Editor's Note: This review was originally written by Sohla El-Waylly and published in November 2017. As of August 29, 2019, it has been updated with additional testing and reporting by Daniel Gritzer.
A great immersion blender—also known as a hand blender or stick blender—can complement a well-equipped kitchen, offering a convenient alternative to dragging out larger appliances for many basic kitchen tasks. In many instances, it can stand in for expensive and bulky kitchen tools, giving you similar performance at a fraction of the footprint. Although we wouldn’t want to live without a countertop blender, stand mixer, or food processor, it's nice not to have to break those things out just to blend a smoothie or make a homemade mayo.
Our testing of hand blenders revealed that all of our candidates can perform the basic tasks of blending, emulsifying, and processing whipped cream reasonably well. The true tests to determine which deserves a coveted spot in your kitchen came down to more difficult undertakings, like turning fibrous vegetables into silky soups, or crushing ice.
We tested 12 immersion blenders and found several that did well no matter what we threw at them, putting them closer in quality to some of the best countertop blenders out there, though they're small enough to fit in a drawer.
Our Favorites, at a Glance
The Powerhouse: All-Clad Stainless Steel Immersion Blender
Through round after round of rigorous testing, the All-Clad Stainless Steel Immersion Blender revealed its impressive strength. This heavyweight doesn't come with many accessories, but it was among the fastest and most efficient at burrowing through burly ice cubes, transforming stubborn celery fibers into a luxurious purée, and emulsifying mayo in a blink.
The sleek design tapers near the top, making it easy to grip and maneuver, although it was the heaviest model we tested. With easy-to-read arrows illustrating which direction to turn to twist off the blending shaft, it's a cinch to handle and store.
The Full Package: Breville Control Grip Immersion Blender
Breville's immersion blender doesn't skimp on accessories. With it, you get a whisk attachment, a quality blending jar, and a mini chopper; much of it nests together for efficient storage.
Unlike many other immersion blenders, the Breville Control Grip Immersion Blender doesn't create a vortex to pull food toward the blades—it requires more of an up-and-down motion to complete its tasks. But when used properly, it's incredibly successful at everything you can think of. It can even purée dry, fibrous ingredients to make things like Thai curry pastes.
Blending on a Budget: Hamilton Beach 2-Speed Hand Blender
This unassuming model ended up being a sleeper hit, consistently doing in much pricier units and comfortably keeping up with our champ throughout rounds of testing. The Hamilton Beach 2-Speed Hand Blender's wide blade guard, with its large vents, creates a perfect vortex when blending.
Despite being the smallest and lightest of the contenders, it easily made whipped cream and perfect mayonnaise, and it aced crushing ice. It also comes equipped with a mini chopper and whisk, for anyone who loves a little swag.
The Best Cordless: All-Clad Cordless Rechargeable Immersion Blender
The priciest of the bunch, All-Clad's cordless immersion blender is a good pick if you have enough countertop space to house the small charging unit. What you get in exchange is a blender that's always at the ready and, since it's unencumbered by a power cord, easy to use anywhere in your kitchen without concern for outlet availability. And, while it's not as powerful as its plug-in counterpart, it still managed to perform well in all our tests.
The Criteria: What We Look for in a Great Immersion Blender
The most important quality of an immersion blender is its ability to blend things. In a perfect world, an immersion blender would be able to execute the same tasks as a full-sized blender, from silky cauliflower purée to smooth nut butters.
Unfortunately, there are inherent limits to what an immersion blender can do. The manufacturers of every model we tested warned that the units should be in continuous use for only a minute at a time, to avoid overheating the motor. This automatically rules out some full-sized-blender tasks, such as cooking soup in a blender from start to finish. But for any briefer tasks, we wanted a hand blender that could hold its own.
We also looked for immersion blenders that were comfortable to hold and operate. Since an immersion blender is not stabilized, like similar blending and puréeing tools, it needs to be easy to grip and operate with one hand. We took note of the design of the trigger, as well as the circumference of the shaft: Models with wider shafts were unwieldy, while those with tapered grip designs were easier to hold for testers of all hand sizes.
Given that it's a tool you'll reach for again and again, an immersion blender needs to be easy to clean. All but one of the models we tested had a detachable blending wand, making them easy to wash without fear of getting water in the motor housing; several of the blending wands were also dishwasher-safe.
Variations in blade design made some models simpler to clean than others. The best required little more than a quick rinse to remove thick purées from the underside of the blade, while the worst left behind a dangerous tangle of vegetable fibers and sharp metal.
