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.
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.
It cleans up in seconds. Instead of having to clear out space in the sink to wash the blender (or the food processor or the Foley Food Mill) between the mashed potatoes and the applesauce, or dirty up two separate devices in order to get supper on the table faster, all I needed to do was rinse the blade end in some warm soapy water. Literally seconds later, it was ready for its next task.
Is this the tool for you?
- You like to (or want to) make homemade baby food from scratch. When my girls were starting on solid foods, we didn’t have the money to buy jarred baby food, and were opposed to the thought of our kiddos eating processed food when it’s something we ourselves try to avoid. So I made all their baby food from scratch. In most cases, I used a Foley Food Mill (purchased secondhand from a junk shop), that classic kitchen tool my mom used when I was little to make homemade applesauce and tomato juice and the like.
Much as using the Foley Food Mill had brought back fond memories of my childhood, I can’t say I relished the time needed to disassemble it for cleaning. On that revelatory night last month, scenes of laboring over the girls’ baby food flashed before my eyes, and I wished I’d discovered the immersion blender a few years earlier.
- You use a blender regularly, but don’t like the space it takes up on your counter/in your cabinets, or the time and effort needed to disassemble it, wash the parts, and let them air-dry. If I were a daily-morning-smoothie drinker (which I’m not), I can totally see this stick revolutionizing my morning routine. Especially since a 16-ounce “mixing/measuring” beaker is one of the extras that came with our version.
And get this: Unlike any regular blenders I know of, all the parts for this one can go into the dishwasher! (Without taking up half the dishwasher, like the bowl on a glass blender would!)
- You want to be able to puree hot foods, quickly and easily, without having to cool them first. Think homemade baby food. Or fresh mashed potatoes or applesauce that you’re trying to get on the table for supper, especially if you’re trying to make both at once. Or pea soup. Or pasta sauce.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
- You want a small, multitasking kitchen tool that takes up little space but does a lot. Much as I love my vintage Foley Food Mill, I think its existence in our kitchen has now become purely decorative, on the Julia Child-inspired pegboard my husband installed when we moved into our current home. In addition, the immersion blender’s mincing-bowl attachment is sturdier and more powerful than my small mini-mincer, so I can see adding my mincer to our Goodwill donation pile.
I haven’t tried the immersion blender yet as a replacement for my small handheld mixer, on such tasks as whipping cream or making pumpkin dip; but I imagine it might render my handheld mixer superfluous, too. (Its single whisk won’t replace the double beaters of my hand mixer for things like baking cookies, though – but I mostly use my stand mixer for such jobs now, anyway.) And I can’t see it making a good blender substitute for a pitcher of frozen margaritas or daiquiris; but I can envision using it for a periodic protein shake or smoothie, such that I might even be inspired to let go of our second blender.
Usually, acquiring more stuff is not the best way to simplify one’s existence. But in this case, I have to hand it to my dear husband. By adding this one new kitchen gadget to our collection, we actually may end up gaining more space in our cabinets after all.
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