Category Archives: Appliances

Electric Stove Care

Electric Stoves

I don’t claim to be an expert at buying larger appliances like stoves, dishwashers or refrigerators. But I do know a thing or two about cleaning and care. A lot of people don’t know the the cons of owning a glass stovetop or not to use the self-cleaning function on their ovens. I do know how to take care and not ruin your expensive appliances, and also how to not ruin your food in utilizing them!

My clean stovetop!
My clean stovetop!

First I should probably start off by explaining the differences between a regular electric stove, a glass/ceramic top stove, and induction top.

Glass/ceramic are the same thing. Ceramic turns to glass when fired, so that’s why you hear these names used interchangeably. These stoves are beautiful, and I recommend them – if you don’t ever plan to cook on it. 😉

Glass / ceramic stovetop
Glass / ceramic stovetop

Why? They take forever to heat up. I had a customer come in and complain to me about his new copper-core cookware not heating up as fast as he was told it should. A co-worker of mine was dealing with the man and I happened to overhear his complaints. Yes, copper cookware should heat up relatively faster than normal aluminum-core cookware. So I stepped in and asked if he had a glass stovetop and he said that he did. “Did your other cookware take a long time to heat up, also?” Turns out that, of course, it did. So I explained to him it was his stove and not the cookware, because at the time I was actually renting a home with a glass stovetop and had a mix of aluminum and copper-core cookware, including the brand he was complaining about, and had the same problem.

Glass-top stoves also require non-scratch sponges to clean them, and can be quite difficult to clean unless you feel safe using a razor-blade on it. My grandfather owns one and refuses to crack eggs in the pan on the stove – he takes the pan off of his stove after it’s warmed up and cracks the eggs away from the stove because he says he always ends up dripping a little on the stove and has a heck of a time getting it off later when it’s burned on.

Induction stovetop
Induction stovetop

Induction stoves are not the same thing as glass-top. They are actually great if you can afford one! However, you do have to have relatively specific cookware in order to be able to utilize them because they work by magnetic induction. This means your cookware has to have a magnetic base in order to work on it. You will sometimes see people looking at cookware with a magnet in their hand and this is why. It only has to be magnetic on the bottom. The stovetop can actually be on ‘hot’ and you can pull the pan off and touch the burner and you will feel absolutely nothing!!! So you cannot use cast-iron cookware on an induction stovetop because cast iron does not have magnetic qualities. A lot of cheaper nonstick cookware will also not work on induction. Copper-core cookware actually works with induction the best – Chantal actually made their copper line specifically to work with induction.

Use and Care

Alright, so there you have it on those ‘other’ options for electric. Of course we are all familiar with basic old electric stoves (unless you’re lucky enough to have had gas your whole life, which I have not, so I will not even pretend to give advice there, and am also thoroughly jealous of you!)

One thing you really need to know when cooking on an electric stovetop is that all cookware manufacturers heartily agree that stove manufacturers make them TOO HOT! So, you should never, ever turn any of your dials all the way up to the ‘High’ setting. You should be able to successfully sear meat on a ‘Medium-high’ setting. I know a lot of you are probably impatient like me and just like to jack it all the way up to get things moving, but you should really just set it at the temperature the recipe calls for (unless it says ‘high’ because of course you are now going to always read that as ‘medium-high’, correct???) and wait and let it come to that temperature that way.

My dirty stovetop
My dirty stovetop

I take the burner plates off of the stovetop about once a month (or more if I make a huge mess!) and scrub them down really well. A lot of people don’t actually know that most stovetops lift up so you can clean under them. I wipe that all down and leave it open to dry for a little bit before assembling it again. This is where getting a name-brand stove comes in handy – easy to find burner plates to replace if you ever need to. You can actually find the plates at the Dollar Tree, of all places, but it’s not ever going to be guaranteed that they will be the exact right fit unless you get lucky or get them from the vendor. I believe Target and other stores of that nature also carry burner plates. These are both reasons why I had to purchase a new stove when I bought my home – the replacement burner plates did NOT fit it, and the top didn’t open up to clean underneath it. And clearly the previous owners didn’t understand the concept of cleaning a stove. I got it clean, but I couldn’t deal with my pans wobbling all over because the burner plates didn’t fit.

My stovetop lifted up
My stovetop lifted up

Now with the oven, what temperature you can go to will always depend on what type of cookware you are using. Most ceramic cannot go much over 400 unless you have something stronger that is high-fired, like Le Creuset or Emile Henry. Read your instructions! Anything over 500 or broil should be done in metal bakeware. I also strongly recommend investing a few dollars in an oven thermometer. A lot of ovens either don’t start out at the correct temperature to begin with or will at least change temperature over time. I remember with my mom’s old stove we had to always set it about 25 degrees lower than recipes called for because it got so much warmer over the many years she owned it.

