I love my stand mixer, but recently I've been seeing another appliance, and we really have something special. Though it could never completely replace my beloved red KitchenAid, I find myself reaching for my immersion blender (also known as a "stick blender" or "hand blender") to handle tasks I used to drag my stand mixer or food processor out for.
Immersion blenders are as useful as they are convenient: They're small, easy to use and clean, and can perform a variety of kitchen tasks usually reserved for bigger, heavier appliances like blenders, food processors, and mixers.
How to Pick Your Stick (Blender)
If you're a fan of specs, check out this extensive guide from Serious Eats, in which J. Kenji Lopez-Alt compares fifteen different models and breaks it all down for you in terms of weight, locking mechanisms, speed and even noise. According to Lopez-Alt, you also want to look for a model with a wide, shallow blade guard with large side vents to help with circulation and a release-button lock, rather than a twist-off mechanism.
What to Make
The beauty of the immersion blender lies in its extreme portability. Gone are the days of slopping soup into a blender, ladle by ladle. With an immersion blender, you can leave your soup (or sauce, or milkshake, or whatever) in its original container, and blend with ease. Here are a few of our favourite things to immerse our stick blender in.
Creamy, Dreamy Mayonnaise
Immersion blenders excel at emulsification, which makes them perfect for whipping up a quick batch of mayonnaise or aioli. Usually, when making mayo with a food processor, you have to be careful to add your oil in a very thin, steady stream. But, as the video above shows us, by layering your ingredients with the oil at the top and inserting the blender down to the very bottom of the cup, the blender does all the work for you.
The movement of the blades pulls the oil down slowly from the top, gradually emulsifying it with other ingredients and preventing breakage.
If you don't have a recipe for mayo, I recommend using either this one from The Kitchn or this one Serious Eats, but the essential ingredients are egg yolks, lemon, oil, and sometimes a little mustard.
Frosty Smoothies and Shakes
Forget the Magic Bullet, you can make shakes and smoothies for one super quickly with your immersion blender. I usually just use the mixing cup that comes with the blender, but any wide-mouth glass will do.
Just dump your ingredients in your receptacle of choice and get to blending, making sure to start with the blades fully immersed in the liquid before slowly moving them up and down to let everyone get to know each other.
Fluffy Whipped Cream
Though some blenders come with a whisk attachment, you don't need it to make fluffy clouds of perfectly whipped cream in under two minutes. Simply pour your cream into the measuring cup, insert the blender and blend on high until stiff peaks form.
Food and cooking authority Mark Bittman uses his immersion blender to make really awesome vinaigrettes that will last up to a week in the fridge. If you're not quite sure how to go about making a vinaigrette, keep in mind that you want a ratio of 60 per cent oils, 30 per cent acids, and 10 per cent other flavours.
Consult the above graphic for flavour combination ideas.
Heavenly Hollandaise for Days
Like mayonnaise above, one of the most important factors in making a sauce is proper emulsification. Hollandaise sauce is one of the harder sauces to master and once again, The Food Lab has perfected a way to quickly make this tasty emulsion using a stick blender.
The ingredients are startlingly similar to those found in mayo — egg yolk, lemon, water, and salt are all there — but you'll also be working with delicious melted butter. To ensure the hot butter doesn't immediately cook the egg, you'll need to do a bit of drizzling while you blend. Don't worry, I fully believe you possess the dexterity to pull this off.
Virtually Every Soup and Sauce
Soups and sauces are pretty much the entire reason I bought a stick blender in the first place. I make a lot of tomato soup, curry ketchup, and spaghetti sauce — I'm sensing a theme here — and the immersion blender ensures that my soups are silky and my sauce not too chunky. It's particularly game-changing with soups, as I no longer scald myself with hot liquid while transferring it back and forth from the blender.
One word of caution: when using your immersion blender in a pot of hot, goopy liquid, ensure the head of the blender is completely submerged, so as to prevent splashing.
How to Care for Your Immersion Blender
Unlike a food processor, which always seems to grow new parts each time I go to clean it, you really only have one component to worry about cleaning with a stick blender. The key is rinsing the head of the blender immediately after you're done using it, to prevent food from drying and caking on.
Of course, I am a very forgetful person, so I don't always pull this off. Luckily, a quick soak in some hot, soapy water, followed by a rinsing usually does the trick. You can also fill the included cup with hot water and a bit of surfactant, submerge the blender and blend the soapy water to get it all up in the bowl of the head.
Rinse and you're done. If you're dealing with something particularly stubborn, you can always take a toothbrush and scrub the blades and bowl. For the handle (which contains the motor and thus cannot be submerged in water) just wipe it down with a damp cloth.
Once it's clean, let it dry fully, and return it to the cupboard until you're ready for your next, beautifully-blended adventure.