The beauty of the immersion blender

An appliance to love

September 9, 2010

It mixes. It beats. It chops. The hand blender, aka the immersion blender, deserves its own infomercial, since this is one appliance that really does make many cooking tasks quicker and easier, not to mention reducing clean-up.

Born the bamix in Switzerland 60 years ago, this gadget had a long migration to reach American households, taking hold only in the last decade. Its simple design — an electric-powered wand with a miniature rotary blade — has changed little, though cordless models are now available, with attachments, varying speeds, and a detachable stick. We’re sold on it, but we don’t use it as often as we should.

immersion blender
A wonder tool.

Most often, the hand blender gets called into action when there’s soup on the stove. Puréeing all manner of vegetable and cream soups right in the pot is one of its best tricks. The hand blender not only eliminates the tedium and mess of transferring hot soup to a blender, it also prevents scalding when an overheated blender jar explodes.

But this wonder tool can do much more than blitz soups, sauces, and smoothies. Here are eight other ways to use it, while there’s still fresh, ripe fruit to eat and, if the weather cooperates, outdoor parties to host.

Note: You’ll have the most success with these recipes if you use the beaker (or a similarly tall, cylindrical container) that came with your hand blender.

  1. Chimichurri, pesto, and other herb purées: One fistful of fresh, tender herbs in your hand blender makes a modern sauce for grilled vegetables, fish, or meat. Pour the oil and any other liquids into the beaker first, stuff in the herbs, and then use the hand blender like it’s a mortar and pestle with a lot of up-and-down action. It will produce a finely ground purée.
  2. Melon coolers: Freeze chunks of watermelon, cantaloupe, or other muskmelons to make summer drinks — virgin or not. Add sugar and lime juice to taste, then use enough juice or vodka to liquefy into an agua fresca. Or go a savory route and try the Cooling Cantaloupe Soup recipe.
  3. Make-your-own milkshakes: Ever notice that your hand blender is just like an old-fashioned milkshake maker, minus the stainless-steel cup? Fill chilled pint glasses with custom combinations to order. Be it cherry-chocolate, peach-raspberry, or malted huckleberry, just rinse the wand between flavors and let everyone have their favorite.
  4. Salad dressing: Shake up your tried-and-true salad routine with fresh-made creamy dressings, like dill, avocado, and French. The hand blender can chop shallots or garlic while it emulsifies, so it can handle a Caesar, and it makes a standard balsamic vinaigrette satiny-smooth.
  5. Berry coulis: Purée local strawberries, raspberries, and other cane berries while they last to make fresh fruit sauces for eating over sorbet, panna cotta, or Greek-style yogurt. Add sugar and lemon juice to taste, plus a pinch of salt (add a splash of fruit liqueur, if you like), and push the hand blender right to the bottom to get the juices flowing. For the smoothest sauce, strain it, or use it as is.
  6. Bean dip: Purée cooked beans of any kind for near-instant hors d’oeuvres. Make use of the cooking liquid, vegetable stock, or water, and vigorously plunge the hand blender to make a thick spread. Season black, white, pinto, or garbanzo beans to taste with olive oil, garlic, and complementary herbs, and serve with crudités, flatbread, or crackers.
  7. Homemade mayonnaise: Whir two egg yolks with a cup of oil and you’ve got mayonnaise in less than a minute. Season to taste with lemon juice or vinegar, Dijon mustard, and salt. With pastured eggs, it will be the most vibrant-looking (and delicious-tasting) mayo you’ve ever had. Add a small garlic clove and it becomes aïoli. Your potato or macaroni salad will never be the same.
  8. Whipped cream: Each hand blender will take more or less time to perform this delicate operation, depending on the tool’s RPM; patience and attentiveness is required. Bounce the wand up and down to get good aeration and fold in confectioner’s sugar after the cream is whipped to your liking. Make it often and use it liberally.

Lynne Sampson Curry is a writer based in Joseph, Oregon, who blogs at Rural Eating.

There are 8 comments on this item
Add a comment
1. by anonymous on Sep 15, 2010 at 8:50 PM PDT

What a wonderful proclamation for, as you point out, an under-utilized, under-appreciated kitchen tool. I learned a few tips that has me itching to pull mine out of the cupboard. Thanks!

2. by Cynthia Manchester on Sep 16, 2010 at 6:57 PM PDT

Which one would you recommend purchasing?

3. by Romy B. on Sep 17, 2010 at 11:54 PM PDT

Cynthia, I’d recommend purchasing a Braun from a Goodwill store for $2.00, as we did a couple of years ago. (Smiley emoticon)

What a great tool!

4. by Angela Pitt on Sep 18, 2010 at 7:35 AM PDT

This is a great article on must have kitchen appliance. I would be lost without my immersion
blender. Thanks for sharing!

5. by Lynne Curry on Sep 19, 2010 at 9:07 PM PDT

My immersion blender was a hand-me-down Moulinex that’s at least 10 years old. From the online reviews and message boards, it looks like there are plenty of good models on the market.
Some features worth investing in are a detachable wand for washing ease and cordless. Multiple speeds and extra attachments are non-essential extras, in my view. The rest is up to your price point--or your luck in finding a good (un)used one at a yard sale or second-hand shop.

6. by anonymous on Sep 28, 2010 at 9:35 AM PDT

I really love my kitchen aid. It’s red and is wonderful.

7. by ChefARA on Sep 30, 2010 at 8:38 AM PDT

I have 2 KitchenAid Immersion blenders, one to take with me and one for home. I am a private chef and could not live without these! There are many speeds, interchangeable wands (a longer one for deep stock pots) and even whisk attachments. I gift one at every bridal shower in addition to something for which the bride has registered.

8. by anonymous on Jun 2, 2012 at 12:30 PM PDT

why does my whipped cream keep ending up butter?!? unless i use 2 tbsp of cocoa powder to start with, i always manage to over beat it. what if i don’t want chocolate whipped cream?

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