As for the self-clean function – DON’T USE IT! Ever. Seriously!! When I bought my new stove two years ago the salesperson reconfirmed this notion with me. The self-clean function gets far too hot, and it will eventually burn out the electronics up above. This is the most common cause of broken stoves, people, so take heed! There are plenty of other ways to do it, and quite honestly, before I knew this, whenever I did have the opportunity to have an oven with this feature, I found myself doing the Easy-Off method first anyway because self-clean just bakes everything on harder. There is also the age-old trick of leaving a bowl of vinegar in the oven overnight to help loosen everything off. And I highly recommend getting an oven liner so that you really don’t ever need to mess with it. They are usually about $20 which seems high for something so small, but it’s worth the investment, trust me! You can easily wash them off in your sink with hot, soapy water and put them back into the oven.

Gas Stoves

OK, I only know that I dream about one day owning one and learning all the tips and tricks to share!! 😉

Slow Cookers

Slow cookers. Crock-pots. Is there a difference? No. Does it matter which brand you buy? Probably a little, but not really.

Rival Crock-Pot with manual switch
Rival Crock-Pot with manual switch

A little more detail! Crock-Pot is a brand name given to the original slow cooker (the very original name being the “Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker”) by the Rival Company when it bought Naxon in 1970. This can still be confusing, as seen by Google Shopping – it lists Crock-Pot and Rival as two different brands. Generally, you will see the little Rival logo above the Crock-Pot logo, but not always. The kicker? Rival is now owned by Sunbeam. My guess is that’s why not all of them have the Rival logo.

Ok, was that clear as mud? Simplified – slow cooker is the official term and Crock-Pot is a brand name. It’s like Kleenex and tissues. That’s the BEST kind of marketing, because it’s free! (Marketing major over here, kids.)

Alright, now that we’ve cleared that up, the next thing to discuss are the differences between all these slow cookers. Generally it will be the capacity size and how many buttons/cooking options are offered. All slow cookers will have an electric heating base, a ceramic cooking pot/crock (get it? Crock-Pot!), and a glass lid with or without a vent hole in it.

Kitchen Aid 6-qt. slow cooker
Kitchen Aid 6-qt. slow cooker

Capacity is clearly something you need to decide for yourself. How many people do you usually cook for? What types of things are you hoping to cook in your slow cooker? Remember, you can always make less in a larger vessel, but you cannot make more in a smaller one! You just need to adjust your cooking times and temps. 😛 Considering shape, there are both oval and round slow cookers. It might be easier to fit a small bird, a roast or other meat into an oval shape, but the choice is purely personal preference.

Cuisinart 3.5-qt. slow cooker
Cuisinart 3.5-qt. slow cooker

I think Cuisinart makes the smallest slow cooker at 3.5-quarts. This isn’t counting any of the smaller buffet serving warmers (key word ‘warmer’ – they don’t cook!), like the Slow Cooker “Little Dipper” 16-oz. warmer that usually only comes as a free gift with a larger slow cooker. (You can usually find them for sale alone at Goodwill, however!) Several brands make an 8-quart, which is the largest I think you can find. This is an improvement because a couple of years ago it was hard to find larger than 6- or 7-quarts.

Cooking options are generally very simple on most slow cookers, having 2-4 settings that include: Off, Warm, Low, High. Warm is not a cooking mode, it just keeps the food at temperature when cooking is done. Crock-Pot makes a lot of cool buffet serving warmers that only keep already cooked food warm – they don’t cook, but they’re great for people who entertain a lot!

Crock-Pot Hook Up series buffet servers - you can mix and match the pieces you want to hook to each other!
Crock-Pot Hook Up series buffet servers – you can mix and match the pieces you want to hook to each other!

Programmable slow cookers will automatically switch over to “Warm” mode after a certain amount of hours on a cooking mode, however, I have only come across one that will turn itself completely off. The Cuisinart programmable slow cookers all have an 8-hour “Warm” mode maximum, at which point it will beep five times and turn itself off automatically.

Ah, but alas, technology has caught up with us! I have discovered another one that you can control via an app on your cell phone! The Crock-Pot 6-quart Slow Cooker with WeMo. In searching through the manual and FAQs, it seems like this will be the first slow cooker that you could load food into and start at a later time – but beware, as the reason no one else has done this is for food safety reasons – you don’t want to leave uncooked food out for very long, so I think the idea behind this smart cooker is that if you’re running late, you can easily turn it off or down to warm until you can get home to it, not that you can dump everything in and leave it sitting out to spoil for a few hours before you turn it on.

Crock-Pot with WeMo (smart slow cooker!)
Crock-Pot with WeMo (smart slow cooker!)

Vent Hole in Lid

I can’t seem to find a reliable source of information from vendors or consumers about some slow cookers having vent holes and others not. I did find this site that claims, as many others do, that newer slow cookers run much hotter than those of the old days. So my final thought on the matter is that the manufacturers are adding these holes to prevent explosions. This isn’t a pressure cooker – you don’t want a perfectly tight seal, or else you will get a pressure build-up and potentially blow-up your dinner.

Hamilton Beach slow cooker with digital probe thermometer
Hamilton Beach slow cooker with digital probe thermometer

A lot of folks will encourage you to wrap your entire cooker and lid with aluminum foil to try and make the seal impenetrable, but the vent hole is too small to let THAT much moisture out that your food will dry out. You can always add more liquid if you notice your cooker is drying up faster than what the recipe calls for.

