These 5 tips and tricks will get you way past smoothies and margaritas.

Blenders are an amazing appliance and so useful for your cooking. But let's be honest, a lot of us really don't know much about using them beyond smoothies or cocktails. And if you are the proud new owner of your first blender, it might be a little bit intimidating to know exactly how to use it! Here are 5 tips and tricks to help get you over the hurdle and into some serious blending.

1. Read all the instructions

From proper usage to storage and cleaning, each machine will be a little different, so be sure to carefully read all of the materials that came with your unit to avoid risking your personal safety or the integrity of the equipment. For example, some manufacturers recommend only handwashing, or removing the base blending mechanism from the vessel before cleaning. It might also indicate either handwashing or washing on the top rack of your dishwasher for any plastic parts (to prevent the plastic from degrading in the high heat). Know your blender!

2. Be careful

The blades in the base of these machines are razor sharp, many of them can turn ice into snow, so handle them with the same care and attention as you would any sharp knife and be sure to not stick any utensil into the vessel when the unit is turned on. Confirm that the machine is in the off position before trying to use a spatula to scrape down the sides or dislodge a stubborn piece of food and try and keep all utensils away from the blade mechanism, since they can get dinged or sliced by the blades. No one wants little bits of silicone spatula in their margarita.

Credit: Getty / iprogressman

3. Use enough liquid

The primary usage for any blender is to make smooth what starts chunky, and the more solid your ingredient, the more you will need a way to lubricate that process. Blenders work with a suction pull: The blades create a sort of tornado movement that sucks ingredients down towards the blade. Liquid helps keep this process smooth, whether it is the oil or vinegar in a salad dressing or the juice in a smoothie. So be sure that you add enough liquid to your blender before starting it to help keep things from getting bound up.

4. Hot liquids need special treatment

Sure, it is hilarious on a sitcom to watch a blender shoot a pitcherful of liquid into the air and all over the hapless cook, but this is not so funny when it is your kitchen to clean, or your body at risk. And while you can have such an explosion with cold liquids, hot liquids pose a greater danger due to the ability of steam to build up under the lid. When blending hot liquids be sure to follow some simple steps. First, do not fill the vessel more than halfway. You are better off blending in smaller batches for safety. Second, remove the center vent from the lid to have a place for steam to escape, but also drape a clean lint-free kitchen towel over the top, in case there is some spattering out of the hole. Finally, begin to blend with a few pulses which will help release the intense initial steam pockets, and then start on low and gradually increase the speed once you are certain that the contents are blending smoothly.

5. Don't over-blend

Blenders create heat with the speed of their blades, so exercise some caution when blending more sensitive items like homemade mayonnaise or delicate fresh herbs, lest you break them down a little too much or actually cook them! Once you have reached your desired consistency, stop the machine, and if it separates after sitting, whisk back together by hand—not in the machine.