Buying Guide: The Best Bar Blenders For You

The authors of The New Cooks' Catalogue certainly know what to look for when choosing cooking equipment. These leading culinary experts have been evaluating cooking equipment for over 25 years. The following information is what they consider important when selecting a bar blender.

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What to Look For

  • The blender jar should hold at least 40 ounces and be made of glass or stainless steel.
  • High wattage (at least 350 watts) indicates a powerful motor.
  • The base should be heavy and wide to prevent the blender from wobbling during use.
  • In the best designs, the blender jar opens at the bottom (as well as the top) making it easier to remove the blended mixture and clean the jar.
  • Numerous speeds are not a necessity. Low, high and "pulse" settings can accomplish most tasks, but the best machines also offer an ice-crushing setting.
  • Touch-pad controls are easier to clean.

More information

Uses

The modern blender is an excellent tool for blending fruit, rum, lime juice, sugar syrup and ice into a daiquiri, but it will also purée and emulsify. Its tall, narrow container can produce fine-textured puréed soup or sauce better than a food processor's wide workbowl. High-end blenders are also extremely powerful and can crush ice without added liquid. The best-performing blenders feature between 350 and 500 watts.

Containers

The blender jar should set securely into the base. A glass container gives you the ability to see inside while stainless steel offers you less information but will not break. We are less partial to plastic containers; though they are lightweight and hard to shatter, the surface eventually scratches. It’s helpful to have a container with easily readable calibrations and a pouring lip.

Capacity

Container capacities range from 32 ounces (4 cups) to 56 ounces (7 cups). Since you should only fill the container halfway with ingredients (or risk splattering), a large capacity will reduce the need to refill. Choose one with a capacity of at least 40 ounces. The cover should seal tightly to the container and feature an opening for adding ingredients while the machine is running. The opening also allows steam to escape when blending hot liquids, an important safety feature. The best designs have containers that open at the bottom as well as the top. If the blades can be removed from the jar, it will be easier to remove the contents and clean up.

The motor base should be extra wide, as well as heavy enough to prevent the unit from creeping across your work surface when blending heavy mixtures or crushing ice. Because glass containers weigh more they also add to the stability of the unit. A machine should weigh a minimum of 5 pounds.

Speeds

Two speeds—high and low—and a pulse button are the only controls you really need. Nonetheless, most high-end blenders have at least 5 speeds. A wider range of speeds will make the machine a little more versatile, and an ice-crushing speed is a big plus since blenders are often used for making drinks. A pulse function keeps ingredients moving and makes for more even results. When you blend basil, pine nuts, and oil into a pesto sauce, for example, the pulse function helps pull the solids from beneath the blades.

Cleaning

Blenders with touch-pad controls are easier to clean (but not always easier to set) than push buttons. To clean the blender jar, add hot water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid and run it for a few seconds. Almost all parts of a blender (with the exception of the motor base) are dishwasher safe.

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