The Best Blender:the Oster Versa Performance Blender

After researching dozens of blenders, talking with five experts, and testing 20 models over the course of four years, we’re confident that the Oster Versa Performance Blender with Low Profile Jar offers the best value for most people. At roughly $200, it performs as well as blenders that cost twice as much, and it blows cheaper blenders out of the water. With both variable speed and presets for things like soup and smoothies, it has one of the most user-friendly and versatile control panels we’ve seen.

Compared with equally priced blenders, the Oster Versa’s speeds are more nuanced, its 1,400-watt motor runs more quietly, and it’s one of the only models that comes with a tamper for bursting air pockets in thick mixtures. At 17½ inches tall, it’ll also fit better under a counter than most other high-performance models. We don’t think the Versa is the absolute best model out there, but its serious blending skills, solid seven-year warranty, and ease of use make this a great choice if you don’t want to plunk down half a grand.

When we first reviewed blenders, in 2012, we didn’t find one for less than $450 that really impressed us. That price may seem obscene, but quality blenders have historically been expensive. When Fred Waring introduced the Waring Blender in 1937, it retailed for $29.75—or roughly $485 in today’s dollars. Since we first published this guide (this is our third full update), we’ve found that companies, gunning to compete with the likes of Vitamix and Blendtec, have introduced relatively modest-priced blenders with really big motors that are surprisingly efficient at liquefying food. We think the Oster Versa is the best of this new breed of high-powered but budget-friendly options. After almost two years of long-term testing, we’d say it’s about 85 percent as good as our former pick, the Vitamix 5200, but at roughly 40 percent the price.

If the Oster Versa sells out, we’d go for Cleanblend’s 3-horsepower, 1,800-watt blender, which makes creamier smoothies and piña coladas than our main pick. But we find its jar really flimsy and the overall design clunkier compared with that of the Versa. The controls are also more confusing to use, and there are no presets. Its powerful 3-horsepower motor helps decimate berry seeds and ice, but there isn’t much variance between low and high speeds.

For the fourth year running, a Vitamix blender performed best, overall, in our testing. The classic 5200 was our top pick in 2014 (the Pro 300 the year before), and once again it was the only one in our tests that could make creamy peanut butter and puree soup without spewing molten liquid up the sides of the jar, and it has the best range of speeds (far better than the equally priced Blendtec Designer).

It doesn’t have any preset speeds, which, after long-term testing, we found we wished it had. And there have also been user complaints about black flecks—pieces of PTFE, a chemical found in nonstick coatings—breaking off the gasket around the base of the blade. Though we haven’t experienced this problem in our own usage, we also weren’t totally satisfied with Vitamix’s response to the issue. For the price, the 5200 is only worth it if you plan to blend a couple of times or more per week. Otherwise, we think the Oster Versa will satisfy most people’s needs for less than half the price.

Not everyone wants to spend $200, let alone $450, on a blender. If you rarely use a blender, but want one for the occasional sauce or smoothie, the $100 KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender is the best less-expensive model we have found. It produces much thicker, more rustic textures than any of our other picks, and its motor isn’t nearly as powerful (and more likely to burn out if overtaxed). But it’s a good, all-purpose machine that’s small enough to fit on the counter under most kitchen cabinets.

Table of contents

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who should get this
  • How we picked and tested
  • Our pick
  • Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • Long-term test notes
  • More powerful but less nuanced speeds
  • Also great: For avid cooks and perfectionists
  • If you just want a basic blender
  • The “black fleck” issue
  • Care and maintenance
  • The competition

Why you should trust us

For professional advice, we turned to two blender experts: Julie Morris, author of Superfood Smoothies and Superfood Soups, as well as the executive chef at Navitas Naturals; and Tess Masters, author of The Blender Girl cookbook and The Blender Girl blog. Combined, these women have tested nearly every blender on the market.

For a scientific perspective on the pervasive black-fleck issue reported with the Vitamix and other high-performance blenders, we spoke with Neal Langerman, chief scientist and owner of Advanced Chemical Safety, a consulting firm. We also reached out to Jonathan Cochran, a former blender salesman who now runs the site Blender Dude, for his take on the best Vitamix and Blendtec models to test. For our original guide, authored by The Sweethome’s Seamus Bellamy, we consulted with Lisa McManus, an executive editor in charge of equipment testing at Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country.

