Blender Basics — Construction and Use
Blenders aren't just for mixing margaritas. Blenders are used in multiple stages of food prep, used to emulsify, puree and mix ingredients. Stationary and immersion blenders are the two types of blenders. Which you use depends on your needs. Immersion blenders have the most flexibility. The motor and blade system in a stationary blender offers more power.
The quality of construction and materials varies with each blender. You can find blenders in plastic, stainless steel, or porcelain. The blending jars in stationary blenders may be glass or plastic. Buy according to your preference and budget.
A good lid on a stationary blender is essential prevent ingredients from escaping — or flying — during operation. The blade assembly at a blender's base may not detach, but often the blades are removable for easier cleaning. The blending jar should have a solid o-ring or gasket between the body of the container and the base to
prevent leaks. (No one wants salad dressing on the kitchen floor.) The blending container has an funnel-inspired shape so that food circulates through the blades, rather than simply spinning, and helps ingredients reach the right consistency.
Most modern stationary blenders offer at least two to three speeds. Low-powered blenders generally need some liquid to be added for the blender to operate correctly. (Don't forget to cut up fruits and vegetables in manageable pieces — even if you have a high-end, high-powered blender.) A bit of liquid helps move food pieces around the blending jar and bring it in contact with the blade as the cyclonic movement pulls items from the top to the bottom. High-powered blenders with stronger blades can milling grains and crushing ice without liquid or pre-prep, but for the life of your blender, avoid dropping in whole fruits and vegetables. Cut them up first.
Vita-Mix was first in the capabilities of a stationary blender. They could do more than mix and blend: they could freeze and dispense solid ice cream, grind grain, cook soup and juice fruits and vegetables.
The hand-held immersion blender has an attachment with rotating blades that can be immersed in any container — even while cooking — lending versatility to the cooking process. Immersion blenders are convenient for blending several small batches (when a standard blender may be too cumbersome or may not be enough). A large pot of soup generally calls for an immersion blender.
Blender Best Uses
- Emulsifying (i.e., blending salad dressing)
- Making purées of fruits, cooked vegetables
- Grinding spices and seeds into powder or blending peanuts and almonds into nut butters
- Blending powders and liquids together completely
- Mixing and crushing ice for cocktails, frappucinos and smoothies
A Little Blender History
Stephen J. Poplawski, owner of the Stevens Electric Company, began designing drink mixers in 1919 while under contract with the Arnold Electric Company. His first drink mixer in was designed to make Horlicks malted milk shakes at soda fountains. His liquifying blender, another commercial product, was introduced in 1922. In the 1930s Hamilton, Beach and Osius created their own take on Poplawski’s invention under the Hamilton Beach Company brand. Fred Osius improved the appliance, designing a blender for home use. With the help of Fred Waring, the blender was redesigned, and Waring introduced the blender as his own. Smoothies as we now know them were popularized in the 1940s because of Waring's ingenuity.
W.G. Barnard, founder of Vitamix, introduced his own home blender in 1937. His use of a stainless steel blending jar made the Vitamix stand out from Waring's more standard Pyrex glass jar.
In Switzerland, Traugott Oertli developed a blender based on the construction and design of the Waring Blender, The Turmix Standmixer was released in 1943. Traugott also developed the Turmix Juicer, as part of his goal to introduce people to a healthier lifestyle.
In 1939, Waldemar Clemente, owner of Walita Electric Appliance Company, designed a blender based on the Turmix Standmixer — the Walita Neutron blender. A short time later, Walita acquired the patents for the Turmix in Brazil and introduced the Walita juicer. Using the same marketing strategy as Turmix in Europe, Walita sold more than a million blenders by the 1950s. Over the decade, Walita made blenders for major companies like Siemens, Turmix, Philips, and Sears. The Royal Philips Company, now known simply as Philips, took over Walita in 1971, and continues to sell blenders and other kitchen appliances.
John Oster, another big name in kitchen appliances, designed his own blender in 1946 with the help of his company, Stevens Electric. Oster named the blender the Osterizer. Oster was purchased by Sunbeam Products in 1960. Sunbeam still makes the Osterizer blender, as well as other models.
Other companies over the years have offered and continued to offer superior blenders — like L'Equip, Tribest, BlendTec, and Breville.
Television was a key player in bringing blenders into households. Vitamix was a pioneer in television advertising In 1949, they created the first ever infomercial, using a 30-minute time slot to introduce their new and improved blender. They used the format effectively for several years. The commercials made Vitamix and the term blender household words.