Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender

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I hate most kitchen gadgets with a passion. Seeing things like an avocado slicer, mango corer, or left-handed inverted egg whatsizinger give me the hives. For the longest time, I prided myself on being able to do the most with the least in the kitchen.

I’m saying all this because I wanted to convey just how hard it was to buy the Smart Stick a year ago on the recommendation of my wife. Normally blenders are hard to clean, bulky, loud, and can only be used for low-viscosity liquids; if the mixture is too thick, the blade just whirs uselessly.

The Smart Stick solves all that. It takes up virtually no space. It is easy to clean. Instead of scrubbing out a blender, you just pop off the Smart Stick’s head, so it can be cleaned in eight seconds under running water. It’s impressively powerful and can be jammed full force down into a glass of ice to chop it up quickly. Yet, it’s still much quieter than a blender. The measuring cup it comes with is also well designed to break up the vortex the blender creates.

The Smart Stick is the cheapest and most basic hand blender I could find. Others come with whisks and choppers and brushed metal finishes, but I think the regular head works just fine. I found that the Smart Stick did 150% of what I’ve used a blender for and 75% of what I used a food processor for.

It’s very versatile. No more “pour boiling hot broccoli soup into blender to cream it, then pour back into pot.” You can use the Smart Stick right inside a stockpot on the stove. You can use it on thicker foods because you can stir and mash while blending, continuously bringing new material into the blade as opposed to a stand blender’s reliance on gravity to find unblended parts.

Making hummus, salsa, applesauce, and pesto went from “giant mess” to “easy.” Making smoothies went from “big production” to “two minutes.” Guacamole and whipped cream turn out wonderfully smooth. Margaritas can be made right in the pitcher. Almond butter can be made without too much trouble. I imagine this would also be a lifesaver for making baby food.

There are some downsides: It only has one speed (high!), so you have to be careful and use it in bursts if chopping ice, as it will happily sling iced coffee circumferentially around your kitchen in a ten-foot radius if you get too enthusiastic. You also have to be careful using it with plastic bowls as the metal head can punch through the bowl bottom if you push it too hard. The blade is SHARP. It’s not really suitable for use by children (or klutzy adults). If you need to clean around the blade’s backside with a finger, REMOVE the head from the motor first.

Again, I really really wanted to hate this thing and didn’t buy one for the longest time because I considered it useless. Now it’s the only electric kitchen tool that remains permanently plugged in on my counter other than a Kitchen-Aid six-quart mixer.

-- Jon Braun  

Cuisinart CSB-76 Smart Stick Hand Blender
$30

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Cuisinart

Note: Several readers pointed out that corded models can be safer when cleaning because it necessitates unplugging which prevents accidental activation. And for those looking for added attachments and functionality, I heartily recommend the corded KitchenAid Hand Blender Kit. -- OH