Shop Smart: Blender tests shake things up

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A top-notch blender is a versatile kitchen appliance, good for making smoothies and frozen drinks, plus less obvious dishes, such as hummus, churn-free ice cream and even soup.

Consumer Reports' recent tests of 65 blenders, including conventional stand models and the handheld immersion kind, tapped some winners.

The Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004, a $60 CR Best Buy, was slightly ahead of the Vitamix 5200, $450, in the ratings. Both machines puree, make a superb smoothie or frozen drink and crush ice cubes into fluffy snow.

The Ninja features a unique top-mounted motor that you press down to operate. It comes with a 48-ounce pitcher, a 40-ounce processing bowl, and a 16-ounce chopping bowl. The Ninja is also the only tested blender that was very good at chopping, pureeing and grating Parmesan cheese.

Its brandmate, the Ninja Professional NJ600, $100, a conventional blender with the motor on the bottom, was superb, apart from its fairly noisy operation.

Vitamix and Blendtec say the friction from their fast-spinning blades can heat up soups, coffees and other recipes. Consumer Reports put the claim to the test in the Vitamix Professional Series 750, $650, and Blendtec Total Blender Designer Series WildSide, $460, following a recipe for tortilla soup. Both models pureed the ingredients and warmed them to roughly 140 degrees in about 5 minutes using their high settings.

To see if any highly rated blender could make hot soup, testers tried the recipe in the Ninja Professional. It pureed the ingredients with ease, but they remained tepid. All three models made a tasty, churn-free strawberry ice cream in seconds.

Blenders caused about 7,250 injuries in 2011, most of them involving cut fingers, based on emergency room-treated injuries reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That was up from about 2,300 injuries in 2001, reflecting the growing popularity yet potential dangers of these devices.

Here's how to keep yourself safe:

• Never put your hand inside a blender, especially if it's plugged in. Unlike food processors, most blenders don't have safety interlocks, so you could accidentally turn the unit on with your hand inside.

• Avoid sticking utensils into a running blender. If you need to scrape the sides with a spatula, turn the blender off before doing so.

• Instead of washing your blender by hand, add soapy water and run the blender until the container and blades are clean. Then unplug it and rinse it under the faucet.

• Use a utensil, not your fingers, to dislodge food from the blade or blade guard of an immersion blender, making sure to first unplug the device.

• To reduce the risk of electrical shock, never submerge the power cord, power plug or motor of any blender in water or other liquid.

• Unplug the blender when not in use, and keep the power cord out of reach of young children, because some accidents occur when blenders are pulled off the edge of a counter.


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