Christine Cyr Clisset has written specifically about kitchen gadgets that whirl, cut, and chop for The Sweethome for more than three years. That includes guides to food processors and immersion blenders, and prior reviews of blenders. Lesley Stockton has tested blenders for The Sweethome for three years running, and also covers pressure cookers, cookware, and knives for the site.

Who should get this

If your current blender makes really thick or rough-textured purees and smoothies, and you want a more velvety consistency, we’d upgrade to a high-performance blender, which our guide’s pick, runner-up, and upgrade all are.

If your blender has only a variable speed dial, and you wish you could turn the blender on and check your email while your smoothie finishes up, then you might want a model with preset speeds.

If you’re really concerned about chemicals leaching from a plastic blender jar, you may want to go with a blender with a glass or metal jar.

How we picked and tested

top four favorite blenders

Our favorite blenders, from left to right: the Oster Versa, the Vitamix 5200, the KitchenAid 5-Speed, and the Cleanblend.

A great blender should be able to smoothly process tough things like fibrous kale, frozen berries, and ice without burning out the motor. How efficiently a blender does this depends on a combination of blade length and position, the shape of the mixing jar, and motor strength. All three of these elements combine to create an efficient vortex that will bring food down around the blade.

According to America’s Test Kitchen, a good vortex is formed when the blender’s blades have a “wingspan” that comes close to the sides of the blending jar. If there’s a big gap between the tips of the blades and the jar, chunks of food will end up missing the blades. America’s Test Kitchen also found that blenders with a curved bottom, rather than a flat 90-degree bottom, created a better vortex. And, of course, a more powerful motor created a better vortex.

What separates high- and low-end blenders is that the former are more powerful and process much smoother textures, and they’ll generally last a lot longer than the lower-end, less powerful ones. Higher-end blenders—often called high-performance blenders—will also tackle things that you’d never want to try in a cheap blender, such as making peanut butter or milling grains. As Julie Morris told us, “Lower-end models market themselves to be able to do all the things that a higher-end one can, but they rarely can … or at least not for very long before breaking. High-end blenders are more of a machine than an appliance … [they’re] a workhorse (and actually measured in horsepower).”

writer taking notes on blender performance

We tested for how well each blender processed recipes, as well as how easy they were to operate and clean.

The holy grail for many home cooks seems to be a $50 or $100 blender that performs like a $500 Vitamix or Blendtec. That isn’t realistic.

As Lisa McManus, executive editor in charge of equipment testing at Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, told Seamus Bellamy in our 2012 review, “Blenders have a really hard job to do in that little space. The motor is only so big. The blades have to be able to move the food through the jar and create a vortex, so that the food is sucked down through the blades and back up again. There’s a lot going on in a blender. It’s kind of a challenge, engineering-wise. If you make it do something difficult every day, a lot of them burn out. If it’s being put in the dishwasher every day, the jars can crack, things loosen up, they leak. It’s a lot of stress to put on a little machine. They’re either not durable enough or they can’t handle it in the first place.”

That said, there’s nothing wrong with a cheap blender as long as you understand its limitations. Julie Morris told us that she used a Cuisinart blender daily in college and liked it so much that when it burned out after a year, she just bought another one—it was still cheaper than buying a Vitamix. Judging from user reviews, though, the holy grail for many home cooks seems to be a $50 or $100 blender that performs like a $500 Vitamix or Blendtec. That isn’t realistic.

The biggest complaint we’ve found about cheap blenders is that their motors burn out easily and their jars crack or start leaking. Vitamix, Blendtec, Oster Versa, and Cleanblend models all come with warranties of five to eight years, and—at least for Vitamix machines—we’ve read plenty of user reviews about them lasting 20 years. You can’t really expect that level of performance from dirt-cheap models, which is probably why most of them come with only one-year limited warranties.

