Note from Katie: There are a handful of appliances that I rely heavily on in the kitchen, and the blender is one of them. I use it for soups, chilled and hot (also in cold weather!), smoothies, milkshakes, salsas, pestos….. the blender gets more of a workout in the summer than in other seasons. But which blender to buy? Consumer Reports just did a great survey of blenders on the market, and I am one of the many who love to refer to (and defer to) their suggestions.
01 of 06
To whip up a summer cocktail, “grab some frozen fruit, a bit of liquid, some booze, and maybe a sprig or two of herbs, and you’re on your way to a beautiful frozen drink,” says Katie. She likes the combination of frozen raspberries, orange juice, Chambord liqueur, a couple basil leaves, and a splash of agave or honey. If you like it thicker, toss in a few ice cubes. Thinner? Add orange juice or club soda.
Best blender. For frozen drinks, look for blenders that ace our icy drinks test, which... involves mixing up non-alcoholic piña coladas. The Cuisinart Hurricane Pro CBT-2000, $400, earned high marks, and its tight-sealing lid with integrated 2-ounce measuring cap is helpful for adding just enough of the hard stuff. The motor on the Cuisinart is noisier than most, but once the party gets going full tilt, who cares?
02 of 06
Making “smoothies is the best use of odds and ends that I know,” says Katie. Forgotten bananas, the last bruised peach that no one will eat—she’ll toss them in the blender with a handful of frozen berries, a few ice cubes, and a dab of honey, and, voila, breakfast is served in under a minute.
Best blender. So-called personal blenders with mixing containers that double as to-go cups make it easy to take a smoothie with you. The Ninja Auto iQ BL642-30, $200, scored well in our icy drinks test,... which is also the best indicator of smoothie performance. It comes with three travel containers—18, 24, and 32 ounces—so you can match the mug to your appetite. There’s also a full-size 72-ounce container for larger blending tasks, making the Ninja one of the more versatile blenders in our tests.
03 of 06
All those tomatoes, onions, and peppers from the farmers market can form the base of a flavor-packed homemade salsa. And there are countless variations, including a favorite of Katie’s, Corn, Cucumber and Cantaloupe Salsa.
Best blender. Chopping vegetables and fruits to a uniform consistency is a challenge for some blenders. In the worst case, the result is a gloppy mess. Blenders with a built-in tamper, like the Panasonic High Power MX-ZX1800, $600, can help move the ingredients around as they... blend.
04 of 06
A chilled cucumber soup is a refreshing summertime meal. “I like to make the soup in the blender, and then dice up half a cucumber to sprinkle on top, for added texture and visual interest,” says Katie. Cold gazpacho is another favorite. If you go for a creamy version, versus chunky, you won’t have to worry about chopping consistency.
Best blender. Blenders that were adept at both icy drinks and purees in our tests, like the Dash Chef Series Digital, $185, should be able to handle the widest... variety of chilled summer soups.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Back-to-school means more packed lunches. Start experimenting with a range of nut butters in the blender. For that kids’ classic, peanut butter, all you need is a few cups of unsalted roasted peanuts. From there, you can try other types of nuts, including almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, and Brazil nuts. Mixing in pumpkin or sunflower seeds bumps up the nutritional value, while raisins and dried fruits add a touch of natural sweetness.
Best blender. If you’re serious about nut butters, don’t... mess around with a wimpy blender. Models that shrug off our tough ice crush test, like the top-rated Vitamix Professional Series 750, $475, should have no trouble transforming hard nuts into viscous nut butter.
06 of 06
The best blenders in Consumer Reports’ tests also tend to be more expensive. The following bargain models might not deliver perfect results with every end-of-summer recipe, but they’ll do a decent job on most.