Immersion Blenders, also called Stick Blenders, are hand held blenders that you stick into the food you are preparing, rather than the other way around (i.e, a traditional blender).
Immersion blenders started to become popular among the 20-something singles crowd early in this century. This demographic tended to not have the space for or the interest in having a traditional blender. But these people were really getting into smoothies, and wanted to prepare some for themselves in order to save money. Stick blenders really are the perfect device for making smoothies. Throw your frozen fruit, juice, yogurt, etc., into a large cup, insert the immersion blender in the cup for a few seconds, and you’ve got yourself a smoothie!
Immersion blenders are also good for pureeing soups and a variety of other tasks. They are definitely a good entree into the blender universe. And you don’t need a powerful stick blender power to prepare smoothies and soups– a basic model will do. Alton Brown and Tim Ferriss are among the well-known proponents of the immersion blenders.
Tim Ferriss prefers Breville, specifically the Breville BSB510XL Control Grip Immersion Blender.
This blender is definitely powerful enough for almost any kitchen task. The blade portion is detachable from the handle, and the bowl attachment works well for blending and storing the stick blender up right. The design gives it a power tool kind of feel. This is a very good medium-to-high end purchase for immersion blenders (about $100).
Alton Brown likes to use Kitchen Aid stick blenders on his TV show. These are decent products to start with, and worked well for us. However, we have heard some design complaints, most notably that food tends to get stuck in the cracks and seals in the bowl, and that the blenders are less than durable.
The KitchenAid KHB2351CU 3-speed Immersion Blender is less than $100, and has a variety of different blade and whisk attachments that can go with the handle. It comes with a carrying case for all these parts. We found the large variety of attachments to be a bit confusing, however.
The KitchenAid KHB1231CU 2-speed Immersion Blender is a simpler model without all the attachments, for less than $50.
For a very simple model, one speed with no attachments, we like the Cuisinart CSB-76 SmartStick 200-Watt Immersion Hand Blender, also less than $50.
Breville BSB510XL Control Grip ~ $100 on Amazon
KitchenAid KHB2351CU 3-speed ~ $100 on Amazon
KitchenAid KHB1231CU 2-speed ~ $100 on Amazon
Cuisinart CSB-76 SmartStick ~ $100 on Amazon
Bandages Not Included!!
Beware! The blade in the bottom of a stick blender is sharp, and rotates very fast. It can cut you badly. The New York Times has an article on this, titled Bandages Not Included. Would you stick your hand in a lawn mower to remove some grass without unplugging it? The same goes for removing a sprig of mint from an immersion blender, especially since they generally have very sensitive triggers buttons. For those models with detachable blade portions, you can remove this half from the handle top (which has the motor) instead of unplugging it, which is a bit much more convenient. I find this to be a more important convenience feature than the actual interchangeability of blades.