Good news, smoothie fiends: You can upgrade to a top-of-the-line blender without paying a small fortune. My favorite smoothie maker — the Hemisphere Control by Breville — doesn't come cheap, but it's still less than half the price of a Vitamix or Blendtec.
Here's why I love it.
Buy: Breville Hemisphere Control, $200 at Sur la Table
1. It's a looker.
The first thing you'll notice is that it actually looks good, not like it belongs in a restaurant kitchen. That's because it's sleekly designed with a silvery finish and a smooth control pad that lights up when you use it.
2. It has the most perfect smoothie settings.
In addition to five speeds, it features settings for crushing ice and making smoothies. When you use these preprogrammed 60-second settings, they automatically pulse and add bursts of power, pulling down the ingredients so you don't have to stop and stir or use a pusher. Use the one for smoothies and they'll come out completely blended with a velvety texture.
3. The jar is incredibly easy to fill up and pour from.
Red measurement markings on the clear, plastic jar really pop so they're easy to read. That means you can just put ingredients right into the pitcher without having to dirty a measuring cup. When your smoothie is all blended, you won't have trouble pulling off the lid because it has a handy loop to help you separate the pieces (the plug also has a loop!). And lefties, you weren't ignored: The jar can be placed on the base with the handle to the left so it's easy for you to grab, too.
4. The timer won't leave you guessing.
The base features a lighted timer. When you're using one of the settings, it counts down so you know how much time is left; when you're not, it counts up so you know just how long you've been blending. Handy if, say, the hummus recipe directs to purée for 60 seconds. Because, you know, I'm guessing you want a blender that can do more than just smoothies.
5. It practically cleans itself.
For starters, there's an auto clean cycle that works to scrub off any anything that sticks to the sides of the jar. Of course, you'll still want to wash it thoroughly. Because the blade isn't removable, you don't have to unscrew the base and take out the gasket and mess with the sharp stuff. You can just chuck the whole jar in the dishwasher. After it's clean, there's no reassembly process either.
About me: For more than 30 years, I was in charge of testing and reporting on everything from wooden spoons to connected refrigerators at the Good Housekeeping Institute. My street cred? I worked as a chef in New York City restaurants for seven years. In my free time, you'll find me banging pots in my own kitchen.