If you’re in the market for a blender, you might have noticed that there’s a big, um, variety in the types out there—and in the price tags that go along with them. But what makes a higher-end, high-speed, expensive blender, like the ones from Vitamix, BlendTec, or Ninja, earn that bigger price tag? And more importantly, have they reached the Kitchen Basic status of, say, a toaster oven or coffee maker? In other words, does everyone need one?
There’s no blanket answer to that, as it all depends on a few individual factors, like what you’ll be using it for, and how frequently you think you’ll be firing it up. And since a basic blender can cost as little as $30 while a high speed one could run you $500 or more, it’s worth taking a deeper dive before you click “buy.”
Read on to help determine whether a high-speed blender is right for you. And if you’re still a little confused about what makes them so different from the basic models out there? We have you covered on that intel, too—plus some solid blender picks for every budget.
How exactly is an expensive blender different?
All blenders get their puree-ing power from blades, which spin via an electric motor to whir foods and liquids into a vortex. This mini tornado causes a vacuum to form in the middle of the blender, pulling ingredients down towards the blade where they’re chopped and crushed over and over and over until you get a smooth, silky texture.
More expensive blenders have more powerful motors, which are able to spin the blades faster and create a mightier vortex. “The rate of the vortex determines whether or not you develop a consistent, smooth puree,” Christopher Arturo, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, tells SELF.
Stronger motors can run for longer without overheating—or eventually wearing out altogether—too, Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D.N., author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen, tells SELF. Compare that to a less powerful blender, where the base can start to feel hot after running on high for just a few minutes.
The actual blade is likely a little different in higher-end models, too. Blades on fancier blenders tend to be made of harder steel (think aircraft- or surgical-grade) that are designed for crushing hard ingredients like ice or nuts repeatedly without bending or breaking, says Largeman-Roth. That’s another key for getting a super smooth texture, Arturo says. And because they’re more durable, they’re more likely to keep delivering max smoothness for years and years.
Here’s the tl;dr version: “More than anything else, a high powered blender can blend thicker foods into something smoother than a standard blender can. And it can do it quickly,” Los Angeles-based chef Ariane Resnick, tells SELF.
That goes for more than just simple fruit and veggie smoothies, Largeman-Roth says. A high-powered blender’s ability to break down thicker foods means you can use it to make things like homemade nut butter, silky smooth non-dairy milks, cool fruit sorbets, and even batters and pizza dough.
OK, but do you really need one?
All of the experts we talked with seriously love their high-speed blenders. But is a $500 (or higher) model a must-have for, well, everyone?
Not exactly. If you just need a blender a few times a week to make a smoothie with basic ingredients like fresh fruit, leafy greens, and liquids , or to puree the occasional bean- or veggie-soup, an inexpensive standard model will get the job done. (Be careful using very hard ingredients like ice in your smoothies, though. They might be OK infrequently, but they could cause the motor or blades to wear out faster over time.) “But if you’re using lots of nut butters, powders, and raw, hard veggies, you’re going to need something with a serious blade,” Largeman-Roth says.
Before you drop hundreds of dollars on a kitchen appliance, be sure it’s something you’ll actually use often. “Make sure you’re not just on a kick making a thing or two that’s blended, but instead have a long-term habit of making that food,” Resnick says.
For instance, if you’re thinking about getting into DIY almond milk, that’s awesome. But maybe stick with your current blender for a little while until you know for sure you’re really going to make it every few days or every week.
Blender picks for everyone
Whether you decide to go high-end or basic, there’s an option for everyone. Here are our experts’ favorites.