If you let your food cool inside of the crock pot, it can create a vacuum seal that can make removing the lid extremely challenging, so this is another reason for the vent hole. Some slow cookers come with a meat probe and the probe fits in the vent hole and rests there nicely.

Multi-Cookers

Cuisinart multi-cooker
Cuisinart multi-cooker

Everyone is coming out with multi-cookers over the last couple of years, and depending on the brand, they can usually do at least three things – slow cook, brown/saute, and steam. Some can also bake, cook rice, roast, or even pressure cook! Since all brands and models are so new to the market I can’t fully back buying any one over the other. Cuisinart, Kitchen Aid, and Oster are usually good bets – I am pretty certain that Cuisinart put out the very first one and everyone else followed suit.

I do personally own a Ninja 3-in-1 cooking system, which is considered a multi-cooker because it has a slow cooker setting, a stovetop setting (brown/saute), and an oven setting (bake/roast). There is now a 4-in-1 that also has a steam setting.

So far I really like the Ninja – I’ve had it for almost a year and have used it quite a bit. I have personally never been much into slow cooking and when I finally got a little 4-quart Crock-Pot a couple of years ago, I hardly used it. I was annoyed by recipes that claim you can make things like pulled pork in your slow cooker and have it turn out like it normally would. (Maybe this happens for other people, but not me! Haha) And don’t get me started on using another pan and starting on the stovetop, then transferring to slow cooker….and/or transferring afterwards to the oven! No! Slow cooking is supposed to be easy, one-pot cooking in my mind. And the Ninja accomplishes that because you can cook the meat on the stovetop setting and then plop everything else in and turn it over to slow cooker mode. Roast a chicken then immediately make your stock! Beautiful!

Ninja 4-in-1 cooking system
Ninja 4-in-1 cooking system

That being said, I think any multi-cooker would bring me the same satisfaction. However, the downside is that all of these have nonstick aluminum cooking pots inside of them, which of course they all claim are dishwasher safe, but the dishwasher detergent is just too harsh for nonstick and I got scratches on mine after one wash. Lesson learned – I leave it out of the dishwasher now! So I would advise the same on any of these other multi-cookers, also. The ones with glass lids, at least the lid can go in the dishwasher (the 3-in-1 doesn’t, so I have to hand wash, but the 4-in-1 comes with glass). Kitchen Aid is elusive about the material of their cooking pot, but call it the “CERAMASHIELD™nonstick cooking pot with pouring spout” and emphasize that repeated dishwashing can reduce the effectiveness of the nonstick coating, so I feel secure in saying it’s probably also an aluminum pot with nonstick coating, just this specific brand of coating.

The Ninjas are both 6-quarts, as is the Oster brand. Cuisinart’s and Kitchen Aid’s multi-cookers are only 4-quart capacity. They all come with a small roasting rack included, and some of them have other accessories you can purchase to go with them, including a ‘stir tower’ for the Kitchen Aid model!

Kitchen Aid multi-cooker with optional Stir Tower attachment
Kitchen Aid multi-cooker with optional Stir Tower attachment

 

Read The Kitchn’s tips on what mistakes to avoid when using your slow cooker.

Food Processors and Mini Choppers

I am so glad that I waited to write this blog because Kitchen Aid just recently came out with their new model, so we can include that in the review. Huzzah!

cuisinarts-mini-food-processor
Cuisinart mini choppers

Food processors can be pretty expensive, and a lot of the time you can do the same thing by hand or with a blender, so it’s a tough call deciding on whether or not you really need one. If you do a lot of food preparation, a food processor can save you sooooo much time in the kitchen, and it can do a lot of things a blender can’t do, so that’s a plus.

Mini Choppers

I want to start out by discussing mini choppers. A lot of people refer to these as food processors, but the distinction is that it only has a chopping blade, no discs for slicing or shredding. Most of these you’ll find are in a $20-50 price range and will usually just have two speeds. It might say “chop” or “grind” but in all honesty, they are just “fast” and “faster”. I mentioned these in my “Coffee Grinder” blog because a lot of people buy these to grind their coffee beans with.

Black & Decker ergonomic chopper
Black & Decker ergonomic chopper

Mini choppers are usually 2-3 cups in size, and like most larger food processors, can’t handle a ton of liquid. They are quite handy for small jobs, like chopping up veggies really quick or making a small batch of hummus or salsa. With the limited abilities of the mini chopper, I don’t think that brand really matters. Like with a big food processor, I don’t think any of these will work unless all the pieces are properly snapped into place, meaning you can’t accidentally chop your fingers or splash food everywhere. (If there’s too much liquid, that will probably escape and make a mess.) This is actually the one item Cuisinart does NOT put a 3-year warranty on because people so often misuse them. (Read: they should have purchased a blender or a real food processor and burned it out.)

Some immersion blenders come with a mini chopper attachment that the stick’s motor can power. These are usually one cup and not very useful, so I wouldn’t base your purchase of the immersion blender solely off of that optional feature.