A Note on Safety
Lightweight and slim, immersion blenders can appear to have all the grit of a Bichon Frise, but the reality is that they're no less than the business end of a blender, minus nearly all of the protection. If mishandled, they can be one of the most dangerous cooking tools. We know more people who have gone to the ER for an immersion-blender injury than just about any other, and we've seen almost every kitchen mishap imaginable.
It's easy, in a moment of absentmindedness, to leave the unit plugged in while trying to free a chunk of food from the blade. With just a gentle tap of the power trigger at this critical moment, the blade will spin dozens of times before you've even realized what's happened. Your innocent morning smoothie routine will have suddenly become a grisly dash to the hospital.
If that weren't scary enough, our tests revealed that the most effective immersion blenders are also the ones with less protective covering over the blade. Narrower, cupped blade-guard designs that fully shielded the blade tended to perform poorly in the tests. Models with wider, shallower blade guards did significantly better, quickly drawing ingredients into a powerful vortex. The downside of such an effective design is a readily exposed blade.
Three of the units we tested came with a safety locking mechanism, intended to minimize risk of accidental activation. We love this idea in theory—anything that makes a hand blender safer is a welcome addition—but in all cases, the feature was so awkward and unwieldy that we gave up on it in frustration.
On two of the models, for instance, the unlock button had to be held down while we simultaneously pressed the "on" button. But the buttons had been positioned so that pressing both with a single hand was impossible. As we were forced to use both hands just to turn the blender on, the container below was left unsecured, free to fly all over the place. Safer fingers are great, but not if you end up with mayonnaise ingredients splattered across the countertop.
We hope that, eventually, a brand will design a good immersion blender with safety features that don't handicap function. We don't believe there is one out there right now. Because most immersion-blender injuries occur during cleaning, we recommend having a crock of hot water at your side to quickly dip into, so you can blitz away any stubborn bits before unplugging the machine for a good scrub.
One of the most practical uses of a hand blender is blending soups until they're silky-smooth, right in the cooking pot. It lets you avoid the fuss of transferring a piping-hot liquid into a standing blender, and minimizes the chance of ending up with soup on your ceiling (the steam generated by a lidded blender's vortex can be very, very powerful).
We chose to blend celery soup for our testing, and we intentionally left the fibrous celery unpeeled and in large chunks to really push these stick blenders to their limit. This proved to be a difficult challenge for all the models.
We had each one blend 300 grams of soup, with equivalent proportions of liquid to solid, for two minutes total (with one minute of rest in between, to respect the manufacturers' one-minute-max run-time rule). After blending, we passed the soup through a fine-mesh strainer, while pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as we could. We then weighed how much pulp was left behind.
The results of the test were split. Three of the units—the Breville, the Philips, and the All-Clad Cordless—left less than 20 grams of solids behind in the strainer, making them the clear winners here.
The All-Clad corded blender turned the soup into a fine and silky purée in a flash, but after lifting the blender out, we discovered some fibers trapped in its vents, leading to a total of 44 grams of remaining solids. Not a deal-breaker by any measure—you could fix this by cleaning the vents with a spatula periodically during the blending process—but this still put it in last place out of our four recommended models. The Hamilton Beach just barely edged it out, with 39 grams of solids remaining.
Three other units struggled, leaving over 100 grams of vegetable matter in the strainer, and one model completely failed, leaving more than 200 grams of pulp for the compost pile (and some extremely watery soup to eat). To our surprise, the immersion blender that performed the worst was the most expensive model of the bunch.
For our second purée test, we used each immersion blender to blitz one can of drained chickpeas with one-third of a cup of water, along with five drops of blue food coloring. We timed each one to test how long it took for the blue dye to become evenly distributed throughout the purée. The dye also helped us judge the texture of each purée.
Our winning immersion blenders came out on top again, creating an almost perfectly silky-smooth purée with uniformly distributed dye. The All-Clad corded blender was the fastest, whipping up a bean purée in just 14 seconds. The others weren't far behind; All-Clad's cordless model finished the job in 17 seconds, while the Breville and Hamilton Beach each took 20 seconds.
The models with blade guards of smaller diameters struggled to blend all the beans, leaving whole chickpeas behind even after a full minute of blending. When we finally gave up, they still had whole beans trapped under the blades.
We tested how each immersion blender performed at crushing one pint of ice with one cup of water. If your morning routine is anything like mine, it probably involves dragging a blender out of the cupboard to load up with frozen bananas and yogurt. If that habit could be simplified through the use of a compact immersion blender, that alone would make it a useful investment.
