Tools: How to Choose a Blender

Picking the best machine for the job

As you grow your kitchen kit beyond high-quality hand tools, small appliances will begin teasing you at the cookware shop.

Some make quick work of cooking chores like chopping. Others achieve results that you simply couldn't by hand. A blender is one workhorse that accomplishes what the busy cook can't–like puréeing frozen fruit into a smoothie or quickly crushing ice. At the Tasting Table Test Kitchen, our blender has earned a permanent position on our countertop, thanks to its versatility and easy cleanup.

When choosing the right model for your needs and budget, consider these fundamentals:

Power: Wattage matters. If you're an occasional user on a tight budget, a low wattage unit of at least 350 watts may do the job. You will need a more powerful unit, though, for handling that summer gazpacho or frozen margarita. Note: In general, higher wattage usually equals a louder blender.

Speed: More speeds does not a better blender make. Choose one that has at least three: low, high and pulse. The home mixologist will also appreciate a model with a pulsing "ice-crushing" mode.

The Jar: The blender should hold at least 40 fluid ounces to give you flexibility for puréeing soups and other large-batch items. Be sure the cover seals tightly and features an opening for adding ingredients while the blender is in motion. We avoid stainless steel jars because they block your view during blending. A plastic jar is easy to handle and clean, but ensure it is BPA-free and made of commercial-grade plastic to avoid the scratching that often leads to stains and smells.

Special Features: Beyond power, speed and jar characteristics, everything else is nice to have. You can decide whether special features like whole-grains grinding are useful in your kitchen.