The blender has suddenly become the “it” kitchen appliance, and purchasing one that can’t crush margarita ice, pulverize the contents of your smoothie, or whip your gazpacho into a perfect puree is simply unacceptable. There’s a huge price range when it comes to the hot blenders on the market— let’s see what’s in the mix.
I’ll never forget buying my first blender as a newlywed, and then realizing that it could do absolutely nothing. It struggled hopelessly with anything thick like hummus, and it tossed ice cubes around, never so much as chipping one. Then I got my Vitamix, which could grind an iPhone (not that I’ve tried that), and my whole blending life changed. I make a smoothie for most of my family members every morning, not to mention all the salad dressings, dips, soups and sauces, so it’s earned its keep in my kitchen. I realize, however, that spending $500 on a blender isn’t in everyone’s budget, so I wanted to take a look at the competitors in the market and see how they stacked up.
Raw food chefs and health food stars wax poetic about the American-made Vitamix, a monstrously strong blender that claims to replace all your other blending, chopping and mixing machines, and looks pretty great on your counter. Mention making your own nut butter, and someone is bound to suggest a Vitamix. That raw kale-zucchini hummus at your friend’s dinner party? Probably from a Vitamix. For the purposes of our comparison, we’ll look at the 5200 because it’s the mid-level consumer model and the one the company uses to formulate all its recipes.
The power of a Vitamix can be credited to it’s powerful motor and it’s proprietary blade shape. The 5200 has a 1380-watt motor, which makes easy work of nut butters, dough, and even grinding seeds. By blending in ice, you can also create sorbets or fro-yo in thirty seconds. Plus you can make hot soup: just put in your room-temperature ingredients, and rev them up for about five minutes; the motor is so fast, it’ll heat the contents to steaming, which is kind of cool— hot soup with no stovetop involved. The blades, instead of being razor-sharp, are angled and shaped to crush and pulverize. Added bonus— you don’t have to reach in to clean them. Just add dish soap and water, and run the blender to auto-clean it (a big help if you’re prone to slicing your fingers off in the kitchen, like I am).
The Vitamix comes with a seven-year warranty. One of my testers got to test this out when she tried grinding a block of Parmesan cheese, which looks totally doable on the included DVD, and her pitcher blew apart. She received a prompt a replacement, no problem. Fans online say they’re still using units from as far back as the 1970s— I’ve had mine for 5 years and it’s still working like it did on day one.
Again, at $449, the Vitamix 5200 is a hefty investment— if you’re not a frequent blender, this might be a little too much power to pony up for.
Blendtec Signature Series
You may have seen the viral YouTube videos where Blendtec creator Tom Dickson asks, “Will it Blend?” and feeds a Blendtec light bulbs, golf balls or cell phones. And these machines do blend, thanks to a massive motor. (The most powerful Blendtec model has an absurd 2400 watts, and unless you’re blending laptops and willing to wear ear protection, your smoothies don’t need it.) I’m looking at the Blendtec Signature Series because it’s the company’s basic bruiser, and most comparable to the Vitamix 5200— it has 1560 watts, more powerful than the Vitamix. The Signature model comes with a 96-ounce pitcher (vs. the Vitamix’s 64 ounces) yet the whole thing is five-and-a-half inches shorter than the Vitamix 5200. This means that the Blendtec fits under most upper kitchen cabinets, where the Vitamix will not.
The Blendtec’s proprietary five-sided shape is engineered to blend more efficiently by kicking ingredients against the sides so they’ll fall back to the blades, rather than swirling them. Like the Vitamix, the Blendtec has a similar blade design that won’t mame you, and you can clean the blender by running it with soapy water inside. It also has a seven year warrantee, just like the Vitamix, so that’s all good too.
For tech lovers, it’s worth considering that this is the most digitized of the contenders, with an LED touch pad and several “one-touch” pre-programmed blend cycles that get faster and slower throughout a cycle, without your having to keep turning dials. So if you want a smoothie or ice cream or soup, you can push a single button and let the machine take over. That’s also nice for folks who doubt their blending skills or just want to save time. You still have the choice of manual operation.
At $399, it’s just a little bit cheaper than it’s and it’s admittedly kind of boxy, in a classic Volvo kinda way.
It’s made in China, and it’s half the price of it’s competitors, but you can tell by looking at it. With its plasticky base, suction feet, and only three speed buttons, it’s clear that part of the savings went into design. But its selling point is its impressive 1500-watt motor that can make nut butters and dough. It doesn’t advertise that it can grind flour; some users say it works. It will make sorbets and fro-yo, but not hot soup for you!
The Ninja Mega comes with many, many many pitchers and parts— it’s definitely not for those that are tight on space: it accepts a variety of blades and bowls to get different jobs done, which is why it’s officially called a “system.” It comes with a 72-ounce pitcher plus a 64-ounce processor bowl, a dough blade attachment, a set of extra shredding and grating discs, and a set of single-serve blending cups with lids, so you can make a smoothie and take it to go.
Another big difference between the Ninja Mega and its competitors is the blades. The Ninja is so-named because of its multiple sharp blades. That means that (1) they’ll eventually become dull, and (2) you must be very careful when you’re cleaning them. Now, what about that warranty? The Ninja will give you just one year.
At $199, it’s much less than it’s counterparts, but it’s not exactly free— and has less of a guarantee that it will still be working years from now.
If you’re looking for the gold standard, the Vitamix has set it and models like the 5200 continue to uphold it. The Blendtec Signature Series, however, is a worthy competitor— with the same warrantee, similar blade mechanisms, and a more kitchen-cabinet-friendly design, not to mention it’s digital bells and whistles, it’s on it’s way to overthrowing Vitamix as the reigning champion. They both can handle the tough jobs of crushing ice, grinding seeds and pulverizing nuts into butters. But at $499 and $399 each, the bill is pretty substantial.
The Ninja Mega has a powerful motor and significantly undercuts both the Vitamix and Blendtec in price, but there are substantial differences: More plastic, more parts to store, and a smaller warranty. The motor can handle dough or nut butters, but expect that if you blend a lot of tough ingredients, you’ll probably be replacing the blades after too long.
Which blender would you choose? Let me know in the comments!