Salad Shooters

Presto Salad Shooter
Presto Salad Shooter

I noticed a few of these while image shopping, so figured it was worth a mention. The term “salad shooter” is trademarked to the original product by Presto, so everyone else seems to call these “salad makers” or “mini food processors”. These machines contain rotating discs that “shoot” the end product out and you have to have a bowl or something to catch it. These only slice and shred, they cannot chop, but nonetheless, pretty handy.

Food Processors

Alright, so moving along to the big machines, the ones that do it all! Obviously there’s a larger motor, meaning a heavier base, so keep that in mind if you don’t have counter space! Having to get it in and out of a cupboard or pantry might be too much effort. 

Chopping blade
Chopping blade

Any brand of food processor will come with a metal chopping blade, a stem piece to attach the discs, and a slicing and shredding disc. Sometimes these are combined in a reversible two-sided disc, meaning you’ll only have one disc; one side shreds, one side slices. You will have buttons that say “On”, “Off”, and “Pulse”. “Pulse” will spin once and you have to keep hitting it repeatedly to keep the blade going. There will also be a feed tube and some sort of pusher to help push your items into the machine as well as prevent splashing. Sometimes they also include a plastic dough blade, as well. Like I mentioned with the mini choppers, they make these super safe, as they won’t work unless all pieces are properly snapped into place.

Cuisinart DLC-2011CHB
Cuisinart DLC-2011CHB

As for brand, that truly does matter with the larger food processors. The only choice, in my opinion, is a Cuisinart, and you can’t go wrong with any model. The motors they put on these things just don’t die! The kitchen store I worked at does a trade-in event annually, where you can bring in your old chopper or food processor, working or not, and get money towards a new Cuisinart. People would bring in 20 year old Cuisinart food processors and tell us that they still worked, they were just finally ready to upgrade to a newer model with more features. Color me amazed!

Remember my mantra: Kitchen Aid for stand mixers, Cuisinart for food processors.

Cuisinart also puts astounding warranties on the motors of their food processors. The warranties vary by model, but none are less than 5 years, most are 10, and some are as much as 20! Nobody else in the industry puts more than a 1-year warranty on their motors, so to me, it’s worth the money!

Cuisinart DFP-14BCN
Cuisinart DFP-14BCN

I’m not going to say one model is better than any of the others, with the exception of their newer models in the Elite collection! Those are the best, just because of the amazing features they have, which we will discuss very shortly. If you don’t have a need for all the new features on the newest models, older models still have amazing motors that won’t disappoint. You’re basically comparing what size work bowl you need for your home since they all pretty much do the same thing. There’s a 14-cup model that is less expensive than some of the smaller bowl models because it has a very basic design and no “Pulse” button, just two paddle buttons for off and on.

Cuisinart Elite 14 cup
Cuisinart Elite 14 cup

Ok, ok, so these Elite food processors. They’ve been around for a few years at this point, and I really don’t see the need to make any improvements. The standard food processor hasn’t changed much other than aesthetics and feed tube sizes getting larger or being multiple pieces. But the largest complaint about all food processors has always been the liquid fill line always being about an inch from the bottom of the work bowl, making it really hard to make soups and other liquidy things. Kitchen Aid had come out with a multi-bowl food processor, but using the small bowl always made a big mess in the larger bowl anyway, so what’s the point?

Cuisinart Elite 14 cup anatomy
Cuisinart Elite 14 cup anatomy

Cuisinart fixed that! They put a silicone ring in the lid so that the liquid fill line in both the large bowl and the mini-bowl (nonexistent for the mini-bowl in previous Kitchen Aid models) was almost to the very top of the bowl!! No mess in the bigger bowl if you wanted to use the small one for a little job. The Elite comes in a 12-cup model, which includes a 4-cup, as well as a 14-cup model, which includes both an 11- and a 4.5-cup bowl. The bowls all also contain a slight pouring lip to make it easier to pour the liquid out. Genius!

Julienne, shred and slice discs
Julienne, shred and slice discs

The next thing Cuisinart did was combine the slicing and shredding discs into multi-discs so customers didn’t have to a) purchase multiple extra discs and b) have extra clutter for all the different discs they owned. So the slicing disc has an adjustable knob that gives you 6 different thicknesses on the blade and the shredding disc is reversible with coarse on one side and fine on the other.

Multi-piece feed tube
Multi-piece feed tube

They also made the motors even stronger, so the largest size, the 14-cup, has a 20 year motor warranty. I should note that Cuisinart has always offered the largest feed tubes on their lids. Speaking of feed tubes, a lot of the brands now have multi-piece feed tubes, which confuses people. There’s multiple pieces so you can choose which piece is large enough for your food to fit through. That way if you have something small, you don’t have to potentially get splashed by using the largest opening to drop it into the processor. All two or three pieces have a flat base to act as a pusher for the food you’re dropping in, as well.

