Should I Get a Blender, a Food Processor, or a Mixer?

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Whether you put dinner on the table every night or are a holiday-only kind of cook, you could use a good blender, immersion blender, food processor, stand mixer, or hand mixer. These appliances can make food preparation faster, expand the range of recipes you can tackle, and greatly improve the quality of your cooking and baking.

Last Updated: October 7, 2016
We’ve added a chart showing the tasks in which countertop blenders, immersion blenders, food processors, and mixers excel, so you can easily determine which appliance you’ll use the most.
Expand Most Recent Updates
August 25, 2015: We’ve updated this guide to include more information on mini-food processors.
July 8, 2015: We've checked, and this guide is up-to-date.

But which one do you need? Here’s a rundown to help you decide which kind you’ll get the most use from. We discuss which tasks blenders, food processors, and mixers are great at, which tasks they’re not great at, and what you should definitely avoid.

Table of contents

Comparison chart

Countertop blenders, immersion blenders, food processors, and mixers excel at certain types of food prep and recipes, but there’s also overlap in what they can do. This chart shows what you can make with each appliance.

Type

High-performance blender

Standard blender

Immersion blender

Food processor

Stand mixer

Purees BEST * * *
Smoothies and frozen drinks BEST * Single serving
Mayo and dips * * * *
Nut butters *
Chopped vegetables * With attachment BEST
Bread crumbs * BEST
Bread and cookie doughs * Some recipes BEST
Pie-crust dough BEST *
Cake batter * Some recipes BEST

Countertop blender

top pick oster versa on counter

Blenders are the best tool for liquefying ingredients (think smoothies, pureed soups, and slushy cocktails). Our favorite, the Oster Versa, is considered a high-performance blender. Photo: Michael Hession

Oster Versa
The Versa offers the best balance between performance and price that we’ve found, and it also has the most useful combination of variable and preset speeds. It performs as well as blenders that cost twice as much.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $183.

KitchenAid KSB1570ER 5-Speed Blender
While the KitchenAid 5-Speed isn't as powerful as the Oster Versa, it can churn out a great emulsification and decent (but chunkier) smoothies.
Countertop or upright blenders are great for making purees, quick sauces, and emulsifications (like mayonnaise and vinaigrette), and they excel at smoothies.

Countertop or upright blenders are great for making purees, quick sauces, and emulsifications (like mayonnaise and vinaigrette), and they excel at smoothies. In fact, a blender is the only appliance that will whip berries and fibrous veggies into a silky-smooth texture. The jar is narrow and usually angled at the base, creating a vortex that helps pass ingredients through the blades more frequently than in a food processor (which does a better job at chopping). Upright blenders are better for multitasking than immersion blenders, because you can simply run the machine and walk away; in contrast, you have to hold an immersion blender.

Blenders fall into two categories: “regular” blenders meant for occasional use and powerful high-performance blenders that are more versatile, durable, and expensive. The type you should buy depends on what (and how frequently) you plan to blend.

Get this if: You want to puree soup and smoothies, blend frozen cocktails, or emulsify mayo. High-performance blenders will also grind nut butters.
Don’t use it for: Mashing potatoes, chopping vegetables, or grinding bread crumbs.
Which type to get: If you don’t mind some chunks in your purees and margaritas, get a standard blender. Buy a high-performance blender if you’re a texture freak (you want satiny-smooth purees and smoothies).
Space hog? A standard blender is about 15½ inches tall, with a 7-by-8½-inch footprint; a high-performance blender runs about 18 inches tall, with an 8-by-9-inch footprint.

Immersion blender

immersion blender breville control grip

An immersion blender can do some of the same tasks as a full-size blender or food processor and is much smaller, lighter, and easier to store (even with attachments). Photo: Michael Hession

Breville BSB510XL Control Grip Immersion Blender
Its overall ease of use and ability to create silky-smooth purees make this immersion blender worth its steep price.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $91.

Cuisinart CSB-75BC Smart Stick Immersion Blender
Get this model over our main pick only if you don't think you'll use it often. It offers less power and feels cheaper overall, but it outperforms its price.
Small batches of recipes like smoothies or pesto and pureed soups—these, in our experience, are the two biggest reasons to buy an immersion blender.

Small batches of recipes like smoothies or pesto and pureed soups—these, in our experience, are the biggest reasons to buy an immersion blender. Like a countertop blender, an immersion blender will liquefy ingredients for smoothies, purees, and emulsifications (although it won’t process as quickly or as finely). Its diminutive size also makes this the best appliance for small households that don’t need the capacity of a full-size blender.

