The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Blenders

There's more to blenders than simple smoothies

Blender jug with smoothie ingredients
annick vanderschelden photography / Getty Images

A kitchen blender is an essential home appliance that can quickly purée and blend a variety of different foods. These time-saving tools come in a variety of capacities and with the right accessories, can also be used for food processing or chopping.

However, not all blenders are alike, so reading your blender's product manual is essential to understanding the function of your blender. From basic functions to uses and cleaning tips, we have everything you need to know about this kitchen appliance.

Basic Blender Functions

In the absence of product information that confirms a blender can crush ice or has extended food processing functions, you should assume that your blender can only blend, purée, stir, or mix liquids, thin batters, dressings, and cooked foods or softer raw fruits and vegetables including onions, tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms.

If you're unsure of what setting to use, the pulse setting is often sufficient and more appropriate for many blending tasks.

Blenders that that are designed to crush ice feature a combination of sufficient power and a specially designed stainless blade. Models that have extended processing functions are generally high-powered, come with additional chopping accessories, and are in the higher price range.

How to Use Your Blender

When filling your blender you should always place liquid ingredients in the jar first, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Your vegetables and food items should always be cut into smaller portions to enable foods to circulate around the blade and are evenly cut. Once all your ingredients are added, always ensure that there is room for expansion; a great rule of thumb is to leave your blender at least one-third empty, although this can be slightly more for thinner liquids.

If you're working with hot liquids, make sure you blend them carefully, starting on the lowest speed and only if your model is designed to handle their temperatures. Leave the lid cap off for steam to escape and fill the jar only half full, allowing more room for expansion. You may need to use a hot pad while holding down the lid during operation.

You should always avoid running your blender longer than needed. Not all blenders are equipped with overload protection and you don't want to kill your blender's motor. If you need to switch between settings or speeds, allow the blender to come to a full stop before changing.

Never operate the blender without the jar being securely placed on the unit and regardless of how snug the lid is, you should always hold it down while the blender is operating to avoid any potential accidents. In addition, you should never operate the blender without the lid. Even the smallest amount of food can create quite a mess if the lid is not secured.

The Best Foods to Blend

There are a variety of recipes and foods you can make using standard jar blenders. You can blend: purée soft or cooked foods, creamed soup and gravy, eggs, eggnog, fillings for creampie or custards, frozen concentrated juices or other beverages, homemade pancake or waffle batter, smoothies, ice cream shakes, instant puddings, salad dressings, salsas, dips, mayonnaise, bread, cracker, or cookie crumbs, and crush ice and blending frozen beverages (if so designed).

Foods That Don't Belong in Your Blender

Always consult your product manual if uncertain what your particular blender can and cannot do, as capabilities vary per model. If you need a little inspiration, buy one or two recipe books to get the most out of your blender.

However, you should never use your blender to mash potatoes, whip egg whites and cream, extract juice from fruits and vegetables (unless it has an extraction setting), grind raw meats, knead or process dough, or blend hard vegetables.

How to Clean Your Blender

To make cleaning easier between blending batches, put a small amount of warm water and dish detergent in the jar, and pulse for a quick and easy wash immediately after using--just make sure to rinse thoroughly before blending again.

Once all blending tasks are finished, disassemble the jar and blade assembly to clean it carefully. You should also never immerse the main/base blender unit in water. Wipe the exterior and any spills in the base with a damp cloth after unplugging the appliance.