A blender is a blender, right? You want food pureed, so you add food, turn it on, and that’s that.
Wrong, as I found out. Having never owned a blender before, I started messing around with my shiny new high-speed blender sight unseen. I didn’t use any special recipes, and I didn’t read the manual.
Turns out a high-speed blender is its own beast, with its own quirks. Roll up your sleeves and we’ll learn the key ins-and-outs of these fun, muscular appliances. You’ll be blending up a storm in no time.
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH HIGH-SPEED BLENDERS?
High-speed blenders have been on the market for a while, often with price tags $500 or above. Initially, they were found only in commercial kitchens, but the secret has been out for years. Now that manufacturers have been able to bring the cost down significantly, they’re a much more common item for home cooks.
But why bother? What do high-speed blenders offer that a $35 blender doesn’t?
The short answer is the obvious one: speed. High-speed blenders have very powerful motors that make fibrous and hard foods silky-smooth. Kale leaves, spinach stems, stringy dates – they all become ultra-creamy purees in a high-speed blender. Smoothie enthusiasts love this because it lets them pack more fiber and nutrition into their drinks. Chefs love this because their pureed soups and sauces are incredibly smooth.
This powerful motor comes with its own traits that are not part of traditional blending, though. (We’ll dish on those in a bit.)
DO YOU NEED A HIGH-SPEED BLENDER?
Maybe. Here are a few reasons you might want one:
- If you make lots of smoothies with high-fiber ingredients, nut-based sauces, and generally use a blender a lot, then yes, you’ll benefit from having a high-speed blender.
- If you need a new blender and a reliable high-speed model is in your price range, then yes, take the plunge. High-speed blenders are more versatile than traditional models, and their strong motors last longer.
And a few reasons you might not:
- If you mostly make milkshakes, margaritas, and smoothies with basic soft fruits, then no.
- If you already own a traditional blender and are perfectly happy with it, then no, you don’t need a high-speed blender. Just stick with what works.
COMMON HIGH-SPEED BLENDER BRANDS
Vitamix is probably the best-known high-speed blender. Blendtec and Ninja are two others. Well-established appliance makers like Breville, KitchenAid, Waring, and Oster have made entries into the high-speed blender market, too. Some brands, like NutriBullet, offer the option of making one portion at a time in a small to-go blender jar.
For my testing, I used a Vitamix E310, which I liked a lot, especially because of its wide-mouth pitcher. (Please note the photos in this post are of the Ninja Ultima blender, not the Vitamix.) I also tested a store brand blender with a tall pitcher, but I didn’t like how it sat so high on the counter. I’d often bump the lid on the cupboards when removing it. Tall, narrow pitchers are also harder to scrape thicker foods (think hummus or nut butter) out of thoroughly.
Some of the Simply Recipes team have high-speed blenders, too. Here’s what they say about them:
ON BLENDTEC BLENDERS: Claudia and Cambria both have Blendtec blenders, and would recommend them. “The main reason I chose the Blendtec is that it doesn’t have sharp blades, so if my kids got into it they wouldn’t get hurt,” says Claudia. “Also, Blendtec has really good customer service. Our motor somehow burned out, and they sent us a whole new one, no questions asked.”
Cambria seconds the great customer service. She’s used a Blendtec blender for the last decade, and they’ve sent her replacement parts multiple times, free of charge. “I also like how the Blendtec blender is shorter than the Vitamix, so it can easily fit under my kitchen cabinet. A tamper would be nice for making smoothies, so that I didn’t have to stop the machine and move ingredients around, but once I do that it pulverizes everything amazingly well.”
ON NINJA BLENDERS: Summer has a Ninja blender. “It’s pretty bulky, but I do like that it has a smoothie cup attachment so I don’t have to get the whole pitcher out. I can just use the smoothie cup, blend, and go.”
ON NUTRIBULLET BLENDERS: Megan bought a Nutribullet recently and now says her smoothies are like velvet. “Our old blender always left huge frozen chunks and the smoothie was never well blended. Now I feel like a new woman on a smoothie kick!”
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A BLENDER IS A HIGH-SPEED BLENDER?
There are two giveaways:
- The blender jar will be made of super-strong, high-grade plastic. Why plastic? The friction and power of high-speed blenders is so burly, it can make glass blender jars shatter.
- The blender will have a 1000- to 1500-watt motor. That’s in league with a microwave or shop vac. Keep in mind that good design is just as important—if not more so—than watts, though. A badly designed blender will be awkward to use no matter how powerful the motor.
HIGH-SPEED BLENDER ANATOMY
- Base: The unit with the motor that the jar rests on.
- Jar: The pitcher you blend the food in.
- Blades: The metal blades in the base of the jar.
- Lid: Like traditional blenders, high-speed blenders have lids with holes.
- Plug: The little stopper that plugs up the hole in the lid. Keep the plug in the lid unless you are adding ingredients (like a stream of oil) when the blender is running, or you are using the tamper.
- Tamper: A blunt plastic plunger you stick into the lid’s hole if you need to push food around as the blender is running. Not every high-speed blender has one of these. (Blendtecs don’t, for example.) Don’t get rid of that tamper! It’s a vital tool when making pastes like hummus or nut butter. The tamper is designed just for your blender. Don’t go sticking other utensils, like wooden spoons, in the jar while the motor is running.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIPS FOR HIGH-SPEED BLENDERS
- Secure the lid well before turning on the blender. And I mean really hold that lid on there! The motors on these guys are powerful, and when first turned on they can have a kickback like a handgun. This can propel the lid off even if your hand is casually resting on top. Not only can this cause a mess, but if the blender is full of hot liquid, it can be a hazard.