Get this if: You want to puree soup in the pot, make single or double smoothie servings, process small batches of baby food or pesto (with a mini chopper), or whip cream (with the attachment).
Don’t use it for: Making especially smooth smoothies (or big batches of smoothies) or purees. In addition, although you can mash potatoes with an immersion blender, they come out gluey.
Which type to get: If you want smoother textures and will use your appliance often, spring for a higher-end immersion blender. If you’re fine with some chunks and will use it infrequently, you’ll be fine with a budget model.
Space hog? Our favorite measures 9 by 3 inches and fits in a drawer.

Food processor

food processor cuisinart custom 14-cup

Food processors excel at chopping, grating, and shredding. If you need only to mince the occasional onion or make a quick batch of vinaigrette, consider a mini chopper instead. Photo: Michael Hession

Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor
With just pulse and on buttons plus a single bowl, this is one of Cuisinart’s most basic models, but it consistently chops, slices, and kneads better than any other food processor we’ve found for under $300.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $150.

Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus
Although it’s too small for making bread dough or coleslaw, this 3-cup processor is the ideal size for chopping one onion or making small batches of mayo or vinaigrette.
Whereas blenders and immersion blenders liquefy, a food processor chops, slices, and grates.

Whereas blenders and immersion blenders liquefy, a food processor chops, slices, and grates. With the right attachment, it will even mix and knead dough. It’s the only small appliance that can make quick work of pie dough; just a few pulses will cut cold butter into flour for minimal melting and maximum flakiness. With a little effort, you can also puree wet ingredients (such as tomatoes for sauce), but the doughnut-shaped container doesn’t handle liquids as well as a blender’s jar does. Although most people use food processors for preparing vegetables, this appliance is also your best friend for quickly grating cheese, slicing pepperoni for pizza, or grinding fresh bread crumbs.

Get this if: You’d like to make rough-chopped salsas, blend hummus, grate cheese, slice veggies for coleslaw, make pie and pizza doughs, or grind bread crumbs. In a pinch it will puree soups and sauces. (But if you use it for that job, expect a mess.)
Don’t use it for: Making margaritas or blending smoothies. (Mini processors also won’t make dough.)
Which type to get: Go for a full-size food processor if you prep for large crowds and make a lot of pie or pizza dough. Get a mini food processor if you’ll regularly make small batches of chopped foods, dips, or vinaigrette (or if you have a smaller kitchen).
Space hog? A full-size processor measures about 15½ inches tall, with a 8-by-9-inch base. A mini processor measures around 9½ inches tall, with a 7-by-5-inch base.

Mixer

Stand and hand mixers

A stand mixer (left) makes quick work of baking tasks such as whipping eggs, creaming butter and sugar, and mixing batters and doughs. Though not as powerful, a hand mixer (right) takes up significantly less space and does some of the same things.

KitchenAid Artisan
This 5-quart stand mixer tackles nearly any recipe without knocking around on the counter, and it’s one of the quietest models in the KitchenAid line.
Cuisinart Power Advantage Plus 9-Speed Handheld Mixer
If a stand mixer seems like more than you need (and less counter space than you have), this Cuisinart is a still-powerful but smaller alternative.
A good one will easily mix moist cake batters and big batches of cookie and bread doughs.

If you do a lot of baking, you’ll probably want either a stand mixer or a hand mixer. Serious or regular bakers should go for a stand mixer, which will easily mix moist cake batters and big batches of cookie and bread doughs, whip egg whites for meringue, and make quick work of whipping cream. With the right attachments, a stand mixer will even roll pasta dough, grind meat, or churn ice cream.

If you’re limited on space, or if you don’t bake frequently, a hand mixer will easily whip egg whites to stiff peaks for cakes or soufflés, cream sugar and butter for cookie dough, and quickly whip cream. Some models come with attachments for mashing potatoes and blending bread doughs.

Get this if: You want to regularly mix batters and frostings, make pie dough, knead bread dough, whip cream and eggs, and mash potatoes.
Don’t use it for: Pureeing or chopping anything.
Which type to get: Heavy bakers with counter space should get a stand mixer. If you just want to make the occasional batter, cream butter and sugar, or whip eggs, go for a hand mixer.
Space hog? Stand mixers are big—our pick is 14 inches tall and 14 by 8⅔ inches at the base—and weigh around 22 pounds. Most hand mixers are small—about 8½ by 4 by 9 inches—and roughly 9 pounds.
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Originally published: October 7, 2016

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