Thursday, August 4, 2011

When to Replace a Small Appliance

When do you know it's "time?"  Sometimes it's technology that drives the decision. For example, computers have replaced typewriters and iPods have replaced 8 track tape players.  But by and large, we Americans live in a disposable society and we tend to get rid of things and replace them before it's really "time." The good news there is that there are loads of people who will buy your old (read: vintage) stuff at a tag sale, or from the Salvation Army, Habitat ReStore or consignment shop. Donate a working appliance, don't toss it in the garbage!

In the case of small appliances, there is a point where a decision has to be made. It's a personal decision...based on want versus need, comfort versus aggravation. If you're happy working with a 12 lb steel iron, go for it! If I'm going to spend an hour or more on that task, I want a lighter iron, one made with plastic and metal is fine...and it's gotta have reliable fabric settings, a spray/mist feature and a retractable cord.

I recently reached the decision point regarding the blender.

Ah, the blender. Melangeur. Licuadora.

I'd bought the 25th Anniversary Waring Professional Blender back in the mid 80's. Loved the classic beehive base and the solid glass 5 cup pitcher. The thick, black 3 pronged cord screamed "Professional!"

If I'd truly been a professional, I'd have known to buy at a restaurant supply store rather than at Williams-Sonoma. I was wooed by other factors, namely the entire Williams Sonoma experience. But, I digress...

The Waring served me well for almost 25 years. It's still serving, just not as well. It's got one button and 3 speeds...Off, Hi and Lo. Early airplanes flew with a flip of a switch, so this one was perfectly serviceable. The pitcher is narrow, and herbs/leaves would get stuck when making pesto or it wasn't as versatile as I'd have liked.

The Waring kinda did everything that my mom's Osterizer (was it Harvest Gold or Avocado Green? I can't remember!) did with it's many speeds that ranged from Stir to Frappe. All the milkshakes I made in the 70's came out the same, and I used every single button, up and back, playin' that Osterizer like a piano.

Now, the Waring's button gets hot when the blender is running, the twirly piece connected to the chopping blades is loose with no way to tighten it, liquid is leaking out and the piece is hard to clean when it gets calcified. Um, I clean the crumb tray in the toaster---I like things to be very clean. So, before I have a "situation" mid-smoothie, I decided to look into a replacement. I'd rather that, than to spend time cleaning pureed fruit out of the grout in the backsplash.

I like Cooks Illustrated as a source, because they don't accept advertising, and it seems like a balanced 3rd party opinion with pretty deep kitchen experience.  They recently did a comparison of blenders, and chose the Kitchen Aid 5 speed as their top pick.  Here's a link to the story.

There are those who swear by their VitaMix, but I'll never spend $600 on a blender. The Kitchen Aid 5 speed, 7 cup blender is listed as $149.00 in the comparison, but I have a tip for you. If you get it in Black, rather than Stainless Steel, the price drops to $99.00. And, if you buy it at Bed Bath & Beyond, using one of the pile of 20% off coupons that you have surely amassed, the final price is $79.00. Not a huge investment after all! Yes, the pitcher is plastic, but this is for home use and I'm one likely is it that I'll have a problem?

The twirly piece underneath the blades is metal and hard plastic, and very easy to clean. If anything breaks, the warranty ensures Kitchen Aid will replace it. You can use the removeable cap as a measuring cup, before adding ingredients or streaming in liquids. Oh, never blend hot liquids with the lid on tight~~the force will blow the top and you'll have stuff on the ceiling, under the cabinets, on your clothes, etc... Learned that the hard way, years ago. Anyway, the cord length is adjustable, by weaving it into channels under the base.

Now, about those 5 speeds...

Stir, Chop, Mix, Puree, Liquefy. That pretty much covers it. There's a Pulse and a Crush Ice mode. I like the encased keypad grody food or liquid to get stuck in between buttons. The new Oster blender has 16 speeds! I use my eyes and judgement for doneness so I don't see the need for the gradations between Grate, Blend, Stir, Shred, Beat, Grind, Puree, Mash, Chop, Liquefy, Whip, Frappe and Mix.

Now I can use the Kitchen Aid blender for simple jobs rather than using the food processor (and taking the latter apart for cleanup) for making bread crumbs, chopping fruit and veggies into chunks or purees, and to grate cheese in 15 seconds.

I'll update this post in 2036 when I'm 75 yrs old if I'm ready to trade up again!

1 comment:

  1. I am one of those Vitamix lovers! Bought it at Costco in 2006 the summer before we got married. Actually wrote up a custody agreement between the two of us - I got it for 2 weeks, he got it for 2 weeks. Only paid $350, I believe and it was worth every penny. It's used multiple times a day, every day. Soup, ice cream, nut milks, smoothies, sour cream, coffee grinder, it can do anything. Not knocking your selection at all because I'm a diehard kitchen aid fan in all other regards, but I used to have the 5-speed and it just didn't cut it for me. After I shredded ice for the first time, the blades were spent. If you're not crushing ice you should be good to go for general food processing. If you ever consider stepping over to the Vitamix side...give me a call. We'll talk. :-)