Kitchen Aid’s new model has copied all of these new ideas, which is great. I haven’t seen one in person yet, but have watched some demonstrations on TV and the silicone ring doesn’t look as thick as Cuisinart’s. Since they obviously couldn’t copy everything exactly, the way to adjust their slicing disc is a lever on the front of the base of the machine, not on the disc itself like Cuisinart (they’re calling it ExactSlice), so you can adjust the thickness mid-slice. 

New Kitchen Aid ExactSlice food processor
New Kitchen Aid ExactSlice food processor

Looking at specs of the Kitchen Aid machine online, I’m also noticing that their liquid fill line is only a little over the halfway point of the work bowl, whereas Cuisinart’s is almost to the top. I can’t see it on the mini-bowl, but it does say the smaller one can handle liquids, too. I was so excited by the prospect of them copying Cuisinart I almost bought one. Who can resist those fun colors?! But, it’s still expensive. And so, looking back at the warranty issue, I was convinced, personally – you might not care – of the quality and paying a bit more to have the luxury of knowing I will never have to make this purchase again in my lifetime.

Last (bad!) model of Kitchen Aid food processors
Last (bad!) model of Kitchen Aid food processors

One thing to note is that the Kitchen Aid food processor is extremely new and a lot of stores aren’t selling it yet. The last model of Kitchen Aid food processors were performing so badly that the kitchen store I worked at stopped carrying them, and looking at all of the big kitchen stores now, it looks like nobody currently carries any Kitchen Aid food processors at all. I am wondering if with all the aesthetic changes that Kitchen Aid bothered to fix the technical issues with this new model and stores will renew their faith and start selling them again. Time will tell!! 

Cuisinart blender/food processor
Cuisinart blender/food processor

The Cuisinart food processor/blender 2-in-1 was mentioned in my “Blenders” blog, but I will mention it again, almost verbatim. I am always leery of anything that is a 2-in-1 as it calls to mind those TVs that had the VHS player embedded in them, and the VHS player ALWAYS broke. I love Cuisinart, and I’m sure this is a solid machine, but I wouldn’t put my trust in the performance of either being as high caliber as a stand-alone. Personal opinion, only, of course!! 😛 The food processor is only 3 cups like a mini chopper, however, it can slice and shred, which a mini chopper cannot do, so that is definitely a plus. This does not come with the same motor warranty as the other Cuisinart food processors, so again, I don’t think it’s in the same realm when comparing.

Cuisinart disc storage case
Cuisinart disc storage case

There are accessories you can purchase extra with most of the brands, including specialty cutting discs (like french fry and julienne) and cases to store your discs in.

Black & Decker food processor
Black & Decker food processor

Hamilton Beach, Black and Decker, and Delonghi all make various models of food processors, as well.

Immersion Blenders & Blenders

Immersion (Stick/Hand) Blenders
Kitchen Aid immersion blender and accessories
Immersion blenders are pretty handy little tools, great for someone who makes simple smoothies and soups. An immersion blender cannot crush ice at all, believe me, I tried it. 😉 Doesn’t even really chip at it. As long as you remember to submerge the base blending piece before turning it on, it should not splash at all. Immersion = immerse. Make sure the parts are completely covered in liquid and you’re all set!
I personally don’t believe you need speeds on an immersion blender. It’s either going to blend or it isn’t, going faster or slower isn’t changing anything. Kitchen Aid seems to have realized this and toned it down a little. They originally had a 9-speed, but now offer a variety of new models with less speeds: 5, 3, or 2. No singles.
Kitchen Aid is big on accessories, as well. Usually a wire whisk (which I got lots of complaints about them breaking and/or not working very well), and a mini chopper. The mini chopper is handy if you don’t already have one.
Cuisinart Smart Stick immersion blenders
My favorite recommendation is the Cuisinart Smart Stick. You should be able to find it for under $30 (a lot of times for $26 so shop around!) and it comes with their 3-year warranty. That’s nuts for under $30!! I’ve had one for at least four years, and I don’t use it daily, but I use it for smoothies, milkshakes, and especially in soups. It’s great not having to dump your soup in a blender and then back into the pot.
Cuisinart does also make a couple of models with speeds and accessories, as well as a cordless, rechargeable (plugs directly into the wall) model.And of course there are the usual suspects floating around, including Oster, Proctor-Silex, and Hamilton Beach. They all seem to call them “hand” blenders.

Blenders

Oster blender

Blenders can be a tricky subject. People buy them and abuse the heck out of them, so you get a lot of mixed reviews and it’s hard to say what’s the best blender for the individual. If you aren’t looking to invest a lot of money, the Oster blender is pretty standard and a lot of people have them (and sometimes refer to them as the “Osterizer”). Of course there are also the usual brand name competitors like Proctor Silex and Hamilton Beach.

If you are looking for something with a little more power and you’re wanting to invest a little bit more, you’re probably looking at the following brands.