Preset speeds for making smoothies, soups, or crushing ice can be great if you want to blend while tackling errands around the house. But we’ve found that models that only have presets and no variable speed are pretty limited in what they can do. That’s why a combination of a variable speed dial and presets is ideal. Presets can significantly jack up the price of a blender. For example, the Vitamix 5200 retails for around $450, while the Vitamix Professional Series 500—the same machine, but with three preset speeds—retails for $100 to $200 more. This is partially why we think our main pick, which has three presets, is such a great value.

In our four years of testing, we’ve found that a tamper—a small plastic bat—separates the good from the great. It’s no coincidence that our top three picks have tampers. When a blender is really cranking, air pockets tend to form around the blade, and a tamper allows you to burst these without having to stop the machine. This jibes with what Tess Masters told us: “Vitamix is set apart for me because of the tamper. I actually think it’s the genius of the machine, and it’s why other companies are coming out with tampers. It allows you to use the tamper to burst air pockets.” Blenders that come with tampers have a removable opening in the lid to slide the bat through, so you don’t have to take the lid off. This is a safety feature and also helps reduce splatters.

In our four years of testing, we’ve found that a tamper—a small plastic bat—separates the good from the great.

A poorly designed blender can create some serious cleaning problems. Food trapped around gaskets or in the base of the jar will rot and cause a very unsavory odor. Some companies, like Breville and KitchenAid, have designed their blending jars so they are virtually seamless at the bottom, with just a bolt to connect the blade. We found these easy to clean.

Most of the blenders we tested come with BPA-free plastic jars. The Oster Versa, Vitamix 5200, and Breville Boss jars are made of Tritan plastic, which is very durable and has some flexibility. Many of the lower-end blenders, and the high-end KitchenAid Pro Line, don’t advertise what material their jars are made of, beyond being “BPA-free.” (For the record, BPA isn’t as much of a health risk as it’s been made out to be). But the majority of these are probably made of polycarbonate, which is more rigid than Tritan but also very strong. Both materials will crack if heated too high, which is why these jars should not be washed on very hot settings in the dishwasher.

In each blender, we made a green smoothie packed with frozen bananas and berries, kale, and coconut water. We made mayonnaise to test how each did with emulsification, and peanut butter to see how well they turned thick, gooey purees.

In 2014, we tested primarily budget blenders and were mostly unimpressed by all of them (our top picks were high-performance models). In 2015, we wanted to see how the really good, high-performance blenders stacked up. We pitted our picks—the Vitamix 5200 and Oster Versa—against five top-rated models: the Blendtec Designer, Waring Commercial Xtreme, Breville Boss, Ninja Ultima, and the Cleanblend. This year, we brought in the Braun JB7130 PureMix, Cuisinart CBT-1500 Hurricane, Cuisinart CBT-2000 Hurricane Pro, and KitchenAid Pro Line with an insulated jar.

In each blender, we made a green smoothie packed with frozen bananas and berries, kale, and coconut water. We made mayonnaise to test how each did with emulsification, and mixed raw peanuts into peanut butter to see how well they processed gooey purees. With our finalists, we made rounds of piña coladas to see how well they blended ice into slush.

In 2015, we also processed water for two minutes in each blender to see if any of the jars produced the dreaded black flecks that have fired up the blend-o-sphere the past few years. Additionally, we noted how easy or difficult each machine was to clean, how noisy they were, if any of them produced a burning smell while running the motors, if the jars were difficult to attach to the bases, and how easy the interfaces were to use.

Our pick

top pick oster versa on counter

We don’t think you can beat the value of the Oster Versa Performance Blender with Low Profile Jar. It performs as well as blenders twice the price, making silky smoothies, purees, and blended cocktails. It has one of the best combinations of variable and preset speeds we’ve found, and its controls are more intuitive to use than those on other models we’ve tried. The Oster Versa has a broader range of speeds, and the motor runs more quietly than equally priced blenders do. It comes with features usually only available in more expensive machines, like a tamper and overheating protection. And at 17½ inches tall to the top of the jar, it will fit under most cabinets, unlike many high-performance blenders.

