Do you like smoothies, shakes, etc. but don’t have the storage space for a full-sized blender? (Or, alternately, do you detest taking apart all the pieces afterward to wash them by hand?)

Do you wish you could make your own baby food from scratch, but don’t have the time? (Or, do you already do this but can’t stand the amount of mess and cleanup involved?)

Have you ever found yourself minutes from a not-totally-well-thought-out dinner with more than one hot food that needed to be pureed, stat? (That would be me, about a month ago. My whole family was under the weather, dinner was already late, and I suddenly realized that both the mashed potatoes and the homemade applesauce I was trying to generate were in hot-out-of-the-microwave, waiting-to-be-pureed format.)

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then let me introduce you to my new favorite kitchen tool: my husband’s immersion blender.

This is what the blade end of the blender attachment for our immersion unit looks like.

This is what the blade end of the blender attachment for our immersion unit looks like.

What is an immersion blender?

Basically, it’s a blender-on-a-stick. In other words, it’s a wand with a tiny set of blades at one end, covered by a protective splatter shield.

As you may recall if you’ve read this blog for awhile, my husband is a gourmet chef compared to me. Over half the kitchen gadgets we own are in our possession thanks to him, along with at least 2/3 of our combined cookbooks. Sometime last year, he decided we needed a blender-on-a-stick. Next thing I knew, it was taking up space in our cupboard.

My first impression? It was NOT a must-have item.  Honestly, I couldn’t see the point.

The version he got was very similar to the Cuisinart SmartStick with attachments – a whisk and a mini-mincer-style chopping bowl, like a mini-food processor. Prior to this purchase, we already had a large stand mixer (a luxurious wedding present from my brother Evan, who knows how much I love to bake), a handheld mixer for smaller mixing jobs, a mini-mincer that I love, and TWO blenders (a not-as-nice clear plastic one that I brought into our marriage, and still use for making shakes when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to take things apart to clean them thoroughly, and a nicer metal one – compliments of my husband – which, being his before it was ours, must be properly taken apart afterward and cleaned by hand).

Hence I really didn’t see why we needed yet another gadget to do any of these things, when I was perfectly happy with the ones we already owned.

Clearly, though, my husband was not satisfied with these alternatives, and thought we needed yet another device in our already-well-stocked (read: already-overflowing) cabinets.

Before I knew it, he was using it at least once a week in his dinner prep. I, on the other hand, still didn’t see the point.

Why might you want one?

Fast-forward to last month: a frantic night at the end of an already-long day.  My husband and both girls were sick, so bland foods were in order for supper.  I had a pork loin from the clearance pile at the store, some end-of-season apple seconds from our local orchard that needed using up, and plenty of potatoes in cold storage in our garage.

Mashed potatoes and fresh homemade applesauce seemed like the perfect choices to go with pork for my ailing family.

Until it dawned on me, a half-hour after my planned suppertime, that both the potatoes and the apples still needed to be pureed before they could go on the table.

At this late point in my harried meal prep, the kitchen was a complete disaster, counter space was already at a premium, and finding space to set up the blender was as unappealing as adding one more big thing-to-clean-up to the overflowing sink.

Not to mention the fact that using one blender meant washing it out halfway through, using two blenders meant even more mess to clean up, and either way I’d be pouring multiple batches of hot liquid and chunks into the blending vessels.

Then I remembered that we had this thing called an “immersion blender,” and decided to give it a try.

The handheld stick saved dinner, and my sanity, that night.

What are the benefits?

  • No extra containers to dirty or take up counter space. Since I’d cooked both the apples and the potatoes in microwave-safe bowls, I was able to puree their contents in the same bowls I’d cooked them in, instead of having to make room on the counter for a larger kitchen gadget.  You wouldn’t want to use this tool on a nonstick pan designed for the stove top, but that was not an issue for me on the time-challenged night in question.
  • No need to let the food cool, and no splatters. Whereas I wasn’t crazy about handling hot blender-bowls full of puree, or the risk of splattering hot food either while getting it into or out of the blender, using the immersion blender eliminated both of these problems. All I had to do was insert the stick end into the bowl, and move it around. Even better, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the integrated-splatter-shield design kept potential splashes of hot liquid contained.
  • It’s fast, even on large batches. In a few minutes per food item, I had my piles of cooked potato chunks and cooked apple chunks transformed into smooth mashed potatoes and applesauce.  No time lost transferring batches into and out of the blender, either.