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Cheap Blenders Buying Guide

Budget blenders are bare-bones appliances with several blades and a small motor boasting anywhere from 175 to 600 watts of power. Upscale blenders with price tags in the triple-digit range, by contrast, are powerhouses more suited for heavy-duty use on raw fibrous vegetables or nuts, say, or in a restaurant or catering operation.

Today, home cooks can choose among three types of cheap blenders: wand, single-serve, and traditional multi-serve.

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Wand blenders are hand-held immersion devices; that is, the blades are located at the tip of a wand that you submerge in whatever you need to blend. With single-serve and regular-size blenders, the blades sit at the bottom of a jar or canister that's made of glass or plastic and varies in size by model. The blades on inexpensive blenders are usually stainless steel and often removable for easy cleaning.

Although some low-price blenders have been known to last at least a few years, others survive only several months. This is one consumer products category that receives mixed reviews from experts and users alike for blending performance and durability, although there seems to be consensus that these little kitchen appliances are easy to clean and quite noisy.

The best and cheapest blenders are personal, single-size blenders and hand-held immersion blenders. Based on the many consumer-submitted blender reviews that we read, these blender types last longer and perform better than regular-sized blenders in the same price range. For these two types of cheap blenders, we like the single-serve Hamilton Beach 51101 (starting at $19) and Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick (starting at $30). We found enough favorable comments about two cheap traditional multi-serve blenders, the Kalorik BL-16909 (starting at $39) and the Oster 6843 12-Speed (starting at $35), to list them as good inexpensive blenders. The caveat here is that you shouldn't plan to use either of these budget multi-serve blenders multiple times a day on high-stress tasks like chopping ice and tough fruits -- pushing an inexpensive blender beyond its limits will inevitably shorten its lifespan. Although Black & Decker also makes several low price blenders, the Black & Decker BLC12650HB Cyclone 12-Speed Blender (starting at $25), along with its 10-speed counterpart, receives more consistently negative reviews than other blenders we researched.

The bottom line: Judicious use of your cheap blender is the order of the day.

Size.

Your choice of either a full-size, single-serve, or wand blender obviously depends on your needs. If you're making smoothies for the family's breakfast or pumpkin soup for dinner, a blender with a minimum 40-ounce (five cup) capacity is the way to go. Among the cheapest blenders we researched, the 48-ounce Kalorik BL-16909 and 40-ounce Oster 6843 12-Speed stand out as good inexpensive full-size blenders. A need for even more capacity at a budget price might point you to the 56-ounce Hamilton Beach 52182 12-Speed (starting at $27).

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If your blending requirements veer toward an afternoon pick-me-up protein shake or icy drink, say, a cheap single-serve blender with 14-16 ounces of capacity will do. These small blenders, like the Hamilton Beach 51101 (starting at $19), have the added advantage of compact size and containers-to-go; that is, they take up minimal counter space and many double as travel mugs for your blended drink. The Back to Basics BPE3BRAUS (starting at $35) is a pricier model that comes with two 24-ounce travel mugs and two blending containers (12 ounces and 18 ounces).

Wand, or stick, blenders don't have capacity constraints, as such. Stick blenders often come with a plastic beaker with a capacity ranging from two to four cups, which serves well for smoothies and the like. But the chief virtue of a cheap stick blender, like the Cuisinart CSB-76 (starting at $30), is the ability to plunge it into a pot or bowl and puree the contents without dirtying another container. If you plan to whip egg whites or cream, you might prefer the Hamilton Beach 59770 Turbo-Twister (starting at $18), which dispenses with the beaker but does come with a wire whisk. For lots more money you can get a stick blender with other accessories, like a chopper for nuts, cheeses, and herbs.

Power.

Motor power varies in the cheapest blenders category, starting at 175 watts and topping out at 650 watts. Experts at Cooks Illustrated argue that the wattage (power output) and horsepower on a blender aren't really relevant because performance is affected more by the design of the blending container and the blades. In the interests of full disclosure, however, here are the power specifications for the best blenders on our list: the full-size Black & Decker BLC12650HB Cyclone 12-Speed Blender (starting at $25) boasts a 650-watt motor, and the Kalorik BL- 16909 and Oster 6843 12-speed feature a 500-watt and 450-watt motor, respectively; the Cuisinart CSB-76, our best wand blender, features a 200-watt motor; and the single-serve Hamilton Beach 51101 comes in third with a 175-watt motor. Higher-end blenders of all types typically feature heftier wattage.

Container.

The containers on cheap blenders are either glass or plastic. Although glass can crack and shatter, it may be more durable overall, is easier to clean, and seems to be preferred by consumers; most of the full-size blenders we researched feature glass container. Plastic tends to scratch, according to consumers' reviews, and sometimes fogs up or discolors; the single-serve Hamilton Beach 51101 features a plastic container. For inexpensive single-serve blenders that do double duty as a travel cup, or come with an accessory travel cup, plastic is obviously the safest choice.

Although the material composition of the container shouldn't affect the blender's performance, experts say the design of the container does. Tall containers with a base that's narrower than the top deliver better results than containers with a wide bottom. On our list, both the full-size Kalorik BL-16909 and Oster 6843 satisfy this shape criterion, as does the single-serve Hamilton Beach 51101.

Settings.

Because cheap blenders are meant to be used primarily for liquid preparations like soups, smoothies, and shakes, you really don't need any more than two or three speed settings. Pricey blenders, like the $400 Blendtec 1560-Watt Total Blender, feature multiple preprogrammed blending cycles for soups, sauces and batters, ice crushing, and the like. By contrast, the single-serve blender by Hamilton Beach offers just one speed and the Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick operates with a pulse action (hold down the button and release when you're ready). The Kalorik BL-16909 comes with three speed settings -- high, low, and pulse -- that are activated with a dial. Both the Oster 6843 and Black & Decker BLC12650HB Cyclone feature 12 speeds, which is rare for inexpensive blenders. At this end of the market, however, experts and consumers generally say the multiple settings are meaningless.

Blades.

When shopping for a cheap blender, insist on metal blades; all the blenders we researched meet this standard. Most low price blenders feature at least three blades, although some have only two. Experts prefer blades that are slightly tapered or serrated, with one or two curving slightly upward and one or two curving slightly downward to keep the contents churning. The Kalorik BL-16909 comes with six stainless steel blades, including two that are serrated.

Preferably you'd like a blender with a blade housing that can be detached for easy washing, as is the case with the Oster 6843, Black & Decker BLC12650HB, and Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick -- all parts on these cheap blenders, except for the base, are dishwasher safe. The blades on the Kalorik BL-16909, on the other hand, can't be dislodged so you'll have to wash by hand.

by Maralyn Edid (Google+ Profile)

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