The Oster Versa passed almost every test we threw at it, blending nuts into butter (as long as there are about 2 cups to work with), and making a velvety puree. It does struggle to make mayonnaise; we could make an emulsification only once out of four tries. It also didn’t achieve the absolute smoothest textures—it leaves whole raspberry seeds in smoothies and makes a slightly grainy piña colada. But these minor faults will likely not be a big deal for most people. The slightly grainier texture, in particular, is barely noticeable unless you’re doing a side-by-side tasting with smoothies from the Blendtec or Cleanblend. And the Oster’s smoothies are much smoother than any from lower-priced blenders.

In our 2014 tests, the Oster made far smoother textured smoothies than the equally priced Breville Hemisphere or our budget pick, the KitchenAid 5-Speed. And in our 2015 tests, the Versa performed about equally with the higher-priced Breville Boss and Waring Commercial Xtreme. The Vitamix, Waring, Cleanblend, and Blendtec made finer smoothies. Those last two also crushed ice better than the Oster. But in many ways our pick was more pleasant to use than the Blendtec. For instance, the Oster’s soup setting starts at a much saner speed.

oster versa smoothie through sieve

The Oster Versa made one of the smoothest smoothies. Its mixture left only a small amount of pulp and berry seeds in the fine-mesh sieve.

The Oster’s speeds aren’t as nuanced as those on the Vitamix, but they’re far more diverse than the Cleanblend’s.

One of the things we like best about the Oster Versa is its smart combination of variable and preset speeds for soup, dip, and smoothies. This offers a nice compromise that’s lacking in both Vitamix and Blendtec entry-level models, which have only variable or preset speeds, respectively. To get presets with the Vitamix, or a variable speed “touch slider” with Blendtec models, you need to spend hundreds more. Having both makes the Versa really versatile. We also feel that there are just enough presets on the Oster Versa, whereas the Breville Boss, which comes with five, has too many. The Oster’s large variable speed dial is also more intuitive and easier to use than the much smaller dial on the Cleanblend.

The Oster’s speeds aren’t as nuanced as those on the Vitamix, but they’re far more diverse than the Cleanblend’s, which, despite a 10-speed dial, seems to have only two speeds: high and higher. In comparison, the Versa’s low speed is sane enough to start pureeing a batch of soup without hot liquid shooting up the sides of the jar (a problem with the Cleanblend).

All of the high-performance blenders we tested are loud, but compared with the Blendtec’s high-pitched whine, the Versa is far easier on the ears.

All three of our top picks come with tampers, and although the Oster’s isn’t the nicest (see below), it works sufficiently to burst air bubbles and help move things like peanuts around the blades. With the models without tampers, like the Blendtec and Waring, we often needed to remove the lid to either burst air pockets, or scrape ingredients down the sides of the jar with a spatula. With the Waring, in particular, we had to add more water to the smoothie to get all the ingredients to blend, whereas a tamper would have helped move the mixture around the blade without having to add water.

Like the Vitamix, the Oster will shut off if the motor is in danger of overheating. There’s a reset button on the bottom of the base. In the years we’ve been testing it, we haven’t had to use the button, but we consider the feature an advantage over cheaper models that don’t have it and tend to burn out easily.

The Oster, like other high-performance blenders, is a beefy machine. The base takes up 8 by 9 inches of counter space. But at 17½ inches tall to the top of the lid, it will fit better on the counter under most kitchen cabinets than the Vitamix (19¾ inches) or the Cleanblend (19½ inches). The Blendtec, at 15 inches tall, was the only other blender that would stow more easily.

The Oster comes with a limited seven-year warranty that covers “defects in material and workmanship.” This includes the motor and the Oster’s Tritan jar. That’s about on a par with both the Blendtec and Vitamix, which come with eight- and seven-year warranties respectively.

Over the past year, we’ve found you can sometimes get deals on the Versa. At Costco we’ve seen it drop to $160, so if you’re a member, it’s worth watching for sales.

The Oster comes with two cookbooks that are about on a par with the one included with the Vitamix. The first is larger and hardbound, and it’s organized by dips and spreads, soups and sauces, main and side dishes, soups and drinks, and desserts and sweets. The second is more health-oriented, with a variety of smoothie and soup recipes, and it includes nutritional information.

