It's late January... do you know where your resolutions are? If one of your goals this year was to eat healthier, a blender can be your best friend. But with prices ranging from as little as $15 to upward of $700, there's a huge array of quality levels and features to choose from.
You can find blenders with one-touch programs that will crush ice or make a perfectly textured smoothie. Some have a single-serve jar so you can blend your drink and take it to go right in the container. Some models can even grind grains into flour or "cook" soup to piping hot.
We tested a variety of blenders, from basic to super deluxe, and narrowed our list down to four recommended models. Our goal was to find the best option across various price points, with models you're likely to find at major kitchenware stores or online. In terms of testing, we put them through a variety of common tasks to see how they measured up, including making green smoothies, crushing ice and, in the case of the higher-power models, heating ingredients for soup.
You're probably already familiar with the basic layout of a blender, but here's a cheat sheet for what to look for on each part specifically:
Blending Jar: Glass jars are usually tempered and won't scratch, stain or retain odors, but plastic jars can be more durable. Measurement markers on the sides of the blending jar are handy for measuring ingredients right into the blender.
Lid: Look for a lid with a tight seal, usually made of flexible rubber so it can wedge snugly into the lid (but it shouldn't fit so tightly it's a challenge to remove). Blender lids often have a removable insert in the center, which can be lifted off to add ingredients while blending, or opened slightly for ventilation while working with hot ingredients. Some of the lid inserts double as measuring cups, usually in the amount of one ounce.
Blades: Some blade designs are sharp, some are dull and most are made of stainless steel (the sharp blades don't necessarily work any better, and they can cause a nasty injury as you're cleaning them). In some models, the base of the jar with the blades unscrews for cleaning. We prefer jar designs where the blades are fixed into the base; there's no chance of leaking.
Base and Motor: The power of a blender ranges from around 250 or 300 watts to as high as 1,500 for some of the very high-end blenders. While power is important, it's not the only indicator of performance; a sturdy housing for the motor, the design of the blades and shape of the blending jar are also factors.
Control Panel: Whether it's a dial, a switch, buttons or a touch screen, the control panel is how the user operates the blender. Look for controls that will be easy to wipe clean, with no crevices where drips can collect. Depending on the model, a blender might have two or more speeds, function buttons like purée or chop, one-touch preset programs and/or a pulse button. Some blenders have digital displays and countdown timers.
Vitamix Professional Series 750 ($639)
Why We Like It: Vitamix has a cult following among chefs and home cooks alike, and one of its latest (and priciest) model ramps up the functionality of its more basic offerings. The 750 adds five preprogrammed settings for its most common functions: smoothies, frozen desserts, hot soups, purée and self-cleaning. Of course, you can also operate the blender manually; we love the responsiveness of the dial, which allows you to fine-tune the speed with a flick of the wrist, and there's also a pulse feature.
With a 2.2 horsepower motor and a well-designed blending jar, it's easy to see why Vitamix is so beloved. Smoothies, even with greens, are velvet smooth, and ice is crushed quickly to snow. Through the friction of the powerful motor, this blender is one of the few on the market that can heat soup or other liquids just by blending. One of the big selling points of the Vitamix is its versatility: You can purchase the Dry Grains blending jar separately to grind your own flours if that's your bag.
The Drawbacks: Even with the lower-profile design, the 750 is tall (with the jar in place, it clocks in at 17.4 inches), so measure your cabinets if it's important to you that it fits under them. And then there's the hefty price tag. Vitamix's basic model, the 5200, clocks in at $449, but doesn't have the presets or the more compact jar.
Blendtec Designer 625 ($480)
Why We Like It: Blendtec rivals Vitamix in popularity and with good reason. The two are similar in price and performance. The Blendtec claims a 3.0 horsepower motor, which is more powerful than the Vitamix, but its performance is much the same (albeit noisier): We were impressed with the creamy, fiber-free spinach smoothie we made using the smoothie cycle, and we could've packed a mean snowball with the ice we crushed. Comparing prices, you can get more features for your money if you go with the Blendtec: The 625 is loaded with smoothie, ice cream, whole juice and hot soup preset functions, and an illuminated digital touch-screen control that feels intuitive to anyone with an iPhone.
The Drawbacks: Although the preset functions give the impression you can press a button and walk away, don't risk it—when making a smoothie with frozen chunks of banana, the blender rocked precariously unless it was held in place for the first few seconds. It's also a little on the loud side.
Breville Hemisphere Control ($200)
Why We Like It: This Australian company is known for its well-designed kitchenware, so it's no surprise that Breville's Hemisphere Control blender is full of clever touches, like little loopholes in the lid and at the plug for easy grabbing, and a unique blade configuration that ensures that the food is constantly being redirected back to the chopping blades in the center. The blender has five manual function settings (snow, mix, blend, liquefy and purée) and two programs: ice crush and smoothie, which work with a combination of pulsing and various speeds. If you're into making frozen drinks, you'll love how fine the ice ends up, and the pulsing action keeps it fluffy. With 750 watts of power, the Breville's motor isn't as powerful as the higher-end models above, but it's a good example of how the right jar and blade design can make the most of less power.
The Drawbacks: The smoothie function didn't completely eliminate flecks of spinach by the end of its 60-second cycle, but a few more seconds on the purée speed helped. This blender has less power than the higher-end models and only five settings, as opposed to the 10-speed range of some pricier options.
Oster Beehive ($70)
Why We Like It: A darling of the design world, the classic Beehive blender has retro good looks coupled with impressive performance. You won't find all the bells and whistles of other blenders: One toggle controls two speeds and a pulse function. It's got a six-cup glass blending jar, and because the blade unscrews from the jar, you can do the mason jar trick and use this blender to make grab-and-go smoothies. It's got 600 watts of power, which is fairly typical of the under-$100 blenders, but we were pleasantly surprised with how thoroughly it processed ice and green smoothies. It did decent work with puréeing soup and chopping up salsa ingredients, too.
The Drawbacks: This blender is definitely no frills, so if you like the idea of having multiple speeds, it's not for you. And it's far noisier than others we tried.
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