Blender FYI: 48 ounces used to be standard size, but a lot of brands now have 56 ounce carafes.
Waring Pro – a lot of people had these for over a decade with no issues, but they did start outsourcing them and I was noticing a few more issues here and there, but no mass returns or anything like that. A solid brand name that makes commercial-style items for the residential home, a lot of people prefer the simplicity of two-speeds and love that it’s a glass carafe and has that classic blender look.
Waring Pro blenders
Cuisinart – If you’re looking for a glass blender with more options, the variety of blenders Cuisinart offers might be for you. It’s got a lot of speed settings and an unusually large carafe for being glass on their PowerEdge series of blenders. Of course Cuisinart offers its 3-year warranty which is great for a blender.
Cuisinart PowerEdge blender

 

Cuisinart PowerBlend Duet
Blender/Food Processor

Cuisinart also makes a food processor/blender 2-in-1. I am always leery of anything that is a 2-in-1 as it calls to mind those TVs that had the VHS player embedded in them, and the VHS player ALWAYS broke. I love Cuisinart, and I’m sure this is a solid machine, but I wouldn’t put my trust in the performance of either being as high caliber as a stand-alone. Personal opinion, only, of course!! 😛 Also, the food processor is only 3 cups so it can’t really do much beyond slicing and shredding. However, the tiny food choppers you can purchase (they are not processors, although a lot of people call them that) are usually 3 cups, too, so this 2-in-1 is actually a processor because it shreds and slices, as well as chop.

The carafes on the following brands are all made from BPA-free polycarbonate (not just plastic!), and that’s also what airplane windows are made out of, so you know these babies are tough! If the blender you’re looking at doesn’t specifically say “BPA free”  or “polycarbonate” you might want to figure out what kind of plastic they are using and consider either a glass carafe or one of these brands!

Kitchen Aid – The Kitchen Aid Diamond Blender boasts the same blade as their previous blender model, which they have always claimed is the sharpest and strongest on the market. I know they have a patent on it, and the blade is mentioned in a comparison video I link to below. The new carafe has a unique diamond-shape that helps to create the more powerful blending vortex. They are consistently rated the best ice chopping blender on the market, and I would strongly recommend either this new model or the one before it as being superb quality for purchasing.
Kitchen Aid Diamond Blender

Ninja – Ninja blenders are newer to the game than its competitors, but people seem to love them! They have quite a few models, from small food choppers to machines that rival the Vitamix. I know a lot of people who have different ones and all of them seem to love them and I’ve never really heard a complaint, but I have no personal experience with them. A video below shows a side-by-side comparison against the new Kitchen Aid blender and I am not convinced of the Ninja’s superiority! However, if you’re looking for a small food processor as well as a blender, some of their models are basically like the Cuisinart PowerDuet mentioned above, and Ninja’s seem to be pretty powerful food processors.

Ninja 1500 Mega Kitchen System
blendtec – This brand is highly regarded in the juicing world as being the best blender on the market for making smoothies. However, after watching a performance test video I have linked below, I am not sure I am convinced this is worth all the money! I don’t have any experience with this brand, so don’t take my word for it.

blendtec

 

Vitamix 5200

Vitamix – OK, so this is supposed to be the Cadillac of blenders, right? There are, however, a lot of models, and most reviews, etc. refer to the 5200 model. I’m not sure why this is the go-to model to review, but unfortunately, as with the other blenders, everyone has had a different experience. This is part of their C-Series blenders, which are their strongest motors, which also means they are very loud. Also, depending on which model you’re specifically looking at, the carafes might not fit under your kitchen cabinets.

This comparison chart on their website will help you to determine what “series” of their blenders you should at least start with, based on your preferences. The G-Series addresses some issues with the C-Series, still with the most powerful motors, but adding a sound dampening technology to make your blending experience a little quieter. They are low-profile machines, too, meaning they should fit under cabinets on countertops in most homes.
CIA Vitamix Professional Series

The only Vitamix I am certain doesn’t require using different carafes for wet or dry, and is backed by the Culinary Institute of America, is the Vitamix CIA Professional Series. The CIA is the only culinary school that can dub someone a “master chef” and so having their endorsement on something is a HUGE deal. These are the ones I used to sell, the only ones our company carried, because they have proven to never fail and work beautifully every time. So if you’re going to spend that kind of money, spend a little more and get the best of the best! The CIA Vitamix is part of the noisier C-Series, so I’m sure the new Professional Series models in the G-Series lineup works just as well but more quietly, it just doesn’t have that CIA endorsement.

Final Thoughts

OK, so I actually started putting together this blender post because I am finally getting serious about buying myself a blender. Knowing all I knew already, there are new machines on the market, and like I said, a LOT of people seem to be buying Ninjas right now, so I wasn’t sure I was still making the right choice for myself, as I had always drooled over the old Kitchen Aid model [in green apple! ;)]. And I haven’t sold blenders since Kitchen Aid came out with their new diamond model, so I had to check out the specs on that, of course! [And now I have to pick a new color because I don’t like the green apple as much on the new look! (First-world problems!)] Check out these test videos I found online:
Ninja 1100 Kitchen System

Ninja vs. KitchenAid video – This video show the NEW Kitchen Aid and proves how fast it works compared to the Ninja Professional NJ600. She chose that Ninja because it’s the same price range as the Kitchen Aid. The gal casually mentions the blendtec like “of course” everyone who juices knows how amazing that one already is. However, the video below paints an extremely different story about the blendtec, and it honestly looks like the worst model.

