There are a number of types of blender, including immersion (also known as a stick or hand blender), personal, countertop and portable.
Immersion/stick/ hand blender
A stick or immersion blender is one of the most useful kitchen appliances you’ll ever own. It’s compact, versatile, quick, easy to use and easier to clean. (To clean it, you can simply stick it in a little soapy water, blend and rinse.)
One of its handiest functions is to blend ingredients while they’re still in the saucepan. So, if you’ve cooked up a soup, you can turn it from chunky to creamy in seconds and only have to rinse off the blender head afterwards.
Many jug blenders shouldn't be used with hot ingredients, but a hand blender - which has an all-metal blending head and stick - can be immersed in hot liquid, so you don't need to wait for your food to cool.
They can be corded or cordless. The latter are easier to use as there’s no wire to knock over items on your kitchen counter or dangle precariously close to a heat course, but they're generally more expensive and you need to be aware of battery life.
It’s called an immersion blender for a reason. You must completely submerge the blending head if you’re blending liquids or you’ll splatter your kitchen (and yourself) with soup or sauce. This is why it’s better to use on larger volumes of food. Most blenders of this kind come with a tall, narrow blending cup. This will allow you to blend smaller volumes without creating a crime scene.
It's not as useful when it comes to chopping nuts for toppings and salads. For this, you'll need a dedicated mini chopper or food processor. However, stick blenders often come with a mini chopper attachment.
Use the pulse function when blending chunky food. That means press and release. If you hold down the blend button to puree tough items, you risk burning out your motor.
Making soups, sauces (try pesto and salsa), batter mix, eggs, whipped cream and smoothies.
It's less powerful. Don’t use it to crush ice.
One to buy
We tested and reviewed the Smeg hand blender, which is a really beautiful piece of kitchen equipment. It's also very powerful. It's currently available to buy for £59.99 from Amazon UK. Do note that in spite of the picture above, it is a corded appliance. You can also buy it with a full set of attachments, including a mini chopper. The best price we can currently find for it is on eCookshop, where it's £116.95.
If you’re after something more budget-friendly, read our review of the Russell Hobbs Desire 3-in-1 blender, which also dices and whisks. You can buy it direct from Russell Hobbs for £39.99.
Single-serve/ personal blender
A single-serve blender is a compact little countertop device that makes a smoothie or shake for one. Typically, the appliance is in two halves, with a motor at the base and an inverted cup on top. When you’ve finished blending, you simply turn the appliance upside down and voila! your drink is ready. They’re inexpensive, easy to clean and simple to use. The NutriBullet is probably the most well-known blender of this kind.
Wattage on these varies from about 200W to 600W. If you plan to crush ice in it regularly, opt for a higher wattage. If it has a pulse function, use it to protect the motor.
Find out if you can buy replacement cups: if yours comes with a single cup and you damage or lose it, your blender will be useless. Having a spare cup make smoothies for two much simpler as well.
Making smoothies and milkshakes. You can also use them to puree baby food or make dips.
Obviously, they can only handle small volumes of food.
One to buy
You can buy the NutriBullet Magic Bullet blender (pictured above) for £39.99 from Amazon UK right now. For the price, you'll get an 11-piece kit. It's a solid, inexpensive starter option for people who aren't sure how often they'll use a personal blender.
Countertop blenders are much larger than personal blenders. Typically, they will feature a capacious jug – up to two litres – that sits on a base housing the motor.
Most are designed to blend cold drinks. They are relatively easy to clean: add warm water and a drop of washing-up liquid and whizz for a few seconds.
On the negative side, they take up a lot of space.
A countertop blender can cost anything from £20 to £450 (for a bartender’s blender of commercial quality). A more expensive blender will be more powerful and – importantly – more durable. If you want to use it regularly to make drinks with crushed ice, be prepared to invest more. You should look for a device of at least 500 watts with ice-crushing blades. It’ll save you money in the long run as ice and frozen fruit will dull blades and affect a less powerful motor over time. A cheaper blender will need to be replaced sooner.
Make sure you secure the lid before you start blending. Some blenders have a safety lid that must be fitted properly before the blender will start. If yours doesn't, keep a hand on the top of the lid to make sure its in place while you blend.
Making drinks with crushed ice.
These are generally not recommended to use with hot liquids. Steam can build up and the pressure can pop off the lid, giving your kitchen a surprise blended drinks paint job. Hot liquids can occasionally warp the lid or plastic jug.
One to buy
Ninja blenders are a popular option. The Ninja 2-in-1 Blender is available from Amazon UK for £89 and is pictured above. It's a 2.1 litre countertop blender with ice crushing blades and a 1,200 watt motor. It has an LED screen and pre-set blending programmes. It also comes with a personal blender attachment.
Portable blender/ blender bottle
Portable blenders come into two forms. One is a motorised hand blender you can take out with you, the other is a blender bottle.
A blender bottle is just a shaker cup. It contains a blender ball that helps you to mix drinks on the fly. Its key use is to make protein shakes but it can also be used to make iced coffee and the like.
Portable blenders are cordless. On the plus side, they're inexpensive. On the minus, they are the least powerful blender type.
Look out for a portable blenders that can also be charged via USB.
To look after your blender, if you’re using it to puree fruit, you’ll need to chop your ingredients into small chunks or risk damaging the motor. More resistant ingredients, like raw carrots, may not puree smoothly. You may also find that crushing whole ice cubes shortens its lifespan considerably.
Strength and weakness
It's portable. There's really no other reason to buy one.
One to buy
BlendJet produces some of the more powerful and well-liked products on the market. The BlendJet One is currently available for £29.95.
This is the ultimate purchase for serious bakers. If you regularly make bread, cakes, pastry and other baked goods, or you make them in large volumes, you should invest in a stand mixer.
If you know the sorts of jobs in the kitchen you'd like to use a blender or mixer for, but a single item won't do it all, you may be able to get the best of both worlds with a combo blender.
These come in various forms. You can buy stand mixers with blender attachments, immersion blenders with chopping accessories and countertop blenders with personal blender add-ons.
Search for the functionality you want and you may be able to save money and space with a single device that best suits your requirements.