Since we first published this guide, Bon Appetit recommended the Oster Versa (in the April 2016 issue). It gets consistently great Amazon user reviews (4.2 across 406 reviews).

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The Oster Versa’s weakest link is its tamper, which is a little too short and oddly shaped. As opposed to the Vitamix or Cleanblend’s smooth cylindrical tampers, the Oster’s has three flat pieces of plastic that meet in the middle. It’s not as pleasant to use, but it gets the job done.

The Oster also struggles to make mayonnaise. We’ve had spotty results with emulsifications every year we’ve tried making it in this blender. It did seem to help when we tried a recipe with a full egg and vinegar, which may have helped stabilize the emulsification better. If you plan to regularly make mayo, this machine will likely disappoint. Also, when blending mayo, we found the Oster spit and splashed out of the top when the center cover wasn’t in place—we recommend using an apron.

It was a little rougher blending peanuts in the Oster than in the Vitamix, and the resulting butter was also chunkier. We were able to make butter in the Oster when we used 2 cups of peanuts, but when we used fewer nuts (only 1 cup) we found it impossible. If you want to make super creamy nut butters, you may not be totally satisfied.

The blending jar, lid, and controls on the Oster also feel cheaper compared with what you get on the Vitamix. But given that this machine is almost $250 less, we’re comfortable with the lower-quality hardware.

Like all the high-powered blenders we tested, the Oster gets loud when the motor is turned up all the way. It’s much louder than the Vitamix. But it wasn’t as annoying or high-pitched as the Blendtec. For now, this is just how it is with high-performance blenders.

Long-term test notes

We’ve been using the Oster Versa for two years, mostly to make smoothies and soup. We’ve probably averaged using it about two times a week, if you account for heavier use in the spring and summer, and less in the fall and winter. Our biggest complaint is that it’s loud, and very occasionally we’ll get a burning smell from the motor when it’s processing something thick. The motor has never overheated, though, even when we’ve let the blender keep running with the burnt smell. Overall, it has run reliably, and we think it’s a very solid purchase.

More powerful but less nuanced speeds

runner-up cleanblend on counter

We prefer the Oster Versa’s friendlier interface, range of speeds, and shorter jar, but we were also really impressed by the equally priced Cleanblend. A relative newcomer on the high-powered blender scene—the company was only started in 2013—the Cleanblend has an impressive 3-horsepower motor, and in some of our tests it blended better than the Oster Versa, and even the Vitamix.

The Cleanblend was one of the best at making really smooth smoothies in our tests. There were barely any raspberry seeds left in our fine-mesh sieve; the only blender that did better was the Blendtec. The Cleanblend also came in second, behind the Blendtec, in blending a really smooth piña colada. We’re talking restaurant-worthy blended drinks here.

But a few of its features (or lack of) bumped it from our number-one slot. The Cleanblend’s jar feels really chintzy and light compared with the Oster’s (both are Tritan). We could see the jar cracking easily, or cracking over time, though we didn’t have any issues during our tests. We also found that during blending the jar tends to rotate slightly on the motor base. The handle is raw plastic and not that pleasant to grip, unlike the handle on the Oster, which has a smooth rubber handle cover. The Cleanblend’s taller jar makes the blender 2 inches taller, so it’s more difficult to store on the counter under cupboards.

The Cleanblend’s controls look almost identical to the Vitamix’s. In fact, the Cleanblend’s design looks closely modeled after the Vitamix. It comes with only a variable speed dial, and two levers to switch from on/off and pulse. The dial is smaller than the variable speed dial on the Oster. Overall, we just felt the Oster’s combo of variable speed and presets, and its larger variable speed dial, makes it easier to use than the Cleanblend’s smaller dial and levers.

The Cleanblend doesn’t have a wide range of speeds. We couldn’t tell much of a difference between the slow and high settings. The blender really kicks into high gear, even at the 1 setting, which sent hot liquid shooting up to the lid in our soup test. And the motor also seemed to produce a lot of heat. Mayonnaise was noticeably warm.

Unlike our other picks, the Cleanblend doesn’t come with a recipe book. We’ve found the blender reviewed on a few blogs, including The Blender Experts, but not in comparative editorial reviews.

