With so many options out there, choosing a blender, food processor, or other mixing appliance can be overwhelming and confusing. Yes, each type has a slightly different function and it's own time to shine. Having one or two of the basic and most efficient ones should meet your everyday needs in the kitchen.
Choosing the right appliances depends greatly on your individual needs. Knowing the difference between each type and answering a few simple questions will allow you to find the best choice for your kitchen. Here are a few of the most useful and versitile gadgets we love:
Blender - With prices ranging from $13 to $449, some blenders definitely earn their coveted space on the counter. We'd like to say that they're all the same and opting for the a more expensive model isn't necessary, but the truth is a good blender, such as a Ninja or Vitamix, is worth every penny. A good quality blender will transform the most texturally difficult group of ingredients into the smoothest puree or sauce, with ease. However, if you're not into making sauces, soups, etc or you're usually cooking for one to two people, this may not be the best investment.
Immersion Blender - This is like the "cliff's notes" for the larger/traditional counter top blender. It can give a smooth and consistent texture to a puree or immulsify a quick vinaigrette with very little hassle. Although it has it's limitations due to the small blade, it is one of my absolute favorite when it comes to versatility and convenience. Being hand held, you can puree sauces or soups while they're still in the pot, use it for large or small batches while having very little clean up or sacrificing counter space. There are definitely some things it does not work well for, such as chopping or combining heavy/sticky mixtures such as meat or dried fruit.
Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer - Many people swear by their stand mixer(such as a Kitchen Aid) and use it often. If you're a baker or preparing large batches it is definitely your go-to. However, for the purposes of putting a quick and easy nightly dinner on the table, opting for a smaller, hand-held mixer would more than suffice. There are few savory dishes, such as mashed potatoes, that can utilize a hand mixer so I wouldn't call it a "must have", but none the less, definitely has it's place in the kitchen.
Food Processor - With so many new gadgets coming out, a good old food processor still deserves respect. There are some jobs that just can't be done with a blender, bullet or Ninja. Because of it's power, various attachments, and large bowl, it can combine large amounts of tough ingredients such as dried fruit, nuts, and meat. It can also roughly chop ingredients by pulsing, which eliminates some time if your knife skills aren't the best. It's different attachments such as the shredding blade are useful for shredding cheese, cabbage, lettuce, etc. The cons of this appliance is that it's very bulky, takes up a lot of counter space, and often provides a relatively course product, not ideal for some recipes. It can also easily over mix things which is why one should never use it for some things such as mashed potatoes, unless you want them turning to a gummy goo.
Mini Food Processor - If I had to pick one appliance to suggest to the common home cook in our Lettuce Network, this would be it. It is extremely convenient when preparing meals for two to six people. It can emulsify a vinaigrette, make a quick sauce, and save you the tears by roughly chopping an onion with just a few quick pulses. It's very easy to clean, takes up very little space and is relatively inexpensive. Be careful not to over fill it with liquid ingredients because it will definitely overflow all over your counter.
Now that we have a quick overview of the different functions of some of our basic favorites, you can base your decision on the following; The tasks you most commonly need done, the number of people you usually cook for, and what will fit best into your kitchen and budget. An appliance should not be intimidating or troublesome. The right choice will make life easier and can be your best friend in the kitchen!