• Cleaning

Most handheld blenders can be cleaned by dipping the blades in warm, soapy water and then rinsing and being left to dry. Some units can be washed in a dishwasher, but be sure to check the user manual to confirm. Also check for joints around any detachable parts or controls that could make the handheld blender harder to clean. Wide joints may trap food and be hard to clean. Make sure water cannot get trapped in the blender or accessories, as this may lead to dirt and mould build-up over time.

• Safety

A handheld blender contains sharp blades at the end of its shaft, so safety is a concern. Most handheld blenders have a plastic or metal guard that partially covers the blades, but some offer more protection than others.

• Wall mount and storage

Some handheld blenders will include a convenient wall mount. Many rechargeable units are designed to use a wall mount. Consider the number of attachments; can these be easily stored when not in use?

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Jargon Busters: Handheld blenders

Aerating blades: This is an accessory that may be included with some handheld blenders. Aerating blades allow air to be circulated or mixed when using a handheld blender.

Bamix: A Swiss company that is widely known for manufacturing the first handheld blender in 1954.

Beaker: A container often used to blend, stir and mix food. Many handheld blenders include a beaker as an accessory to aid food preparation. Many can also double as a measuring cup.

Emulsify: To mix two or more unblendable liquids that form into an emulsion. Examples in food processing include a vinaigrette (a mixture of oil and vinegar) and mayonnaise (a mixture of oil, vinegar or lemon juice and egg yolk).

Ice-crushing blades: Many handheld blenders include special blades that can crush or blend ice. Not all handheld blenders are built for this task, so don’t use the blender without the correct blades as this may damage it.

Immersion blender: An alternative name for handheld blenders. They may also be called wand blenders or hand blenders.

Pulse: A short burst of speed that enables more control when using a handheld blender. This is usually an additional speed setting to high or low speeds. It’s useful when preparing small amounts of dry food and can help with uniform blending.

Pureeing: Straining a mixture of foods until they are smooth. Some handheld blenders have this as a function, along with chopping, grinding and/or emulsifying options.

Shaft: A key component of a handheld blender that connects the motorised handle to the blades. The shaft may be detachable to allow the attachment of other accessories, or for easier cleaning (for example in a dishwasher).

Wattage: This is the power requirement of an electric appliance. The stated wattage on a handheld blender will give you a good indication of the power of the motor. Wattage on a handheld blender may range from 140 to 600 Watts.

Whisk: An accessory used on some handheld blenders that will smoothly blend ingredients; perfect for beating egg whites or whipping cream for example. This attachment may look like a large whisk or disc-shaped attachment depending on the model.

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FAQs: Handheld blenders

Q: What is the most important thing to look for when purchasing a handheld blender?

A: Comfort is the most important factor to look for when considering a handheld blender. Check the design of the grip and the position of the controls; make sure you feel comfortable holding and operating it. The weight of the handheld blender should also be a big consideration, as heavy models can weigh down and tire your hand and arm.

Q: Am I better off with a cordless or corded handheld blender?

A: The answer depends on what you will be using the handheld blender for, how big your kitchen is, and whether you will use it often or just for last-minute tasks. Cordless handheld blenders are usually powered by a rechargeable battery; they provide more flexibility than a corded unit (one that plugs into a standard power point), but they need to be charged frequently and are often heavier due to the rechargeable battery. A cordless handheld blender may be able to be put in a dishwasher for cleaning, but be sure to check this by thoroughly reading the user manual. If you opt for a corded handheld blender, be sure to check the length of the cord and its positioning.

Q: Is it worth paying extra money for a stainless steel or metal handheld blender?

A: Entry-level handheld blenders are often made of plastic, while more expensive ones may be stainless steel, metal or a combination of these along with plastic. Handheld blenders with metal shafts are obviously more durable than plastic ones, but plastic ones may be easier to clean. Plastic can also discolour and absorb colour — especially after prolonged use in hot foods, or foods with high colour pigmentation — as well as fade over time, although this depends on the quality of the plastic used. It is also good idea to check how easy the unit is to disassemble for cleaning if applicable. Most handheld blenders can be cleaned by rinsing the blades in warm, soapy water and then drying thoroughly.

Q: Do I need multiple speed options on a handheld blender?

A: Again, this depends on what types of food you will be blending. A good idea would be to make a list of all the foods you blend often, which will give you a rough idea of what to look for. Most handheld blenders simply have high and low speed settings, but some may have a pulse option, and others may include more than two speeds.

Q: Is the wattage of a handheld blender important?

A: The wattage of the handheld blender is important, but not critical. The wattage of a handheld blender will give you a good indication of the power of the motor. A more powerful motor can process a larger amount of food in a faster time and will more than likely produce better blending as the motor is more resilient. Wattage can range from 140 to 600 Watts.

Q: Can a handheld blender crush ice?

A: Some handheld blenders are capable of crushing and blending ice, but you'll need to check this feature is available on your blender. An ice crushing feature is usually a key selling point, so it shouldn't be too difficult to spot. If you specifically require this feature, make sure it is one of your first questions to a sales assistant; attempting to crush ice with a handheld blender that isn’t capable of this function could be dangerous and will more than likely damage the blades as well as the motor.

Q: Are the blades on handheld blenders dangerous?

A: Any blade is dangerous if not handled correctly. A handheld blender contains sharp blades at the end of its shaft, so safety is a concern. Generally, most handheld blenders have a plastic or metal guard that partially covers the blades but some provide better protection than others. Check this before you purchase. Keep in mind that the blades of all handheld blenders will be exposed at the bottom of the shaft, so finding a safe and secure place to store the appliance is important.

Q: What accessories are included with handheld blenders?

A: Some handheld blenders may be sold on their own — and these are designed to process soft foods only — but many offer a range of accessories, making them suitable for blending hard and soft foods. These add-ons can include interchangeable attachments for different types of food processing, mixing containers, or beakers and often a combination of all three. Attachments vary but will often include a basic chopper accessory, a whisk attachment or an aerating blades accessory. Ensure you know exactly what accessories are included with a handheld blender before you make your purchase.

Q: How do I clean the handheld blender? Is it as fiddly as a food processor?

A: The good thing about handheld blenders is that they are relatively easy to clean. Whereas a standard food processor has lots of blades and parts that need special cleaning and brushes, a handheld blender just needs a quick rinse under the tap, or a wash in soapy water and they are clean. Many models now have removable parts that are dishwasher safe too. Check that all the blender surfaces are easy to wipe clean. Some rubberized grips, small crevices and attachments may trap food and water over time, so make sure the whole device is easy to clean and store.

Q: I've heard handheld blenders referred to as Bermixers — why is this?

Bermixer refers to the brand name of professional handheld blender appliances manufactured by German company Electrolux. A sub-brand of this company called Dito-Electrolux markets a range of professional handheld blenders that are called Bermixers. Another common name is Bamix; this is a Swiss appliance company that manufactured the world's first handheld blender in 1954 and still produces these appliances today.