It really comes down to priorities: motor power vs. cabinet/counter space.
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There are few kitchen tools as versatile and useful as a blender, a culinary chameleon with the ability to liquefy, puree, mix, and chop with the press of a button. So it’s no mystery why it’s rare to find a kitchen that doesn’t contain at least one form of this essential appliance. But, just as no two kitchens or cooks are the same, blenders also come in a variety of sizes and options to be sorted through.

Though the various forms of blenders and food processors can appear to perform extremely similar tasks, in reality each has its own skills and setbacks, and certainly aren’t one size (or type) fits all.

For example, as someone who operates in a tiny apartment kitchen, I know that when your kitchen real estate is limited, you’re bound to make some tough decisions about what appliances to keep around, and which ones to swap out for a smaller version. That’s where the great blender battle of Stand vs. Immersion begins, pitting the classic against the convenient for ownership of the kitchen counter. Hopefully these tips will help you determine once and for all if a stand model, hand-held device, or possibly both, is the right kind of blender for you.

Stand Blenders

Chances are, a classic stand blender is the type you grew up with—and likely one of the very first tools you considered buying for your own apartment, dorm room, or home. After all, the handy standing blender is a multipurpose marvel that works as both a cocktail maker and food processor on any given day.

Though the actual blades of a typical stand blender aren’t extremely sharp, what gets the blending, pureeing, and crushing job done is the powerful motor within the machine, which creates a high-speed rotation that completely pulverizes anything that comes in its path.

As a rule, any food or beverage that needs to be pureed into a completely smooth, lump-free state are best made in a stand blender, as the powerful motor is capable of cutting through ice and tougher ingredients to result in a uniform texture. For foods that would benefit from some variations in texture, you’ll want to turn to an immersion blender, also know as a hand blender or stick blender.

High-End: Vitamix has built a reputation for being one of the most powerful—and expensive—blenders on the market, with their Vitamix 5200 model and a fleet of powerful options. The high-voltage motor not only has the ability to puree any set of ingredients, but will also turn cold ingredients into a piping-hot mix in around six minutes with the aid of the friction heat that results from the high blend speed.

A More Affordable Professional Option: For those not totally prepared to drop a few hundred bucks on a blender, the 72-ounce Ninja Professional Blenderis a good mid-range option that still has a reputation for strong blending ability while staying under $100. As an alternative, try this Kitchenaid option, with a slightly smaller 56-ounce jar.

Single-Serve: For those who plan to use their blender for individual-sized smoothies and single-serving recipes—and would rather not have to scrub away at a larger blender in order to prepare their food—a 20-ounce, transportable version, like this Vremi Personal Blender, is the perfect solution.

Immersion Blenders

The hand-held version of a blender will require a greater amount of physical effort to operate, but this undertaking can certainly be worth it for those dealing with extremely limited space. This wand-like tool can be tucked away for safekeeping after its blending duties have been performed, and won’t take up valuable counter space or tons of room in your cabinet.

The first time I used an immersion blender on a batch of homemade soup I was shocked by not only its thorough blending abilities, but the pride I felt in the hand blending process in comparison to dumping all of the ingredients into a stand blender and letting the machine do all of the work.

Immersion blenders perform best when used with sauces and soups, and all other liquid-based foods. They can also come in handy when preparing larger soup batches for a family gathering or potluck, which would require many rounds of blending in a stand blender. By using the hand-held tool, it’s possible to blend the entire pot to perfection without having to transfer the mix to and from the appliance repeatedly.

The biggest downfall of an immersion blender is the motor power, which is certainly limited in comparison to stand blenders. If you’re looking to blend tougher ingredients, like ice and root vegetables, it will be more difficult to blend completely with your immersion blender.

It’s also important to pay close attention when operating this kitchen tool to avoid a soupy mess or even a dangerously hot splatter risk. Hand-held blender blades should always be completely lowered under the surface of the liquid when in operation. Lifting the blades above the surface will likely result in soup splatters all over you and your work area.

High-End: For an immersion blender that’s guaranteed to turn your kitchen creations into silky-smooth masterpieces—and look pretty dang sleek in the process—the stainless steel Electrolux Masterpiece Immersion Blender is a good fit, despite having a hefty price tag over $200.

A Multi-Purpose Whiz: If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck in the immersion blender department, look to the OXA Smart Powerful 4-in-1 Hand Blender, which in addition to a traditional immersion blender head, also contains attachments for high-speed egg whisking and even hand-controlled food processing. At just under $40, it also won’t put a massive dent in your budget.

Simple and Affordable: For a no frills, highly affordable version of a classic hand blender, try this Mueller 9-Speed Blender, which packs a powerful 500 Watt motor and will set you back just over $20. This easy-to-store tool is a hit with its users and is as simple as plugging in and pressing a button.

Once you’ve chosen the perfect blender for you, get to work with some awesome blender recipes like Mango-Buttermilk Smoothies and Spicy White Bean Dip.

By Gillie Houston and Gillie Houston