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You likely don't spend a great deal of time thinking about blenders. If you don't own one, you still probably have a pretty good idea of how it works and why you might want it as a staple countertop appliance one day. If you do own one, then you use it regularly, so you understand precisely how it works.
Or do you?
If you think the blades on a blender whirl about at high speeds, continually cutting food into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes a liquid, you are only partially right. There is a great deal of fascinating mechanics that allow a blender to turn solids into liquids, and sharp, spinning blades are only the beginning.
If it's not the blades, what makes a blender work?
When placing solid foods, such as fruits or vegetables, into a blender, the blades serve two primary functions: They cut the food into smaller pieces and release the water in that food. Releasing the water is vital because, in order to work properly, a blender needs liquid.
No matter how sharp the blades are or how fast they are spinning, eventually it becomes impossible for them to cut the food any smaller. At this point, your smoothie is more wet and gritty, not a very palatable texture for drinking. Luckily, this is where science comes in.
As the blades whirl round and round, they create tiny little bubbles of space inside the liquid. The scientific term for this occurrence is cavitation. When these bubbles collapse, they release potent shockwaves — which are strong enough to shatter glass — that pulverize the remaining food particles into liquid. The biggest downside to cavitation is it can decrease the nutritional value of your beverage.
Ultimately, it is the blades' ability to create a vortex within the fluid that is inside the blender that determines the smoothness of your result. The best blender blades are long and almost touch the edge of the blending container.
Caring for your blender
A blender can last anywhere from one to seven or eight years depending on the model and how well you take care of it. If you'd like to get the longest life out of any blender, the first step is to thoroughly read the instruction manual to gain crucial knowledge such as what foods should not be placed in your blender, how small your food needs to be cut before placing it in your blender, and the maximum amount of time you can safely leave your blender running. Beyond that, your manual will also provide those all-important instructions on how to safely assemble, operate, and disassemble your particular model.
After that, the single most important task you can perform to keep your blender running smoothly for years to come is regular and immediate cleaning. As soon as you finish making your morning smoothie, pour a couple cups of water into your blending container, add a couple drops of dish soap, and blend for about 30 seconds. After that, dump, rinse, and dry; don't just let it air dry — wipe it down. Air drying is often what makes your blending container cloudy.
If you need a deeper cleaning, you can use a little bit of lemon juice or vinegar and baking soda instead of dish soap. To get any cloudy film that has accumulated on the inside of your blending container, you'll need to make a baking soda paste and scrub out the inside of your blender (while it is off, unplugged, and disassembled) using a soft toothbrush or a nonabrasive sponge.
Simple blender repairs
Although taking apart the base of your blender and working on the wiring is not something you should ever do, there are times when a quick (safe) fix might be all you need to get a few more years out of your favorite appliance.
The most common mishap with a blender is leaking. Usually, it just takes a little adjusting, readjusting, or tightening to fix this problem. If that doesn't work, look for a worn gasket, a bent blade, or a crack in the blending container. If any of those is the cause, simply replace the part (gasket, blade, container) and you'll be good to go.
The other common problem is a stuck blade. If for any reason, your blender blade unexpectedly stops whirling, immediately shut off and unplug your blender. If there is a piece of food that is causing the problem, you may be able to dislodge it with a little gentle shaking. In the worst-case scenario, you'll have to dump the contents, maybe cut the food into smaller pieces, and try again. If the blade still doesn't spin (even if all you have in the blender is water), it may be something more serious like a burnt-out motor. If this is the case, depending on the price of your blender, you will either need to take it to an appliance repair shop or replace it.
One final tip: If you ever notice the power cord is damaged in any way (frayed, loose, or melted), immediately stop using your blender. Again, the cost of your blender will help you determine if repair or replacement is the wiser option.
What is the difference between a blender, a juicer, and a food processor?
Before we get into the science that actually makes a blender work, we're going to compare and contrast a blender with two other kitchen appliances that seem rather similar: a juicer and a food processor.
At its core, the purpose of a blender is to break down solids and swirl ingredients together to create a consistent texture that is suitable for drinking. It really is that simple. You toss some fruits and veggies and maybe some ice into the blending container, whirl the blades, and out comes a smoothie.
Juicers may seem to do the same thing, but they do it in a slightly different way. Whereas a blender takes whole foods and turns them into a drinkable slurry with no waste, a juicer separates the liquid from the pulp to create a nutrient-rich drink that can be more quickly absorbed and utilized by the body. On the downside, juicers are messy and create a lot of waste. That's why a major selling point with these appliances, like Hamilton Beach's Juicer, is ease of cleaning.
A food processor, on the other hand, is a versatile appliance that tends to focus on processing solid foods rather than making beverages. You can use a Ninja Food Chopper, for example, to mince, chop, grind and blend. Some models allow you to make dough, while others may even function moderately well as blenders, but that is not their main purpose.
Although a blender is somewhat similar to a juicer or a food processor, it is a unique kitchen appliance that uses whirling blades and cavitation to turn solid foods into liquids. If you follow the directions that come with your blender, clean it immediately after each use, and learn how to do some minor troubleshooting, your blender can last for years and years.
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