The ice-crushing test we set up took the smoothie task into overdrive, demanding that the machines work their way through a packed container of dense ice cubes, with just enough water to get things moving. We tested not only how quickly each blender chewed its way through the frozen chunks, but also the consistency of the final slush.
Some models struggled with consistency more than others, leaving big chunks behind. The All-Clad corded version, along with one other model, blended the ice to the finest and most uniform consistency in about 20 seconds. The Breville had trouble when we used a plastic deli container as the vessel, but when we reran the test using Breville's provided container, it blasted the ice in just 11 seconds. Two models left unblended ice cubes behind, even after 45 seconds.
We were surprised to see that our budget pick outperformed many of the more expensive models, though it did begin to feel very warm after just one round. To evaluate its durability, we put the Hamilton Beach through a stress test, blending round after round of ice—not something we'd ever recommend doing in real life. Aside from a faint electrical smell coming from the motor, this lightweight held its own, so we feel confident it can handle your next frozen daiquiri without too much risk.
The biggest variation from one model to the next was an issue we hadn't thought about—mess. Once again, we noticed that the units that had wider blade guards, with larger vents on the side, performed the best. Those models easily pulled the ice and water into a vortex, cleanly moving up and down in the containers as they churned. Meanwhile, the models with narrower blade guards had difficulty drawing water and ice to the blade; they required more up-and-down movement in the cups, resulting in excessive spilling and splatter.
To test each model's emulsification skills, we made a batch of mayonnaise with each, using one egg and one cup of oil, plus mustard and lemon.
Not surprisingly, all the models were able to make superior mayonnaise. While some were faster than others at the task, every one eventually got there in less than 30 seconds, all with equal consistency. The fastest model, the corded All-Clad, emulsified the egg and oil in just eight seconds, and the slowest took 24—but if 16 seconds is a deal-breaker, you're probably more of a Duke's kind of person anyway. Our most expensive unit, which failed horribly at every other task, could at least still make mayonnaise.
For a quick and easy whipped cream–like topping to finish a sundae, an immersion blender is the perfect tool.* It's much faster than whipping cream the traditional way, and easier than setting up a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer. We wanted to test each immersion blender's competence at processing one and a half cups of cream, timing how long each model took to do it and judging the final consistency of the product.
* Technically, you can't whip cream without aerating it via a whisk, either handheld or attached to a stand mixer. The flat blade of an immersion blender (or food processor) introduces almost no air at all, creating something more accurately described as a soft butter.
All the blenders were able to fully process the cream in well under a minute. Our winning corded All-Clad was once again the fastest, yielding an even texture after only 20 seconds, with the budget Hamilton Beach not far behind at 32 seconds. The slowest models took nearly a full minute, mostly following the trend we'd noticed—head shape matters above all else in immersion-blender performance.
The immersion blenders with narrower blade guards began struggling with the task as soon as the cream had begun to thicken. This led to an overall slower processing time, along with spatters and uneven consistency. These lesser models ended up with a layer of liquid cream floating right on top, and any attempt at incorporating it with the immersion blender risked over-processing the rest.
The models with wider head shapes and larger vents spun the cream within the container more evenly, resulting in better consistency in the final product.
Thai Curry Paste Test
For our final test, we decided to pit the Breville and the All-Clad corded stick blender, our two highest performers, against each other in a very specialized task: making Thai curry paste. This is a job that's best suited to the forceful smashing power of a mortar and pestle, but for convenience's sake (at the cost of slightly worse results), it can also be done in a food processor or a high-speed blender.
We first became aware of the fact that you could successfully make a Thai curry paste using the Breville Control Grip specifically from this 2017 YouTube video from Hot Thai Kitchen. What we wanted to know was whether a similarly performing immersion blender with a different form factor could also accomplish the task.
Those of you who know Thai cooking will quickly recognize that our test curry paste batch is missing some essential ingredients, like shrimp paste, and it uses fresh chilies instead of rehydrated dry ones (or dry chili powder, as in the YouTube video). That's because our goal here wasn't to make a true Thai curry paste, but instead to see how well the blenders could handle extremely tough and fibrous ingredients, like lemongrass, galangal, raw shallot, and makrut lime leaves. If they could handle that stuff, they could certainly pull a proper curry paste together.
We left our budget and cordless picks out of this one, since it's an especially demanding task that risked burning them out.
What emerged was interesting, in that it revealed how differently the two blenders work. Like a traditional blender, the All-Clad creates a vortex, pulling foods and liquids down into the blades before ejecting them again. This can make it very powerful and quick, but its effectiveness relies on having enough liquid to make the flow of the vortex possible.