- Don’t put boiling water in the blender jar. Why? The friction of those quickly whirring blades (some models have blades that rotate over 300 mph) means ingredients get hotter as they blend! You want liquids to be 115° F or lower when you add them—even if you’re making a hot soup.
- Don’t fill the blender jar more than 2/3 full, and only halfway full if your liquid is hot. Liquid expands in the blender jar, and hot liquid can kick off the lid when you power up the blender.
HOW TO USE A HIGH-SPEED BLENDER
There are four main things to keep in mind when working with a high speed blender: work with your blender instead of against it, load the blender strategically, master the variable speeds, and pay attention to which ingredients need soaking.
Here’s more about each one of those points!
1. Work with your blender, not against it.
Don’t assume blending will be a set-it-and-forget-it breeze. Sometimes you’ll need to nudge the thing along, especially when blending thicker foods.
It’s a good idea to make a small variety of recipes to get acquainted with how your blender operates. Try a basic smoothie, then a chunky paste like a pesto, and see what happens when you crush ice.
2. Load the blender strategically.
For best results, don’t just toss ingredients in the blender willy-nilly. Add liquids first, then powders, then solids, then ice. This order helps foods puree smoothly, with minimal interference from you.
Using recipes designed just for high-speed blenders is a good move if you’re just getting started. Good ones will state the order you need to add ingredients to the blender, if it’s important. Eventually, you’ll catch on and start adapting all kinds of recipes on your own.
3. Master the variable speeds.
Most high-speed blenders come with a little knob you crank up from 1 to 10. This is the variable speed dial. You always want to start with the variable speed on its lowest setting and work up from that.
Starting the unit on high every time can overwork the motor. The bonus in starting on low? It spatters food around the blender jar less, so you don’t have to stop the machine as often to scrape down the sides of the jar.
However, you don’t want to run the blender for too long on low speed either. This can overwork the motor. Just start on low and steadily increase to high. For most foods, blending time will be under a minute. For thick pastes, work in pulses of 30 seconds or so. Any longer than that and something is amiss: either the machine or your technique.
Sometimes the blades will spin, but the food won’t catch. Either there’s not enough food in the blender for the blades to work, or there’s an air bubble in the base near the blades. If it’s the latter, reach for your tamper and push the food down closer to the blades.
4. Soak certain ingredients (like nuts and dates) first.
Some high-speed blender recipes, such as nut-based sauces and nut milks, call for presoaking nuts or dates. Even though your blender is totally up to the task of pureeing these things, a quick soak softens them up to give you smoother results. And—as far as nuts—the soak helps your body absorb nutrients better.
HOW TO CLEAN A HIGH-SPEED BLENDER
Some models have blender jars and lids that are dishwasher-safe on the top rack, but others recommend hand-washing only.
Wash the blender jar right after you’re done using it. Food is much easier to clean off when it has not dried into a crust or film. The easiest way to wash a blender jar is to do the following:
- Fill the jar halfway with warm water.
- Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid.
- Start the machine on low speed, then increase the speed gradually.
- Run it on high for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Rinse out the jar very well and wash any lingering food residue off the lid and plug as needed.
- Voila – a clean blender!
And yes, you’re basically making a soap frappe!
A FINAL NOTE ON NOISE
Hear ye, hear ye! High-speed blenders can be very loud. Some models are designed to be less noisy, so if decibel levels are a concern, shop with that in mind.
I have tinnitus, and a blending session can really set off the ringing in my ears. One solution? I simply wear earplugs when I’m blending. That way I don’t spend the next day feeling like I was at a Motörhead concert.
GOT THE GIST OF IT? NOW BLEND UP SOME RECIPES:
- Homemade mayonnaise in a blender is magic. Make sure to start the variable speed on low but swiftly turn it up to high (if you don’t, the mayonnaise could curdle).
- Spicy and earthy Mexican posole rojo is delicious because it uses dried red chilies that are first soaked in water, then blended. When using a high-speed blender, there’s no need to strain the pureed liquid, because all the tough bits get obliterated.
- Mmm, this vegan apple pie smoothie is luscious! Ingredients like dates and cashews can tire out lesser blenders, but they blend like a dream in high-speed blenders.
- Hummus is classic. Remember to add the liquids first and use the tamper to push the paste around as it blends if it gets hung up with air bubbles.
- Strawberry milk made with real strawberries beats anything made from a fake pink powdered mix. You can rinse off the berries and add them—edible green tops and all—into the blender. A high-speed blender will pummel the nutrient-packed greens so they’re invisible.
- Seared scallops with asparagus sauce show how fibrous produce like asparagus gets ultra-smooth when pureed in a high-speed blender.
- Vegan cashew cream sauce is so versatile! Soaked cashews make it creamy, and a high-speed blender cuts the soaking time down to just 30 minutes.
- Green mojito smoothies! All the minty goodness of mojitos, in healthy smoothie form.
- Our friend Tess Masters, the Blender Girl, knows her way around a high-speed blender. Here’s her Detox Smoothie.