Also great: For avid cooks and perfectionists

also great vitamix 5200 on counter

For most people, we think the Oster Versa provides the best combination of performance and value. But there are some things—like making nut butters or very placidly blending soup—that the Oster just isn’t great at doing. If you want the best performance you can buy in a home blender, we’d spring for the Vitamix 5200. This has been our overall favorite blender for three years, and it’s the most basic model that Vitamix makes. It consistently performed best in all of our tests. It’s the model recommended to us by multiple experts and the one many pros keep in their own kitchens, and it’s recommended in many editorial reviews.

In our tests, the Vitamix 5200 did not make the absolute smoothest smoothies—that prize went to Blendtec’s and Cleanblend’s machines—but when it came to consistent and graceful performance, the Vitamix won every time. It was the only machine we tested that smoothly blends peanuts into butter. Where other blenders, like the Blendtec, Cleanblend, and even the Oster, spit bits of mayo up the sides of the jar and out the lid’s center hole, the Vitamix kept the mixture smoothly and evenly moving around the base of the blade.

The Vitamix was also the best blender for hot liquids. Because its low speed is truly low, you can start at a very lazy swirl and slowly increase the speed so that the hot liquid is less likely to shoot up toward the lid, risking a volcanic, trip-to-the-burn-unit situation. The Oster, by comparison, starts relatively slowly on the soup preset setting, but then really revs up, which is fine for certain, thicker soups, but could be problematic for thinner soups where liquid sloshes up the sides. The Vitamix’s calmer blending was another aspect that set it apart from the equally priced Blendtec Designer, whose soup setting created a tornado in a jar.

The Vitamix was also one of the only machines we tested in which you can mill grains. This is a handy feature if you avoid gluten or want to start using fresh, whole grains in baked goods. For this, you’ll need to purchase the 32-ounce dry grains container, which has blades specifically designed to process grains into flour.

The Vitamix 5200 doesn’t have presets, which is a mark against it for some people. However, we found the variable speed dial to have the best range of speed of any of the blenders we tried. Its low is really low, and there is a noticeable shift with each number you go up.

vitamix speed controls

The Vitamix 5200 lacks preset speeds, which is one of the few knocks we have against it. But its variable speed is the smoothest and most pleasant to use of all the blenders we tried.

If you want the blending power of the 5200, but prefer a shorter jar or presets, we’d look at some of the company’s other models. Vitamix sells two different lines—its C and G lines—with slightly different motors and jars. (Vitamix also sells its S-Series, which comprises several personal blenders.) If you want a breakdown of the different Vitamix models, Jonathan Cochran, of Blender Dude, compares them here.

If you end up going for one of the G-Series Vitamix models, with the shorter blending jars, make sure you buy one that was manufactured after July 2013. Models made before that date were recalled in 2013 because blades in the jars kept breaking. Blade date codes are laser-etched onto the blades.

Cochran also highly recommends certified-refurbished models. “My pick for ‘best bang for the buck’ continues to be the Certified Refurbished (Blendtec) and Certified Reconditioned (Vitamix) models. I have personally inspected hundreds of each, and for all intents and purposes they are indistinguishable from the new models at a significantly reduced price point,” he told us by email. While new Vitamix machines come with a seven-year warranty, certified reconditioned ones come with a five-year warranty.

The Vitamix 5200 is America’s Test Kitchen’s favorite blender, and it’s recommended by Good Housekeeping, Serious Eats, and Real Simple. Our superfood smoothie experts Julie Morris and Tess Masters both told us they use this model in their own kitchens.

If you just want a basic blender

basic kitchenaid five speed blender on counter

If you’re planning to use a blender just a couple of times a week, or you want a starter machine for making smoothies and purees, we like the KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender. It beat out all the regular blenders in our tests last year, and in a year of long-term testing we’ve found it works fine for rustic smoothies.

In our smoothie tests, the KitchenAid easily blended frozen berries and kale. It left a much more pulpy texture to the smoothies than the Vitamix or Oster Versa (you could noticeably feel the texture of the unprocessed berry seeds, for example), but it was about on a par with the Breville Hemisphere (which costs about $100 more).