5 Blender Show-Down by Popular Mechanics – This is by Popular Mechanics, so I trust the source quite a bit. She’s using the old Kitchen Aid model, so I am over here picturing the new one doing an even better job!! And I’m sad about the Vitamix and wish she had used the CIA model since I have heard so many mixed reviews about the 5200 model. I have personally used the CIA model and it destroyed everything we put in it, however I obviously didn’t do this exact test.

However, the results of that side-by-side test really push me towards what I thought was the best choice for me all along, which is the Kitchen Aid. I’m not planning on making my own flours, sugars, nut butters, etc. I just want a strong, sturdy blender that will crush ALL the ice. If I did want to do all that other stuff, I might look a little more into the different Ninja models and see how they test out, but ultimately the CIA Vitamix would be my choice if I wanted to lay down a lot of money for a machine that can do a lot. They also offer a 30-day trail period so if you’re unhappy with your purchase, you can return it without a hassle, which is great since it’s such a big monetary investment.
*Also remember that if you are wanting to juice and extract more nutrients out of your produce, particularly using wheat grass or other leafy greens, make sure to compare notes about juicers. The Omega Nutrition Center can make nut butters and can end up being the right choice for a lot of folks who thought they only needed a blender!

Electric Hand and Stand Mixers

Electric Hand Mixers
I’m not really going to recommend one brand over another in this category, as I think most manufacturers make very similar product and since they aren’t built to last, I wouldn’t necessarily consider spending a ton of money on one, and a cheaper one like OsterBlack&Decker or Proctor Silex will probably do the trick. I will say that if you are spending more money on a more expensive brand name, that I don’t think it’s worth the extra money for anything over 7 speeds. I know a Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid both make 9-speed mixers these days, but most people don’t really use even the 7 speeds let alone 9, which gives you one lower and one higher speed to utilize.
Oster hand mixer
Accessories for these also seem to be somewhat of a joke. Most folks who have gotten accessory pieces with their Kitchen Aid told me that they didn’t work well if at all, and if they did work, broke within a year (specifically, the whisk!). The motor on these isn’t really strong enough to handle dough, so having dough hooks for this might end up burning out your hand mixer. Don’t base your purchase off of the accessories you’re receiving as part of the “deal”!
I had this model and loved the storage feature!
Electric Stand Mixers
When you do find you need a little more power, it might be time to step up into a stand mixer. There are quite a few brands on the market so this can be a tricky item to shop for if you don’t know what you’re after. I personally only recommend Kitchen Aid’s stand mixer, and with that I also say anything less than a 5 quart/325 watt machine is not worth your money!! (There is a 4.5 quart tilt head stand mixer that has the same body as the 5 quart but a smaller motor and mixing bowl. This is usually the one you see at Bed, Bath & Beyond or Target.)
My beautiful tangerine 5 quart tilt head Kitchen Aid mixer!
If you’re spending the money, you at least want the power, and there are some basic cookie doughs that will really work your machine. Why worry about overburdening the machine when you don’t have to? Get the 325 watt and don’t worry about it!
These machines will tell you how much “flour power” they have (or for people like me, how many batches of cookies you can churn out!), so that might help you to determine what size fits your needs best. I would say that if you regularly only make single or double batches of baked goods the 5 quart should be large enough for you. If you are constantly making several huge batches of baked goods for your kids’ school or are running a very small business that requires a bit of baking you are probably leaning towards a 6 quart. (NOT a small bakery!! Commercial-grade, people.) Kitchen Aid’s 7 quart is newer to the market so I am hesitant to recommend it yet, as I normally say anything stronger than that you need to be looking at commercial mixers, like Kitchen Aid’s 8 quart.
Kitchen Aid 6 quart bowl lift stand mixer
I prefer a tilt head, which you can only get on the 5 quart or smaller. The 6 quart comes with the “bowl lift” feature, which you can also find on different 5 quart models. I personally never feel like the bowl attaches properly with the bowl lift, so it doesn’t feel secure to me. I know it is secure, I just don’t like it! My recommendation is to go into a store and play around with the machines, practice taking the bowl and beaters off and on and see what feels most comfortable to you. Ask the salesperson if they are able to show you how to put attachments on the machine! I am serious! All of these things sound weird and trivial, but if you’ve never used one before, it can be kind of daunting!
Breville has a stand mixer, however I unfortunately have no experience with their products but know they are extremely reputable. The other thing is that nobody has had one for 40 years yet to say “these babies last 40 years!” like the Kitchen Aid, so until that happens, I am going to keep on keepin’ on! (I’d say once somebody has had one for a decade, we’ll call them solid – haha!)
Breville Scraper Mixer Pro
