Our testing methodology
We consulted Erika Wong, PureFish’s in-house registered dietitian and nutritionist, who also worked as a counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her biggest concerns when choosing a blender are power (her favorite blender carries 1,380 watts), speed (at least a handful of speed settings beyond “high” and “low”), and simplicity. Too many buttons or settings corresponding to specific foods can become confusing, especially when you vary ingredient amounts. “Simplicity is key, and the control panel needs to be easy to use.”
With all of that in mind, here’s how I evaluated each of the 11 blenders I tested:
Ice: The blenders we ended up recommending were all able to evenly reduce ice cubes into shaved ice in under 10 seconds. Along with the almond flour and almond butter tests (more on those below), the ice test really set the fast, powerful machines apart from their slower, slightly rougher competitors.
Frozen strawberries: We put six ounces of frozen strawberries in each blender and set them to high in order to see how fast they turned the fruit into mush. The more powerful blenders achieved the task within about 10 seconds. The weaker ones, as well as those with a wider jar design, struggled to finish the job, leaving stray larger pieces to the side or in many cases lacerating but not separating the frozen berries.
Strawberry-banana smoothies: We made strawberry-banana smoothies using frozen strawberries and fresh bananas because of the difference in texture (and also this particular flavor combo’s popularity). Across the board, we ran into almost no issues with all of the blenders we tested. The only real difference was the time it took, which corresponded almost perfectly with increments of price. Still, it came down to about 10 to 15 seconds.
Kale smoothies: Because kale is relatively light and airy (we used curly kale), it did prove a little trickier for blenders that didn’t make a narrow vortex like the Vitamix 5200 and the Cleanblend 3HP, and the blenders with wider pitchers almost invariably required the use of a tamper. This wasn’t a big deal, but it might be a consideration for some.
Almond flour: While our budget and smoothie-only recommendations didn’t quite manage an even flour (there were chunks of almond still left behind while the flour at the bottom was beginning to turn into butter), our top recommendation performed the task flawlessly.
Almond butter: Almond butter was by far the most demanding test of them all. While we’re confident that with practice and more intimate acquaintance with each blender we could pull it off with any of them, it was a real chore with most, and several didn’t make it past the flour stage on the way to almond butter. Again, the wider jars performed the most poorly, as did the lower-powered blenders. In every case save for the Vitamix 5200, we still had whole or nearly whole almonds lingering amongst the flour while at the bottom, the flour was turning to butter.
Settings: While we tried to work with presets on those machines that had them available, they’re only useful if the set portions make sense for your needs — most of us don’t really want to make 32 ounces of nut butter at once, for example.
Wattage: We found that at the lowest end of the blenders we tested, 600 watts was still plenty of power to achieve a uniform smoothie. Similarly, while our budget pick packs 1800 watts, our overall pick carries only 1,500 watts, but runs much more smoothly and processes much more quickly. Wattage doesn’t always dictate how a blender will perform.
Cleanup: We stated this above as well, but again: Don’t underestimate the value of an easy cleanup. Some blenders had a lot of hard-to-reach spots that even a dishwasher might not always effectively hit. Others were downright perilous to clean, and we have the scars to prove it. All of our recommendations above took these considerations into account.