September 12, 2021

Kitchen Essential: Immersion Blenders

How immersion blenders will make you a better cook.

I’ve come to learn cooking isn’t only about flavor.

It’s about transformation. You prepare, change, and combine ingredients in a way that makes them tastier than they would be in their original state.

So it’s also about what impacts the experience of eating—of which texture plays a big role.

I’ve noticed this about chefs. They use their blender a lot more than we do at home. My guess is that’s because texture is so important to them. And because they’re willing to take that extra step to transform ingredients.

A spoonful of an ultra-smooth mash is luxurious. A velvety puréed soup is decadent. And an emulsified sauce is fancy. 🎩👠

But using a blender is a pain. It’s not the most convenient thing to break out when you’re cooking.

You bring out this hunky base from the cabinet. You attach the plastic container. You transfer hot food from the pan to the blender. You try not to make a mess in the process. But you do. You blend away praying hot food particles don’t erupt all over you. Then you transfer the liquid back to a pot and go about your business...And don’t get me started on cleaning the darn thing. 😣

That’s where an immersion blender comes in—aka a stick, wand, or hand blender.

Flat out, it makes it more convenient to blend hot food. And we are more likely to do something when it’s easy to do. That’s why it’s on my Kitchen Essentials list.

Why Does an Immersion Blender Make It Easier?

It comes down to portability and control.

When you need to blend hot food, you don’t take the food to the blender but the blender to the food. You can blend butternut squash directly in the pot you steamed them in. You can blitz cooked onions, carrots, and celery in the same pan you’re sauteeing them.

And then there’s control. When you use an immersion blender, it’s easier to not blend everything. Sometimes you don’t want ultra-smooth.

Take a Tuscan white bean soup. It’s normally on the “brothy” side. But you can actually turn it creamy. And not by using cream. But by using your immersion blender. It’s a trick I learned from a long-time newsletter subscriber.

Stick your immersion blender into the pot of soup towards the end of it cooking. Then blend for a few seconds, moving it around here and there. And then stop. You’re not blending the whole soup. You still want some chunks of veggies and beans. Instead, you’re only pulverizing some of the beans in order to give the soup body. Cool, right?

More Than Soups and Mashes

Immersion blenders are also pretty nifty for sauces.

Silky smooth tomato sauce? Pulverize your aromatics and tomatoes directly in your pot.

Hummus? (Okay, maybe not considered a sauce, but I treat it like one in my kitchen!) Boil pre-soaked chickpeas with a bit of baking soda, salt, garlic, and herbs (learn why you add baking soda). Drain out most of the water. Then stick that immersion blender right into the pot and go to town—after adding some olive oil and tahini of course!

But don’t stop there. Here’s one of my favorite uses for an immersion blender: mayo. Making mayo by hand takes an absurd amount of whisking. So unless you’re as strong as a French grandmother, I say skip it. 👵💪

That is unless you have an immersion blender.

Unlike using a normal blender which requires large quantities in order to blender properly, an immersion blender lets you create a reasonable amount of mayo. How? Well, you have to blitz it in a tall, skinny container that is barely wide enough to fit your immersion blender head. Why does that matter? It creates an optimal vortex that slowly incorporates the oil even when you dump all the oil in at once. This allows for proper emulsification without having to worry about gradually adding oil little by little. It’s a game-changer. Trust me. 😊

Going into more depth would be a newsletter all its own. So check out this video from America’s Test Kitchen on making mayo with an immersion blender.

Don’t limit it just to mayo. You can use immersion blenders to create creamy vinaigrettes as well. Take a simple balsamic vinaigrette. When it’s blended, the emulsification holds and the end result is both creamy and airy.

Getting An Immersion Blender

While a good cook is more than their equipment, having the right equipment does make cooking more enjoyable. And if you ask me, a cook who enjoys cooking is a better cook.

Immersion blenders are convenient, they take up minimal space, they’re affordable, and they can still make your favorite breakfast smoothie!

So did I convince you?

If I did, I have a feeling you’re going to ask me what kind of immersion blender I recommend. I’m no product review expert myself. So I’d have to point you towards the professionals. See what Wirecutter, Serious Eats, and America’s Test Kitchen all recommend.

Where I learned this: Watching chefs on MasterClass, videos from America's Test Kitchen, and this article on mayo from J. Kenji López-Alt.