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A hand blender, also referred to as an immersion blender or stick blender, is a kitchen tool used to blend items within their own jars, bowls, or pots. Unlike a traditional blender, where all the ingredients must be combined into the blender's own container, a handheld blender can be used in virtually any container. There are many benefits to using this type of blender, though it is not completely interchangeable with a traditional blender.
A hand blender often looks like a small version of a hand mixer, though it has a long stick-like shaft and a single rotating blade instead of two. It will typically have a blade guard around the blade to prevent accidents or injury. The shaft may be made of plastic or stainless steel, and the blades are virtually always made of steel.
Many people use a hand blender to create items such as soup, smoothies, and baby food, among many others. To use this type of blender, simply combine all the necessary ingredients into one pot, and insert the blade end of the blender. There will be a button on the handle to turn the blender on, and it will then be able to blend or puree the food in the same pot in which it is being cooked. The longer shaft allows the blender to be completely immersed, without spraying food everywhere and making a mess. It is generally necessary to continually depress the button for the blender to be powered on, so be sure to choose one with a button that is easily held down.
One of the benefits of using a hand blender is avoiding the need to transfer hot liquids from one container to the other. These blenders tend to be much quieter than other traditional blenders. In addition, they are much easier to clean; simply remove the blade to wash it, and wipe off the handle. Remember to always unplug the blender before trying to remove any stuck food from the blade.
Some hand blenders come with additional accessories, such as a whisk, chopping tools, and a frother for coffee drinks, among others. Many come with a large jar or a mixing bowl or two, for those times when it is necessary to first combine and blend ingredients in a separate bowl. Hand blenders often feature variable speeds for different uses. For dense or extremely tough items, such as ice, it is a good idea to use a traditional blender rather than a hand blender, which simply does not have the power to blend those items, and could become damaged.