Friday, February 22, 2008

Cheap-O Kitchen: Immersion blenders

Some of the best kitchen gadgets, appliances, and cookware can be had for cheap. With this sporadic installment piece, I'm going to compile an annotated list of some of the items that I reach for in my kitchen almost every day, and I'll include instructions on where/how to get these must-haves without breaking the bank. (plus a few recipes)

The immersion blender: Fewer dishes to clean, more sauces to slurp, silky soups, forget all bottled salad dressings.

I hate cleaning my countertop blender, transferring soups into and out of it, taking it apart, and trying to find all the pieces in the dishwasher. I get all the more irritated when I'm only making a little bit of puree and I have to involve an enormous complicated appliance. With an immersion blender (or hand blender), I blend without hesitation, making smoothies right in the cup I'm going to drink from, and with the satisfaction that this appliance was less than $14.

I was an immersion virgin until I went to my grandmother's house and saw that she had a Thunderstick. Remove thoughts of innuendo from your brain, please. She had purchased it from an infomercial that I'd seen a few times (and I've got this compulsion to try everything that I see on TV). When I cooked a hippy-dippy vegetarian feast for my family, she let me experiment with this nifty blender.

At the end of that visit, I was trying to convince her to let me take the Thunderstick home. The next Christmas, she sent it to me cuz she never really used it. Over the course of two or three years, I wore the Thunderstick out. It was powerful and had loads of curious attachments (mostly unnecessary). When I needed a new one, I considered the high end and low end, and everything in between (but not the Thunderstick, cuz it had been discontinued).

Emeril calls his immersion blender a "boatmotor" and makes a big production every time he uses it. But the best thing about immersion blenders is that using one at home is not a big production at all. My favorite technique is to grab a tall and slender plastic measuring cup (at least 2 cups in volume - see the Thunderstick pic) and throw my sauce/dressing ingredients in (try tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water and salt). Then I just stick the blender down in the cup and wiz it around, moving the blade from bottom to top and back. After it's done, I can pour the smooth sauce straight out of the cup and simply hold the dirty end of the blender under running water for a second and it's clean.

The next best use for an immersion blender is to stick it into a pot of soup (or a sauce that's at least an inch or so deep - hint: you can tilt the pan to submerge the blender blade) and a few pulses will turn your concotion into a smooth puree. But be careful to keep it submerged so you don't spray hot soup everywhere. Also, if you get an immersion blender with a metal blade-cage, then you can't use it with a non-stick pan or enameled cast iron. But, the Proctor Silex and the Braun model are both plastic and safe to use with teflon. Some say the plastic models can't be used over heat (but you can afford to turn the burner off long enough to blend, right?).

Here's a suggestion for a quick and simple mock-stock
  • saute onions, celery, carrots until tender
  • add water and simmer while adding some seasoning (bullion? garlic powder?)
  • turn off the heat and put the immersion blender in and blend all around the pot until every lump is gone and it's a uniform consistency
I'm not French. I don't keep stock in the freezer and I'm not paying $4 per quart for the stuff. What are your favorite uses for an immersion blender? This being the first installment in this series, I'm still feeling out this "consumer corner for frugal foodies." Here's a tip, next time you're about to buy a book at, pick one that has free shipping and costs at least $11. In order to qualify for the free shipping, you have to spend $25. Bam! as Emeril would say. Throw in an immersion blender and you're in business. You could go for a more expensive model, but the extra power and attachments don't really warrent spending $35-$119, when you can drop less than $14 on this one. Consumer Reports and Cooks Illustrated both agree with me, but I can' t link to their reviews, cuz you have to pay for a subscription for their online content. But, epinions is FREE and participatory.

Other uses:
  • Froth your hot chocolate. Mmmmm...
  • Arthritic? Use this to beat eggs, etc.
  • Smooth out your chunky salsa.
  • Mix up your protein shakes and infuse them with supplements.
  • Give your ears a break. This thing is quiet and blenders are awfully loud.
  • Whipped cream! I hate the stuff. But this will whip it for you.
  • Mashed potatoes. Go ahead and cheat yourself out of a tricep workout.
  • Don't try to crush ice with it. That's was this is for.


  1. I absolutely love my boatmotor. And I have an el cheapo Rival brand that a relative gave me one Christmas. I use it to blend cooked veggies and liquid in a pot roast for a great sauce. And since I hate chunky tomatoes, I use it to dechunk them. It's a great, cheap gadget and so much less fuss than a blender.

  2. Wow pjpink, your comment illustrates the verbosity of my post. I could have gotten the job done with five sentences. Lesson learned.

  3. That's not true. You write very well. Please do not condense because of me.

  4. I use it to make breakfast every morning. I have a recipe made up of yogurt, eggs raisins and granola that takes two minutes to make in the microwave. I'm addicted.

  5. Anonymous5:11 AM

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