November 27, 2014

Immersion Blenders – Indispensible?

Back in July of 2006, I cast my vote for the immersion blender, with my article about my old Braun blender. Well, I’m not alone in my opinion. You can read Marlene Parrish’s thoughts in the Pittsburgh Post -Gazette. She’s even more enamoured of the tool than I am.

I chose model KHB300OB, in black. With one-touch ignition, multispeeds and powerful performance.

No, it’s not an ’08 BMW. It’s the latest Kitchen Aid appliance, a new immersion blender. Not for you? Fine. You probably don’t need or want one more thing that plugs into a socket.

But think a minute. Leaving out the coffee maker and dishwasher, what is your favorite kitchen appliance right now, and why?

It could be a food processor for all-purpose duties, a hand mixer for cakes and whipped cream, a blender for soups and smoothies, a coffee bean grinder for you know what and so forth. The appliance has earned favorite status because it has multiple uses, is convenient to use and easy to clean and store.

You might even call it indispensable.

The immersion blender is the latest appliance on the market to vie for that coveted crown. It does all the tricks my 25-year-old, wearing-out Waring blender does, but does them lots faster and way smarter. It also whips, aerates, emulsifies and purees. Results are immediate, and cleaning is a snap.

My immersion blender looks like a giant candlestick. The hand-held, ergonomically designed wand comes with multiple bells and whistles. It has a detachable blending attachment, a whisk, a chopper attachment, blending beakers and a chopping beaker.

There’s only one way to find out if it’s as good as it looks. I decided to put this baby to the tests.

In the kitchen

First project: creamy soup. Into my largest pot, I tossed a coarsely chopped potato, two stalks of celery, an apple, a banana, an onion and broth to cover, then simmered until the ingredients were soft. Seasonings and milk were added. Then came the moment of truth. I snapped the blending wand onto the base, plugged in the cord, submerged the business end and pressed the power button. Whoosh, whirr, slurp — done. I had a velvety puree, no lumps and no blade-bitten rubber spatula, either, as often happens in my blender.

I pressed the dual-ejector buttons, snapped off the attachment, swished it under hot soapy water and started on the mayonnaise.

Holding the wand at a slight angle (yes, guys, I read the owner’s manual), I moved it slightly up and down within the container as I added a cup of oil to the egg, vinegar and seasonings. Flash, shazam! Done. I tossed two scallions cut into thirds and a half-handful of parsley into it and pulsed again. Smooth, pale green mayo appeared before I could say “Martha Stewart.”

And so it went for an afternoon.

• To gauge the efficiency of the nine-speed dial, I made salsa in the chopping container using a pulse action. Had I kept the motor running on a higher speed, the salsa would have morphed into gazpacho. The fat switch is rubberized and the slightest pressure of your fingers turns it on and off. I like that.

• I harvested my entire basil crop to make superb pesto, using less than the usual amount of olive oil because I had complete control of the power.

• When I whirled the soup, the 5-foot power cord was an easy reach from the outlet to the stovetop and into the pot.

• Using the whisk attachment and the beaker bowl, I whipped cream. Next time I’ll try egg whites.

• Using the chopper attachment and the chopping bowl, I took some nuts down to flour, although I don’t know what I’ll do with it yet. Toss it into cookie dough, I suppose. A couple of leftover slices of breakfast toast became crumbs to brown in olive oil for a pasta topping at supper.

In the future, I can see the ease of pancake and waffle batter and smooth gravies. Lumpy sauces are past tense.

Decisions

A small kitchen has only so much storage. And most people only use what they can see or reach. Where will my new toy live and what, if anything, can it replace?

It won’t replace my chopping boards and knives. It’s a joy and comfort to slice and chop through a bag of produce. It won’t replace my beat-up, hand-held old Sunbeam mixer either; the thing is older than my children.

It will not and does not replace my Cuisinart food processor; they are complementary machines. My beloved workhorse processor is for mixing pastry and pizza doughs, shredding cheese and slicing vegetables. Not jobs for the immersion blender.

But the immersion blender will replace my mini-processor, which has been a loser from the get-go, with a whiny motor, too-little capacity and poor handling. My Waring blender also is going on the garage-sale shelf. It’s been a good friend and companion, but, like other friends, it’s old, overweight and slow, overheating and balking at simple jobs.

Be warned. There’s a safety factor to contend with. The chopping blade, while well-designed to be covered and protected, is super-sharp. Fingers can find that blade like a moth to a light. I’m putting all the attachments in a plastic box in a kitchen drawer.

Not that you’d know, but people can get careless under the influence of, um, cooking wine. So let’s borrow the slogan “don’t drink and drive” and change it to “don’t drink and immerse.” And not that you need to be told this either, but never let the kids play with the parts.

Which model to get? My Kitchen Aid retails for $99.99 and is loaded with attachments. But then I’m of the “you-get-what-you-pay-for” school of thought, and I like Kitchen Aid products. They are the All-Clad of plug-ins. If I were to re-think the purchase, though, I’d buy just the immersion wand. I could do without the whisk attachment and possibly the chopping blade, both of which duplicate jobs done by my hand-held mixer and food processor.

There is certainly a model to suit your specific needs and wallet. Braun, an excellent company, has two models at $29.99 and $69.99. Cuisinart has one for $49.99. Some have a cord, some are cordless. Others are blender wand only, while some have attachments. Just be sure the one you settle on is sturdy enough to handle the jobs you have in mind.