In this era of "smart" this and "smart" that, it's easy to forget that some of the best things are simple. That's true in the kitchen, especially.

Some kitchen gadgets are really good at some specialized task, but that's all they can do.

The blender is good for many tasks. Some more than others, as we'll see.

Let's talk about how to choose a blender.

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In This Article

Save Money With a Blender

Blender "Pro" Tips

Quality vs. Cheap


Save Money With a Blender

Baby food is somewhat expensive. True, a single jar seems cheap compared to some other things, but it adds up. Count how many jars you're using every day. You could easily be spending $150, even $200 a month on jars of baby food. And that's not even the organic. Try to save the empty jars from just one month, and I bet you'll run out of space.

Buying jars of baby food seems convenient, but maybe it's not. By the time you get done washing out empty baby food jars and dealing with the piles and piles of recycling... you could make the food yourself.

Blenders are great for other uses, too. Here again, you can save money. A blender is good for making homemade soups, sauces, dressings, desserts, smoothies, pancake batter, and probably a ton of other foods I didn't even think of.

This also has possible health benefits, in that you're avoiding highly-processed and metal-canned foods. Most cans are lined with a polymer that is known to leach bisphenol-A.

Aluminum (a toxic metal) can also leach into food.  Many cans today are made of aluminum-coated steel.  At least one study has shown that aluminum can migrate into foods, even in lined cans.

Blender "Pro" Tips

There are ways to get some mileage out of a cheap or mid-grade blender.

There are a couple reasons for using these blenders. One, they're more affordable than the professional machines; and two, they often have glass carafes.

Glass doesn't leach toxic monomers the way some plastics do. In fact, estrogenic compounds may be leaching from many different plastics we thought were "safe".  Bisphenol-A may be only the tip of the iceberg.  There is a lot of industry push to distract the public from the dangers of other plastics, but I doubt they'll be able to stem the tide forever.

With that said, there are some limitations to real life.  If we want to live in a world with plastics, this could be one of the trade-offs (until better plastic technology is invented, I suppose.)

So here's how to get the most out of a blender.

- Don't use a cheap blender to crush ice, unless the ice is already in a drink.

- Don't try to blend anything that could break the glass or burn out the motor of a cheap blender.

- When in doubt, use more water. It requires less blending to get results.

- Don't let a cheap blender run for minutes on end when you don't need to. Blend only as much as it takes to get the results you want. Lower-cost blenders often use bushings, not ball bearings. The motors fail more easily.

- Fancy electronics are just more stuff to go wrong. Numerous solder joints and cheap components allow more chances for something to fail. If you get a low-cost blender, get one with old-fashioned push buttons or toggle switches, not soft-touch controls.

- Some blenders are just loud. Not much you can do about this... except ear plugs.

- If you do use plastic, don't blend anything hot in it. This goes for expensive blenders, too. Any leaching of toxins would probably be least with cold foods. Hot foods that are acidic or fatty would be the worst. Hot gravy or tomato bisque would be examples of what not to blend in plastic. The estrogenic compounds tend to be very lipid-soluble (fat-soluble) molecules.  They don't dissolve as much in water...  although even pure benzene will dissolve in water to the point where you wouldn't want to drink that water.

- High-end or pro blenders are often not very good for small batches.  Either blend a large batch, or use a cheap blender that takes Mason jars.

Quality vs. Cheap

For a while I've used a super-cheap blender, and it's very unpleasant. It sounds like it's going to rattle apart any moment. Actually, though, if you run the base only, it's not much louder than any other blender.

That's the thing about designing something to run quietly: you have to engineer all the parts to work together quietly. And that costs money.

Earlier I mentioned that cheap blenders use bushings, while the better ones have bearings. The professional makes and models (such as VitaMix and BlendTec) are made for repeated, heavy use. They can also blend frozen fruits or vegetables;  meanwhile, the cheap blenders require you to thaw everything first.

I've used a couple different cheap blenders to try to blend frozen fruit, and it didn't work so well. Ultimately I had to thaw the fruit.

By the time a person gets done replacing all the cheap stuff that breaks, they could have bought the good one.

A very popular, good one-- a pro model-- is the Vitamix 5200 (available here). One nice feature is that it has an analog-style control knob, rather than a bunch of soft-touch buttons. The same goes for every Vitamix that I've seen thus far.  Professional-grade equipment normally doesn't try to cater to the "form over function" market, thankfully.

The Vitamix and Blendtec utilize plastic carafes, because glass is not really practical with high-speed blenders (unless you only blend soft materials on low speed). Likewise, the Oster Versa has a plastic carafe.  Stick with cold foods, don't store them in the carafe, and plastic leaching should be minimal. 

For homemade baby food, I would use an Oster blender with a glass jar (but not the Versa, because it takes a special carafe... if you want to use Mason jars, get one of these blenders).

Oster, like Hamilton Beach, makes a series of low-end consumer grade blenders. I used a 350-watt HB 50200 for years, and while it lasted for a long time, it's not that pleasant to use (loud, grind-y). Both HB and Oster have higher-end models.

The Versa by Oster is 1,400 watts and has a knob control similar to the Vitamix. The Vitamix is hard to surpass in terms of quality, but the Oster Versa is still a contender... at a much lower price.  (Get your Versa through this link and it helps me keep this site going.)


A low- or mid-range blender is tolerable, if you don't plan to use it every day.  If you pre-cook your vegetables, it will blend these up just fine (usually...).

Some of the cheap blenders don't vortex that well; get around this by using a little bit more water.

Most blenders made by Oster, and some by Hamilton Beach and a few others, will accept Mason jars. This will save you time and money, especially if you make small batches of salsa, chutney, whipped cream, homemade baby food, etc.   (The Versa will not accept these jars;  it has a different base).

If you want to blend ice, frozen fruit, fibrous vegetables, or anything else that needs a lot of power, you'll benefit greatly from a higher-end blender. They're made for years of daily use.

You can pick up a certified reconditioned Vitamix through this link for considerably less than the usual $450 to $550 price tag of a new one.

I wouldn't mind having a Vitamix, but the cost is obviously a consideration here.  If I had to choose a semi-serious blender right now, I would probably get one of these by Oster.  It's up in the range of wattage and rpm that produce actual smoothies, instead of leaving big chunks of kale (etc) in the drink.


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