Mixing appliances include the blender, food processor, stand mixer, hand mixer and the mini-chopper. You will probably find that you need or want more than one type. Each mixing appliance has slightly different capabilities with the food processor being the most versatile. Before you choose a mixing appliance you need to understand the major differences and learn what features to look for. While a food processor may be the most versatile, many cooks find a hand mixer or stand mixer and a mini-chopper to be very useful.
A food processor is a small appliance that can slice, chop, shred and purée a variety of food. A food processor comes with at least one mixing bowl, a plastic food pusher used to push food through the tubular opening of mixing bowl cover, and one or two blades and shredding and slicing disks. The blades used for chopping are metal and S-shaped. All food processors come with this very sharp blade and many will have a second blade that is used for kneading dough. Many food processors will come with accessory items such as a juicer. In general most food processors will have only one speed and two settings; normal and pulse. Capacity usually ranges from 4-15 cups. Buy the size that suits your needs. Many models also come with wider tubes so you do not have to cut larger items such as potatoes in half before feeding them through the tube.
A mini-chopper is like a small food processor. Its capacity is only 2-3 cups and is only used for small jobs. With its small size and generally low price many find it a perfect supplement to a stand mixer or larger full size food processor. A mini-chopper is perfect for chopping garlic, onions, nuts and small amounts of other foods.
A stand mixer and a hand mixer are both primarily used for mixing, whipping and mashing. As the name implies a stand mixer is an appliance which will sit on your counter or tabletop while a hand mixer is held by hand. Stand mixers come with 1-3 mixing bowls and 1-2 sets of beaters and perhaps a whisk attachment and a dough hook for mixing dough. A hand mixer will come with 1 or 2 sets of beaters and perhaps a whisk attachment. There will be anywhere from 3-15 speed settings on your stand mixer and 3-10 speed settings on a hand mixer. A sturdy stand mixer will be able to handle tougher jobs such as mixing larger batches but most stand mixers will do a fine job. For quick small jobs such as mashing potatoes or mixing cake batters or pancake batter, a hand mixer is sufficient. Many cooks will have both, using a stand mixer for larger projects and because of ease of cleanup, using the hand mixer for smaller jobs. The low cost of hand mixers makes this a very good option.
A blender is primarily used for blending, mixing liquids, puréeing foods and crushing ice. The capacity of a blender is usually 4-8 cups. The container is usually made of glass or plastic though you can find some made of stainless steel. Glass is the better option. As discussed in The Teapot, glass is easy to clean and will not absorb odors like a plastic container would. While stainless steel is a fine finish for the motor unit we do not recommend a stainless steel container because it is often necessary to see the items during the blending or puréeing process and you cannot see thought stainless steel. The motor unit is available in a wide range of colors and finishes so if you desire you can coordinate it with the rest of your kitchen decor. Most blenders will have an average of 300-500 watts power rating and have anywhere from 3-15 or more speed settings.
You will also find immersion blenders which is a hand held blender. It is sticklike with the blade on the bottom. It is primarily used for small jobs of mixing or stirring a drink or soup, or pureeing small soft vegetables. A immersion blender will have far fewer speed settings and less power averaging 100-200 watts.