There's relatively little overlap between the appliances used in a commercial kitchen and those used at home. The ovens are different, the refrigerators are different, the food processors are different, and, until not too long ago, so were the blenders. But more and more home cooks have invested in high-powered blenders like the Vitamix, making them an increasingly common household appliance. With a price tag in the $300 to 500 range, purchasing such an expensive blender is no small decision.
Judging the worth of something is never easy—the answer depends on one's finances and priorities. Do you cook? Never? Not even smoothies? Then buying a Vitamix is definitely not worth it. Of course, it's not always that easy to come up with such a clear answer. The best we can do is show the differences, and then let you decide.
So that's what I did: I took two of our favorite high-end blenders—the Vitamix and the Blendtec—and put them up against two of our favorite affordable blenders—the KitchenAid and the Cuisinart—in a series of challenging blending tasks. I ground whole wheat berries into flour; I puréed roasted peanuts into peanut butter; I made a smoothie with kale (gross!) to see how well the fibrous vegetable broke down; and I made blender-only hot soups to see which blenders heated the soup to the highest temperature.
The results were interesting. I've been using professional and home blenders for years, but I'd never done a side-by-side test. In almost every case, the high-powered blenders came out on top. What was surprising was how well the more affordable competitors performed. Yes, there were differences, but the affordable blenders and the high-end blenders weren't worlds apart. You can see my tests and the results in the video above.
In short, the expensive blenders did a noticeably better job grinding grain into flour, and they heated the puréed soups more, but all the blenders made peanut butter (the KitchenAid even bested the Blendtec in that test!), and the differences between the smoothies were subtle.
One important point: I didn't test longevity. Pro-level blenders are designed to take a lot more abuse and keep on going. It's likely that the more affordable ones would fail way sooner if they were used day in and day out in the way commercial kitchens use their high-end blenders. If you plan on using a blender that intensively, you'll want to upgrade to the expensive ones.
Truth is, though, most of us at home don't use our blenders for too many grueling tasks on a daily basis. That means that the affordable options aren't just a sad concession to save some cash for most people—they're legitimately good choices in and of themselves, and will do more than well enough for most blending tasks.
So, is it worth it to buy an expensive, high-powered blender? If cost is no object and the smoothest soups and sauces are more important to you than saving for retirement, then, yes, definitely. I'm certainly glad I own mine. If not, don't feel too bad—our top affordable picks have you covered. The choice is yours.