Match the appliance to your uses
Buying a Blender or Food Processor
by Lee Doppelt
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That pre-owned Waring® blender that your mother-in-law gave you in the 1970s has been great, but recently you noticed that it's really not doing a very good job at chopping up cooked vegetables for making homemade soup or for grinding soybeans and pureeing for soymilk. In its day, it was the blender of all blenders, but the blades (which are not removable or replaceable) are finally too dull to do their job.
You've seen infomercials praising blenders that can do just about everything in your kitchen and can be purchased with "three easy payments plus shipping and handling." You've been to Walmart, Best Buy, and Lowes. You've also looked online at Amazon.com and other websites. There are name brands that you might recognize, such as KitchenAid® and Oster®. And you see prices ranging from about $13 to perhaps $500. So what should you buy?
Sometimes less is more.
For $13 at a discount store, you can purchase a 48-ounce (6 cup) plastic blender with pouring spout and removable blade for washing and ultimately replacing if needed. This six-speed blender can chop foods like nuts and garlic, mix liquids for shakes and smoothies, grate cabbage and carrots for coleslaw, blend fruits or cooked vegetables, liquefy cooked veggies for soup, and make sauces. And it can safely be cleaned in the dishwasher. Frankly, this may be all that you need!
So what additional features do you get for blenders that cost several hundreds of dollars? More expensive blenders usually have more power and as many as 14 speeds rather than only six. Their container may be glass instead of plastic, and it may be larger. Additional smaller containers for storing may come with the pricier blenders, too.
Any blender or food processor you choose should be dishwasher safe and have a removable blade. Also remember that consumer reviews indicate that a round pitcher is easier to scoop food out and keep clean.
Do you need a food processor instead of a blender?
Blenders and food processors perform similar functions but they are definitely not the same appliance. A food processor typically has more power and mixes foods like the old mixers of the 1950s did. They also dice and slice vegetables, process solid foods, and help with kitchen tasks like kneading bread. High-end, restaurant-quality food processors can sell for over $1000, but that is likely more than you need in your family's kitchen.
If you buy a food processor, you may still need a blender. This is especially true if you are making liquid foods like smoothies and soups.
Before you make a final decision, consider spending a little more money and buying a food processor-blender combo. For about $400, you can purchase a Ninja® or other brand that does many functions.
So, which is the best appliance for YOU, a blender or a food processor?
Culinary sites like BonAppetit.com have guidelines on specific uses for blenders versus food processors. They recommend blenders for liquefying, pureeing, and for mixing foods of the same texture. They highly recommend traditional blenders for smoothies, cocktails, and pureed soups. They also recommend immersion blenders for many blending tasks because they are easy to use, creating fewer containers to clean after the task. Immersion blenders sell for about $15 to $25.
Food processors, on the other hand, have sharper blades and are great for foods of different textures including tough-to-cut vegetables like carrots. They are also perfect for nuts and pesto but generally not for liquids and cutting chunks of vegetables to go into a soup broth.
Prior to any purchase, you'll want to ask friends for their experiences and read online customer reviews. Consider how you plan on using your blender or processor.
The blenders and food processors with the highest customer ratings tend to be in the range of about $600, but you can spend far less and perform virtually all the same kitchen functions with reasonable success. If you really want the high-end model, watch Craigslist or check a restaurant supply store for used units.
If your needs are simple, for under $30, you could buy a new blender and also a new food processor. No matter what you buy, be grateful that you're not spending hours with a knife, processing foods the old fashioned way!
Take the Next Step:
- Decide how fancy a blender or food processor ou need before you go shopping.
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