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KitchenAid KSB650PK Blender
KitchenAid KSB650PK Blender

How to Buy a Blender

By Tanja KernSHOP.COM For the Home Editor

Smoothies, soups and a quick pesto: a kitchen just isn't a chef-ready without a reliable blender. How much to spend depends on how often you plan to use this popular kitchen gadget. High-powered machines with loads of extra speeds are a plus if you do a lot of heavy blending. How many watts of power, the type of blade and container are other elements to consider. Mixed up about what to buy? Give these guidelines a whirl.

The Basics

Step 1Power: Opt for a machine with 450 to 600 watts of power, which is strong enough to crush ice and puree fruits and vegetables. Lighter motors are best used to blend lighter liquids.
Step 2Container Plastic, glass or stainless steel?: Plastic is durable, kid-friendly and won't break or chip like glass, but it can pick up stains over time. Glass is sturdy and easy to clean. Stainless steel is a stylish option but doesn't allow you to see blending.
Step 3Blade: Look for stainless steel blades with several arms for quicker blending. Make sure they are removable so they can be placed in the dishwasher for simpler cleanup.
Step 4Controls: How many do you need? Some blenders make it easy with simple on and off switches. Others have a bevy of buttons, such as mix, puree, pulse. More options doesn't necessarily mean a blender is better. Recessed buttons, preferably behind a clear plastic cover, are some of the easiest to clean, and newer models have touchscreen controls.
Step 5Capacity: Most blenders hold between four and seven cups of liquid. Opt for a larger size if you use a blender to puree large batches of soup, iced drinks and sauces.

The Lingo

Pulse: This blender button lets you fine-tune how much you want to blend a mixture. It provides an instant start and stop.
Puree: To mash foods finely into liquid.
Watts: Is the rate at which energy is generated and consumed. Higher watt blenders have more mixing power.

The Experts

Good Housekeeping says the state-of-the-art Cuisinart SmartPower 7-Speed Electronic Blender has sleek controls and a chrome finish. But it's not just a pretty face. With the ability to pulse on every speed, it's great for making salsa, guacamole, and other sides that call for precise chopping.
Consumersearch.com says the Oster Beehive Blender blender holds up better than others. The Oster Beehive has a 500-watt motor and a tapered, stain-resistant 40-ounce glass jar that helps funnel food to the blades. The Beehive has just two speeds, but if you mainly want to puree soups and make smoothies, the Oster is a reliable, all-purpose home blender that's not overly complex.

The Brands

Oster is a market leader of blenders, offering the Fusion, Classic Beehive and Counterforms lines. New models feature touchpad controls, six-point blades and a reverse option.
Hamilton Beach is the second market leader in blenders. Its Dual Wave Action Blender, which runs two blades for blending food in two single jars or a double-sized single jar.
KitchenAid: This upscale line features easy-to-clean touchpad controls, electronic speed sensors and durable containers. KitchenAid blenders are available in a rainbow of colors to coordinate with any kitchen d├ęcor.
Cuisinart: This mid-range and premium brand offers a variety of options, including models that double as a blender and a food processor. Depending on the model, Cuisinart offers blenders with LED displays, touchpad controls and push buttons.
Waring: This brand markets workhorse blenders made of die-cast-metal bases and classic two-speed controls.
Vita-Mix Vita-Mix blenders also work as food processors that make soups, dough and ice cream. It's a high-end brand sold by specialty retailers.

The Price

$: Entry-level blenders are low in cost but not in function. Look for higher watts and durable construction. Try the Black and Decker 10-Speed Cyclone Blender
$$: Mid-range models come with a variety of options and are robust assistants in the kitchen. Some models come with three to 16 controls. Try the Oster Fushion Blender
$$$: High-end blenders mix power, durability and style. More expensive models may feature LED controls, are easy to clean and come in a rainbow of colors. Try the Sensio Bella Professional Blender