An immersion blender is a hand-held blender that looks a lot like a wand. It has a long driveshaft that can be submerged in liquids. Best known for pureeing soups, immersion blenders can be used to make dressings, salsas, whipped cream, and more. These gadgets are popular with cooks because they allow you to blend things, without having to transfer them to another appliance or container. This saves time and results in fewer dishes to wash. If you don't have an immersion blender, don't worry. There are other appliances and techniques that you can use to achieve the same result. See below for suggested substitutes for a variety of popular recipes that call for an immersion blender.
Soups are typically cooked on the stovetop in large stock pots or Dutch ovens. If you're making a smooth soup, such as tomato soup, split pea soup, or a bisque, an immersion blender is the perfect tool for pureeing your soup. You can achieve the same result by ladling a few cups of soup at a time into a blender or food processor and blending. If you take this approach, be sure to work in small batches, especially if the soup is hot. This will keep it from splattering or exploding in the blender or food processor. Only fill the appliance halfway, and be sure the lid is firmly in place before you power it on. If you don't want your soup to be perfectly smooth, don't puree all of it. For example, some cooks prefer a pea soup that has some remaining full peas. You can also use a blender or food processor to puree bean dishes that call for a smooth texture.
Dressings and Salsas
Making salad dressing, mayonnaise, or salsa with an immersion blender can be quick and easy. A food processor can be just as effective for salad dressings and mayonnaise. Instead of adding the various ingredients to a mixing bowl and inserting the blender, combine the ingredients in the food processor's bowl and pulse until the desired texture is reached. This is especially useful when a recipe calls for adding the oil in a steady stream. Just drizzle it in through the food processor's feed tube to incorporate it with the other ingredients. A food processor will also nicely blend hummus and pesto. For salsas, simply chop the ingredients finely enough to achieve the desired texture. Admittedly, this will result in a slightly chunkier salsa, but it will taste just as delicious.
Mixing Eggs and Cream
Some cooks like to use an immersion blender to mix eggs and batters or to whip cream. While this can be convenient and easy, a hand mixer will also do the job; it has the added bonus of whipping in a bit more air, so you get a fluffier end product. If you have one of the fancy, multi-blade blenders, you can also use it to whip batters and cream.
Smoothies made from fruit, vegetables, yogurt, nuts, and other wholesome ingredients are becoming increasingly popular. Some immersion blenders come with close-fitting containers that make whipping up a smoothie a relatively easy task, but you can use a blender to get the same results.
Buying an Immersion Blender
As kitchen appliances go, immersion blenders are relatively inexpensive, typically costing between $30-60. So, if you prepare a lot of recipes that call for an immersion blender, it may be well worth purchasing one. Unlike big stand mixers or blenders, immersion blenders don't take up a lot of room and can be easily stashed in a kitchen drawer or cabinet. If you only find yourself needing one a couple times a year, just use the above substitutions to get your meal on the table, and enjoy the extra cabinet space.