Given their similar-sounding names, a well-intentioned home chef might look at a mixer and blender and think them the same. And one less home appliance to buy is always a pleasant proposition for those of us on a budget. But will a mixer achieve the same results as a blender when it comes to food preparation? Well, we here at KitchenSeer have researched this question and covered it below.
Despite their fairly synonymous names, mixers and blenders achieve very different results when used. A blender's primary use is to turn solid foods into liquids, making delicious milkshakes and purees. Mixers, on the other hand, unsurprisingly, mix ingredients. They do not liquify. Things commonly made with mixers include cake batter and mashed potatoes.
As you can see, the results these two appliances achieve are quite different. But can there be any overlap between them? What can you do when you don't have a blender available? Keep reading as we answer all these questions and more.
Blenders and Mixers: What's the difference?
The easiest way to showcase the differences in what blenders and mixers achieve is to highlight their individual uses. Once you know what blenders and mixers achieve, the difference in their abilities becomes clear.
The purpose of blenders is to take solid foods and turn them into a liquid state. Common uses for blenders include making milkshakes, salsas, soups, and purees. Blenders always require a form of liquid in their recipes. Whether this takes the form of an actual liquid base or watery ingredients, blenders need fluids. They come in two forms: stand and hand blenders, both with their own benefits and drawbacks. We'll discuss these later as they also apply to mixers.
You can use a blender to chop things like small nuts, vegetables, and coffee grounds, but there are no options for different types of blends or cuts. This makes it an inferior option to a food processor with more power and these options, among others.
Where blenders thrive in mastery over liquefying recipes with a liquid base, mixers are here for dry foods. Mixers can grate, chop, and blend dry ingredients uniformly, so you don't have to do it by hand. Some of their more helpful uses are in whipping eggs and creating dough and batters. This is a dry process, and the physical state of the ingredients does not change. Modern mixers also come with a beater for beating eggs.
The main difference
As you can see, the main difference lies in the blender's actual changing of the physical form of its ingredients. Blenders engage in total liquefication, whereas mixers merely mechanically uniformly mix ingredients. Trying for one with the other won't achieve the desired results.
Hand vs. Stand
You'll notice with both blenders and mixers that they come in hand and stand varieties. Hand blenders and mixers are essentially more portable appliances at the expense of some power. They are much smaller and easier to store, as well as clean.
When looking for either one to cook with, consider what it is you need. If the recipes you're going to frequently be using require a lot of power or multi-use tools, a stand blender or mixer might be your best option. If not, the benefits of a hand version are likely better.
Read more: Can I use a hand mixer in a metal bowl?
How do you blend food if you don't have a blender?
So what can you do if you don't have a blender and still want to puree and blend foods as best you can? Thankfully there are other options if your blender is suddenly on the fritz. The act of blending can be done manually, though obviously with less precise results. If you're willing to put in the effort yourself, these tools can get the job done.
There are also other automated tools you may have purchased that can blend foods to various degrees. We'll go through several of these options for you down below.
Read more: Can a blender be used as a grinder?
What can I use if I don't have a blender?
Here are some options we suggest using in a pitch if you don't have a blender readily available. Keep in mind that none of these options will do as well as the real thing, so if you find yourself needing to blend foods often, consider a hand blender as mentioned above.
Mortar and Pestle
One of the cheaper things you can use if you don't have a blender is a simple mortar and pestle. You can purchase a good-sized set for around $75. It's an ancient kitchen tool that can effectively grind up spices, make fresh dough from scratch, and grind coffee beans for espresso.
It requires manual input to do anything, but it can effectively blend up and puree dishes. A noticeable downside is the number of ingredients you'll be able to do at one time. Used in combination with a great chef's knife, you'll be able to blend and puree several ingredients in little time at all.
Fine Mesh Sieves and Food Mills
These are also good for softening vegetables and creating purees. They can also make soups and even baby foods. To use a fine-mesh sieve, start by putting the sieve over a bowl. Add your ingredients to the sieve, and then use a spoon to puree them. Make sure the ingredients reach all edges of the sieve. This will give you a smooth and delicious blended puree. After that, transfer your meal out of the sieve and enjoy.
When it comes to food mills, the process is slightly more complicated. Fill up your mill with cold water and then put in your puree disc so that there's an inch of space between where you will be placing your food to ensure maximum efficiency when grinding or pureeing your food. Turn on your mill and allow it to run until your food has reached its desired pureed consistency. Make sure you don't let go too soon, or else your food will come out too chunky.
You can use a food processor in place of a blender if you like. They serve different purposes than blenders and have different blade configurations. Using these two interchangeably is not recommended, but a food processor can handle purees and jobs without crushing ice.
If you aren't getting the consistency you want with your food processor, try adding more liquid to your recipe. Another trick is to freeze your ingredients instead of trying to blend them at room temperature.
Your standard handheld potato masher will also do in a pinch. You will have to peel and clean what you puree ahead of time as a potato masher will be unable to break down any skins or rinds. This is obviously a much cruder method, but it will be able to achieve results.
How do I make a smoothie without a blender?
Purees and blends are nice and well, but the star recipe of a blender is definitely smoothies and milkshakes. Thankfully there is actually a way to make a decent smoothie when in-between blenders. The key is to get very soft fruit that will blend easily with a little work.
All you need is a glass jar with a secure lid and a whisk or a beater. Fruits that are likely soft enough to work with include berries like raspberries and blackberries and ripe bananas. Put about a half cup of your soft fruit into the glass jar. Add a half cup of yogurt of your choice and one cup of pre-blended smoothie or juice for your liquid base. After this, it's just a matter of whisking like crazy.
You can also use the jar and shake to achieve a blended mix; it's all a matter of personal taste and texture. Berries will likely have some seeds leftover, but you should be able to create delicious smoothies that offer a good amount of range in both yogurt and liquid base flavors.
Mixers and blenders are both important fixtures to have in your kitchen, and both achieve very different results. We hope this guide has helped clarify exactly what these results are and how to get the most out of both during your daily cooking and baking. While other options can help you get good meals out of your food, nothing really replaces a good mixer and blender. Enjoy your delicious blended and mixed fare.