I often wish there was some sort of poll we could take to figure out if a fringe kitchen item is worth buying. The blender is a fine example of the kind of appliance where this sort of questionnaire would be helpful. Such a poll might ask things like: Do you make your own almond butter? Are you a smoothie person? Does it bother you that many of the drinks you might make in a blender cost about as much to make at home as they do at Jamba Juice? Do you mind a few lumps in your drink? Most importantly, what are your feelings about oat milk?
You might not be surprised to hear which appliance ended up on my countertop for review recently.
Curious to know what owning a big, powerful blender is like, I got to try out a very nice one, the 1,800-watt Breville Super Q. While my testing would certainly require me to make a few of those more mandatory staples, I decided to try to integrate it more fully into my kitchen routine and have it convince me of its utility.
My first blender activity was my favorite: using it as a spice mill. I needed put together a batch of spice rub for a big dinner, the kind of thing that would have taken several rounds in my tiny but capable Krups spice grinder. Instead, I just tossed everything in the Breville willy nilly, some spices whole, some already powdered, bay leaves, and peppercorn. I was very lazy about it. Then I buzzed it around for a few seconds and—bing!—it was done. I could nitpick, but peppercorns were pulverized and cumin was crushed. It was fast and highly satisfying.
Emboldened, I tried Breville’s own recipe for barbecue sauce, in which a large, quartered onion goes in the blender jar with whole garlic cloves and several other ingredients and—zzzzzuup!—it became liquid in mere seconds. Is it weird to be giddy about liquefying onions? I only report what I felt.
Next up were smoothies. I realize that they save you from the nagging chore of needing to chew, but they’ve never really been my thing. Fruit smoothies can be a nice treat, but I once had a green smoothie with what tasted like lawn thatch and had enough ginger to give acid reflux on the first sip, and that was plenty for a lifetime.
I had to test it, though, so I used the recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen Ace Blender book, which was technically written for another blender. It involved baby kale (which is milder than full-grown), avocado, frozen pineapple chunks, pineapple juice, yogurt, and hemp seeds for texture and that great hippie flavor. The Breville has a smoothie button where it cycles through a high speed for 30 seconds, occasionally pausing to let things settle. While blender presets aren’t usually all that useful, this one lets you butter your toast or make coffee while your smoothie comes together. I put fruit smoothies on heavy rotation, making breakfast smoothies for breakfast several days in a row, and while I’m still not a smoothie person, I liked that button.
That green smoothie was surprisingly pleasant, but I’m not rushing out to buy another plastic clamshell of baby kale anytime soon. I also appreciated how the Super Q’s dedicated blender cup, which allows you to blend in the cup itself, eliminates having to wash a full blender jar for a single serving.
Brave New Whirled
I charged on, making a tasty buttermilk and feta dressing which had a lip-smacking quality and a bit of a grainy texture that I couldn’t dial out, but whatever. It made for an excellent salad dressing. Back when I tested the Ace Blender, I did a head-to-head frozen margarita test against the Breville and both machines whirred up plenty of fun. The differences were negligible, but the slushy goodness was lovely.
Almond butter presented a bit of a struggle for the Breville, but it was more with the process—it turned out I needed more oil than Breville’s cookbook suggested to keep things moving. The motor was just fine; there was none of that worrisome smell of burning electronics that a less powerful machine might emit.
One crazy thing I made was hot soup in a blender. Heated by the friction of the blades against the liquid ingredients—something that I’ll forever marvel at—I whizzed up a lovely green pea and mint soup.
I used the Q to mix up the butter chicken sauce in Madhur Jaffrey’s new Instant Pot cookbook, and later to whip up a batch of one of my favorite condiments, Simon Hopkinson’s coconut milk, cilantro, and lime “green paste” from his book Roast Chicken and Other Stories. I also used it to turn chickpeas into chickpea flour, which it did efficiently. And despite that Q being for “quiet,” it did so with a holy racket.
My nitpicks are few, though I do wish Breville could have figured out how to make the Super Q’s vortex stronger. An efficient vortex—the whirlpool that forms in the jar when the machine is running—is a function of design that keeps food moving around evenly, and prevents your blendables from getting caught in little eddies or splashing against the lid. It also keeps blending time to a minimum. It’s a problem that most wide-bottomed blender jars have in common, yet it sticks out more with Breville’s blender as the design tends to be so well thought out with their other products. Finally, the Super Q costs $500, pretty much par for the course for high-end blenders. If you’re an infrequent user, try something like the $150-ish Oster Versa, which isn’t as refined, but will be just fine.
When talking about high-end blenders like the Breville, it’s important to mention the Vitamix 5200, the highest-rated blender out there. The Vitamix is incredibly simple—noble in its three-button restraint and ability to create a powerful vortex without having the most powerful motor in the category.
The Breville isn’t that far away from the perfection of the Vitamix, though. If you like the Breville, get the Breville. If Santa is feeling flush next Christmas and puts either one under the tree, there’s no need to pine for what you could have had. Now, do you really need one? That’s a different question. If you’re into what they’re making, drinking their frozen Kool-Aid slushies if you will, then the Super Q is a very tasty option.
Joe Ray (@joe_diner) is a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year, a restaurant critic, and author of “Sea and Smoke” with chef Blaine Wetzel. His stories for WIRED explore how technology is changing the way we cook and eat.