With the much drier ingredients of a curry paste, the All-Clad had a harder time continuously processing. It got there, kind of, but even after lengthy blending, there were still visible long strands of fibers in the paste.
The Breville, on the other hand, is deliberately designed to avoid that vortex. Instead, it acts more like a hammer (for lack of a better comparison), requiring more of a manual up-and-down motion that plunges it in and out of the food until its job is done. Once we understood this design difference, we found that the Breville did an impressive job of mincing these fibrous and dry ingredients to a fine consistency.
How We Chose Our Winners
Most of the blenders could perform lightweight tasks, such as making mayonnaise or "whipping" cream, at least decently. The tests that really set them apart were those that required more intense blending.
For harder tasks, the All-Clad corded blender and the Breville were the best. Our top picks produced perfectly smooth puréed soup and finely crushed ice with ease. If you plan to use your blender mainly for mayo and whipped cream, the budget Hamilton Beach performed as well as, and sometimes better than, many higher-priced models. In fact, the most expensive unit repeatedly placed last, in test after test.
Based on our tests, we've concluded that when shopping for an immersion blender, you should either go high or go low. If you don't mind the splurge and want an immersion blender that can do it all, spring for the All-Clad corded blender or the Breville. If you need the occasional supplement to your more powerful countertop blender, one that's quick and easy to use, then grab our budget pick. It can hang with the best of the rest. And if a cordless setup is valuable to you, All-Clad's rechargeable unit performed well at every task.
The Powerhouse: All-Clad Stainless Steel Immersion Blender
What we liked: The All-Clad Stainless Steel Immersion Blender often produced results comparable to those of a countertop blender. It easily demolished tough celery for soup, though it did leave a few stray fibers trapped in its vents. It accomplished lightweight tasks, like processing the cream and making mayonnaise, almost instantly, but difficult jobs, like ice-crushing and puréeing beans, were done nearly as fast.
This model has the widest blade guard of all the ones we tested, with a diameter of three inches, resulting in a readily exposed blade that's capable of easily chopping and blending thick or tough items. It also has large vents, which produced a vortex while blending liquids. It comes equipped with an extra-long, five-foot power cord, giving you room to maneuver in your kitchen. There's an easy-to-use dial at the top for adjusting the speed, and even a turbo button if you need to kick it into high gear.
And, while this was the heaviest of the immersion blenders we tested, at two and a half pounds, we mostly appreciated its form: The tapered grip was easy to hold, and the nine-inch blending wand meant you could reach deep into a large pot without much trouble.
What we didn't like: Although the twist-off blending-wand design on the All-Clad has arrows to illustrate which direction to turn, we much preferred the release button some other units had for quick removal. Once removed, the blender wand is not dishwasher-safe, and is, in fact, hollow. The manufacturer warns against water entering the wand, so extra-careful washing is necessary. (Through long-term use, we've discovered just how stinky it can become if you do get dirty water in there.) This model does not come with any attachments, but a whisk attachment is available for purchase separately.
The Full Package: Breville Control Grip Immersion Blender
What we liked: We're fans of a lot of the Breville gear we test, and the Control Grip Immersion Blender is no exception. It's rugged and has a nicely designed ergonomic grip and an easy clip-on blending shaft.
It also comes with a boatload of accessories, making the price seem reasonable by comparison with our other top picks. Not only do you get the blender itself, you also get a whisk attachment, a mini chopper, and a spacious blending jar. The mini chopper nests neatly inside the blending jar for storage, while the lid does double duty as a nonslip base during blending.
The Breville excelled at all of our tests. For those of you who read an earlier version of this review, you may remember that this wasn't our initial impression. But, as described above, further testing has led us to conclude that success with the Breville Control Grip depends on understanding how it works—when you do, you won't find much that it can't do.
Unlike other immersion blenders that create a vortex to suck the ingredients down into the spinning blades (just as a countertop blender does), the Breville is designed to not make a vortex. This eliminates one of the more annoying features of stick blenders, which is that they suction themselves stubbornly to the bottom of the vessel. To blend properly with the Breville, you have to move it all around, and up and down. That's not particularly difficult to do, especially since you don't have to fight against those suction forces.
What we didn't like: If you're short on space, all those accessories could be more of a nuisance than a perk.
Blending on a Budget: Hamilton Beach 2-Speed Hand Blender
What we liked: At just over one and a half pounds, the lightweight Hamilton Beach 2-Speed Hand Blender held its own next to much more expensive models in multiple rounds of testing.