I do NOT recommend the Cuisinart stand mixer! Repeat this mantra – “Kitchen Aid stand mixer, Cuisinart food processor!” (We’ll discuss food processors in another blog, I promise!) They tried to overcome the very minor complaints with the Kitchen Aid, but I don’t think they succeeded. For one thing, when they were first introduced I got to attend a big demo event because they launched a lot of new items that year. The rep for Cuisinart kept saying the model she was demonstrating to us was not the “official” one for sale but a prototype – yeah right! She had a lot of issues getting it to even work at first, and once we started using one in the store I worked at we realized more of its shortcomings. It’s available in 5 and 7 quart models in various colors.
Cuisinart stand mixer
The pouring shield attaches to the tilt head so you don’t need to find somewhere to set it down like with the Kitchen Aid shield. However, anything you may have “spilled” in the pour spout of the pouring shield when dumping it in the mixer will drip down onto the machine when you lift the tilt head up to retrieve the bowl. Our example was vanilla…dripping all down the side of that beautiful white machine! Extra cleanup is never good in my book!
The one really cool feature of the Cuisinart is the digital countdown timer with auto-off, which Breville has incorporated into their Scraper Mixer Pro. I unfortunately think adding something digital to the mixer is going to reduce its lifespan, but would assume that the mixer itself would continue to work despite a digital timer feature “wearing out”. I think that’s another reason the Cuisinart doesn’t seem to have the power it should – they added an extra “outlet” for a variety of attachments, most appealing to consumers being the blender and food processor attachments. The food processor attachment is surprisingly different than a food chopper of the same size (3 cups) in freestanding form. Those choppers only do one thing – chop. This attachment actually has slicing and shredding discs like a real food processor. There is also a meat grinder attachment that is very similar to the Kitchen Aid one.
Electric Stand Mixers with Detachable Hand Mixer
Some people like the idea of the stand mixer with the hand mixer piece that detaches. I’m not sure that these will have the “reach” that standard stand mixers claim to have with their planetary mixing action. These have two separate motors, one that powers the hand mixer portion with the beaters and the other that spins the bowl, which should force the mixture to combine at least almost as well. Be careful – some inexpensive stand mixer models look like they have a detachable hand mixer but they don’t, it’s just a design illusion. I’d definitely recommend the stronger motor, at least 325 watts, because like I mentioned in the hand mixer section, the motors on those little guys aren’t going to be strong enough to actually handle dough on the dough hooks that come with them. Breville’s has 380 watts and seems like a good choice for this category.
Breville Handy Stand Mixer
Stand Mixer “Standard” Accessories
These are standard for the Kitchen Aid mixer but most mixers should have the three standard mixing pieces. Here’s a quick video to demonstrate how the accessories attach to the mixer:
**Note that some accessories for Kitchen Aid are “coated” and some are not. The coating can chip off if you are very hard on them. NEITHER can go in the dishwasher – all of the mixing pieces are hand wash only!**
***These links might not go to your exact model number! Please search for the correct piece if you are looking to replace something on an existing machine!***
Wire Whip – This is the piece that looks like a whisk. You’re going to use this to make icing, meringue, whipped cream, or anything that calls for a whisk that isn’t too tough to mix through.
Wire whip
Dough Hook – This is the piece that looks like a pirate hook on the smaller machines, and on the larger ones it’s a tad curlier-looking. You’ll use this for bread or pizza dough, and you’ll know you made your dough correctly when you see it “tornado” up the hook.
Coated dough hook
Flat Beater – This is the piece I use the most, it’s the flat triangular-looking piece. This is for cookies, cakes, etc. or anytime the recipe tells you to “beat” something.
Coated flat beater
Power Hub – For attachments, which are sold separately. [We can discuss these further in a future blog!] When you put an attachment on the power hub, you turn the machine on the same way as if you were mixing, and yes, the lower piece where you attach the whip/beater/hook will spin around while you are using the attachment piece. Don’t worry!
Kitchen Aid power hub
Pouring Shield – Older models may have come with a 2-piece pouring shield, but the newer ones are 1-piece on Kitchen Aid. Breville’s looks like it is 2 pieces. This is to prevent splatter coming out of the bowl but has a pour spout so you can add ingredients while the mixer is still running.
Kitchen Aid 1-piece pouring shield
Glass Bowl – Some of the new mixers have the option of a glass bowl, or you can purchase it separately for certain models to replace your stainless bowl with. It comes with a lid, which is helpful for refrigerator storage. It is extremely heavy, however, so think about when it’s full and having to maneuver it around! So far I know they make a 5 quart tilt head and a 6 quart bowl lift glass bowl. They are so popular I am sure they are working on them for the other models, be patient!
Kitchen Aid glass bowl w/ lid
Flex Edge Beater Blade – Kitchen Aid now makes a scraper blade attachment, but they were extremely reluctant to do so.
Beater Blade and Pourfect Scrape-A-Bowl – These two competitors came out with their silicone-edged flat beaters first, and technically using them violates your Kitchen Aid warranty, but people were buying them in handfuls anyway, so Kitchen Aid had to get on board and get some of that market!
Beater Blade
Scrape-a-Bowl
**I personally just use a regular silicone spatula – it will heel to the mixer if you use it while turned on and won’t break or chip.**