An immersion blender is a hand-held electric blending device that can be used to mix, puree, or chop ingredients in hot or cold foods. They are sometimes also called hand blenders, stick blenders, wand blenders, or burr mixers. Immersion blenders can be very useful in the kitchen and can take the place of countertop blenders for many applications while taking up much less space and requiring fewer steps and cleanup. For example, an immersion blender can be used to puree a hot soup right in the pot without transferring it to a blender, waiting for it to cool, and transferring it back to the pot. Instead, the blade of the immersion blender can be put right into the soup. This also allows a good deal of control over the smoothness, so that a cook can get just the amount of smoothness or chunkiness he or she wants.
The immersion blender consists of a thicker wand end that acts as a handle and a thinner shaft with a rotary blender blade at the end. The blade is protected by a guard and the motor that runs the blade is housed in the thicker handle part at the top. They come in different sizes, the largest being long enough to puree food in large industrial sized pots. In fact, home version are actually scaled down versions of huge hand blenders, up to a yard long, originally used in restaurants or large institutional kitchens. The smaller consumer units were originally marketed as smoothie makers, a fad that makes some cooks think that they were nothing but fad gadget for a niche need.
As stated above, the main advantage of a hand immersion blender over a regular blender is that the food stays in whatever container it is in, whether pot or bowl. A hand blender can do pretty much anything a regular blender can do, but there are times when a regular blender will still be faster, despite the need to transfer, and depending on the power and size of your model, it may not be able to puree a mixture to the extent that a regular counter top blender can.
Keep in mind that a hand blender eliminates multitasking. You will always have to use one hand to hold the blender and move it around in the food, unlike a regular blender, which you can turn on and then perform another task while it is blending. However, for most cooks, once they see the versatility and ease of use of a hand immersion blender, they find themselves using it even more often than their regular blender.
Some immersion blenders come with additional accessories, such as whisk attachments, handy for whipping cream or egg whites, chopper attachments, and other accessories. They also come with different numbers of speeds, from one up to five. For the home cook, 2 to 3 speeds may be useful, but it is probably not necessary to invest in a much more expensive 5-speed immersion blender. Think of a 2-speed immersion blender as essentially having a low and high setting. When shopping for one, not how many watts the motor is, which will help you determine how powerful the highest setting is. Do not assume that because a blender has more speeds that it is more powerful.
Higher quality modern blenders come with detachable shafts (or “blending arm”) that can be removed for easier cleaning and are dishwasher safe.
The Cuisinart Smart Stick 2-speed immersion blender is a high-quality and affordable choice, featuring a detachable shaft and available in several colors.
Another popular choice is the KitchenAid 3-speed hand blender, which also has a detachable shaft.
Immersion Blender Uses
You can use a hand immersion blender for just about any blending job you can conceive of. If you have something to quickly blend, chop, or puree, and the shaft of the blender will fit into the container, you can probably use it, as long as there is a sufficient quantity of ingredients for the blades to come into contact with. Here are some of the many uses for an immersion blender:
- blend soups in the pot to make them semi-smooth or smooth
- mix a quick milkshake right in the glass (or an optional metal mixing cup) 1
- make a smoothie without a clunky counter-top blender 2
- make a small amount of salad dressing or sauce (or a large amount, of course)…great for a small batch of homemade mayonnaise
- have a lumpy gravy? Smooth it out right in the pot.
- great for making small batches of pureed baby foods
Safety and Other Tips for Immersion Blenders
- The blades on immersion blenders are very sharp. There is nothing to stop them turning on when they are not immersed. Never let the blades point toward your body or someone else’s and never turn the blades on until they are fully immersed.
Children should be trained on safety and be made to understand the dangers. A hand blender blade could easily remove the end of a finger.
- Related to the note above, you should never turn an immersion blender on before immersing the blade into the food you want to blend. If you turn on the blade first and then try to immerse it, the liquids and other ingredients will slosh out all over the place. If the food is hot, this could result in severe burns. And it will always make a big mess! Make sure the blade is well immersed into the food before whirring.
- On the same note as above, never remove the blade from the food while it is still turned on, as this will also result in splatter. Let the blade come to a stop before removing it.
- Never try to clean the blade while the blender is plugged in. You may want to remove a piece of food that has adhered to the blade, for example. Get in the habit of always unplugging the unit before touching the blade. You may tell yourself that you would never ever touch the one button while touching the blade, but it could happen!
- When using lightweight bowls or other containers for blending, the high speed of an immersion blender can cause the bowl to move or even be dislodged from the surface it is sitting on. Make sure to hold onto the container before turning on the mixer.
- It is usually based to use a deep bowl, pot, or other mixing vessel, that is deeper than you actually need to hold all the ingredients. This will allow plenty of room for blending without the ingredients sloshing out. Also, a deeper and more narrow container will speed up blending whereas a wider more shallow vessel will slow the process down.
- Do not use an immersion hand blender to mix cake batters as they may overwork the batter.
- The body of the blender, where the motor is, should not be immersed in water.
- Keep in mind that a hand immersion blender is meant for blending, not mixing. Although a whisk attachment can be handy for whipping cream or egg whites, a hand-held or counter-top mixer will still work best. As well, the blade of an immersion blender is not a good tool for mixing cake batters. Stick with a mixer for most “mixing” jobs.