The two-and-a-half-inch-wide blade guard, coupled with large vents, created a considerable vortex, making quick work of purées, whipped cream, and even ice. It blended soup as well as some other serious contenders, but at a fraction of the cost. Its petite design and nonslip grip make it comfortable to hold—it's a tool you'll reach for without a second thought.
The Hamilton Beach also comes equipped with a whisk attachment for batters and egg whites, and a three-cup chopper attachment perfect for nuts and garlic. The attachments and the blending wand are top-shelf dishwasher-safe. The blending wand is eight inches long, allowing you to reach deep into various containers.
What we didn't like: We're unsure of its longevity against tough tasks, such as blending ice for smoothies. The twist-off blending wand never felt particularly secure, and it doesn't click into place or provide any other indication that it's been securely attached.
The Best Cordless: All-Clad Cordless Rechargeable Immersion Blender
What we liked: A cordless immersion blender may not sound like much, but in practice it's quite a nice feature. Anyone who's ever switched from a plug-in drill or screw gun to a battery-powered one knows what we're talking about—being free to wield the tool without having to be tethered to the wall or worry about what obstacles a cord might get snagged on is a significant improvement. Given that kitchens are filled with flames and hot liquids and other accidents waiting to happen, eliminating that cord is more than just a convenience; it's a safety feature.
All-Clad's cordless immersion blender, available only through Williams-Sonoma and All-Clad itself, performed beyond our expectations. When we first powered it up, we weren't all that impressed; it seemed weak, especially compared with its plug-in counterpart. But when put to the test, it excelled, keeping pace with the other top picks. It made a nicely smooth and silky soup well within the two-minute time limit, crushed ice in 25 seconds, and thoroughly puréed the beans with food coloring in a mere 17 seconds.
Its charging base requires a permanent spot on your countertop, which may not be ideal for smaller kitchens, but if you do have the space, it's great to have a blender always at the ready. As convenient as immersion blenders are compared with countertop ones, most still require being dug out of a drawer or cabinet, and the power cord unwound and plugged in, before you can use it. With All-Clad's cordless blender, you can just grab it, clip the blending shaft on, and go.
We also liked the cordless All-Clad's safety lock, which requires you to tap the top button before pressing the trigger; if you don't hit the trigger soon after unlocking the blender, the unit will lock itself again, and the trigger won't work. This is an important precaution on a cordless blender, since you can't just unplug it for safety's sake before you start monkeying around near the blades. An accidental trigger press is even more of a risk with a cordless blender, and All-Clad has dealt with that risk well.
What we didn't like: Like the plug-in All-Clad, the cordless one doesn't come with any accessories, which, given the price, is disappointing. And speaking of price, this thing isn't cheap. Without a window into what it costs to manufacture it, we're not questioning whether the price is fair, but given how much more affordable some of our other picks are, this is an expense that will be hard to justify for some people.
A few quick notes on the other immersion blenders we tested for this review:
- The KitchenAid 5-Speed Hand Blender was nearly the same price as the winning All-Clad corded model, but it trailed in testing, with results similar to the much less expensive Hamilton Beach 2-Speed.
- The Mueller Ultra-Stick didn't last long in our testing: As soon as we plunged it into a container of ice water for the ice-blending test, the blade got ripped off. We strongly advise not buying this one, for safety reasons.
- The Cuisinart Smart Stick 2-Speed Hand Blender and the Cuisinart Smart Stick Variable-Speed Hand Blender were comparable to our budget pick, the Hamilton Beach 2-Speed Hand Blender, and the winning corded All-Clad, respectively. They were neck-and-neck with the winners in every test, but we found the safety feature—a theoretically great idea—to be too cumbersome: You have to press and hold down an unlock button while pressing the power button, but the placement of those buttons made it an awkward two-handed operation for just about everyone who tried it.
- We were very eager to test the Bamix 2-Speed 3-Blade Hand Blender, which is prevalent in many commercial kitchens (it's the original immersion blender). To our surprise, though this model was the most expensive, it repeatedly scored at the bottom of all of our tests. It struggled to purée soup and beans, crush ice, and even make whipped cream.
- The Braun Multiquick Hand Blender has a well-designed safety feature, along with several useful attachments. However, the narrow head shape and small vents meant it required long blend times to complete our tests.
- The ProMix by Philips performed well in our tests, but not better than the All-Clad or Breville; given how close it is in price to those two, we recommend them instead.