The vortex on the KitchenAid is really impressive. In our white bean test, the blades easily pulled beans and kale down into the blades, blending everything into a smooth puree without stopping the motor to tamp down any ingredients.

The KitchenAid took a little while to crush ice, but not so long that it resulted in excess melt water. The shavings were fluffy and cocktail worthy.

To be clear, this is no Oster Versa—and certainly not a Vitamix—but for a fraction of the price it does a decent enough job. The other blenders we tested in this price range were either cheap feeling or very loud, or produced a gross burnt motor smell while running. We didn’t love the hard plastic lid on this blender, and the way the jar clips onto the base took some getting used to, but beyond that we have no complaints.

This blender does not come with a recipe book. Like the Vitamix and Oster, the KitchenAid jar is also made of BPA-free Tritan plastic.

The KitchenAid 5-Speed does have a spotty past in editorial reviews. In 2009, America’s Test Kitchen chose this blender as its budget pick, but it withdrew the recommendation after readers and editors who bought this blender found their machines leaked or the jar cracked after less than a year. Some Amazon reviewers said their KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender leaked from where the blade is bolted into the bottom of the blending jar.

That said, nearly all of the regular blenders we looked at received user reviews complaining about broken and leaking jars and motors quickly burning out. Proportionally, the KitchenAid user reviews aren’t any worse than the other blenders we tested. A lot of the negative comments go something like “great blender until it dies.” If you use it heavily, the KitchenAid may not last you many years, but we think it’s the best in its price range.

Co-author Lesley Stockton has also used this blender for a very long time (six years in the test kitchens at Martha Stewart and two years in her own kitchen) and recommends it for those who don’t need the intense power of a Vitamix. Tess Masters also recommends the KitchenAid 5-Speed, and Real Simple rated this as the best overall blender of 52 models it tested, saying, “This model boasts a robust but quiet motor, and its compact size (16 inches tall) makes it a cinch to store.”

The KitchenAid 5-Speed comes with a one-year limited warranty.

The “black fleck” issue

After our 2014 review, we received reader comments about some Vitamix 5200 jars producing small black flecks after running the blender for a few minutes. The black fleck issue seems to be rare. We haven’t experienced it in the Vitamix 5200 we’ve been testing over the long term, and none of the other blenders we tested produced any noticeable black residue.

Vitamix acknowledged the issue, saying in a statement that a public relations representative shared with us by email: “We’ve identified that these flecks come from a seal in the bottom of containers. The material used to make the seal complies with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for food contact. The FDA certification allows for and addresses the safety of any possible migration of the components into the food.” That migrating material is PTFE, a chemical used in non-stick coatings. Teflon is the most recognized type of PTFE-based formula. At high temperatures (like in an overheated skillet), PTFE can break down into harmful by-products, but at lower temps it’s inert and if ingested should pass through your body.

We called Neal Langerman, principal scientist at Advanced Chemical Safety, to ask if PTFE poses any health risks when ingested. He said it doesn’t. As he put it: “Quite frankly, this is not a chemical toxicological problem. It’s purely a cosmetic problem.” But he added: “Now, I think it is a lousy engineering issue. When you’re paying $300 to $600 for a countertop food processor, it should not have a washer or bearing in it that chips.” We couldn’t agree more. If you’ve experienced this issue, and your machine is still under warranty, you can return the jar for a replacement (although Vitamix does not guarantee you won’t have the same issue with the new jar).

Care and maintenance

Both Tess Masters and Julie Morris told us that keeping a blender on the counter is the best motivation for using it. We’ve also found that appliances tucked away in cupboards get much less use than if they’re sitting ready on the counter. Masters keeps the base of her Vitamix on the counter, but stores the blending jar in a cupboard. This seems like a nice compromise.

If you find the blender having a difficult time processing ingredients, don’t be afraid to be aggressive (within reason!) with the tamper to get the mixture moving around the blades. Also make sure the blender jar is filled at least 25 percent full. Although high speeds will help process smoother mixtures, when ingredients just aren’t moving then decreasing the speed may also help them start circulating. When following a recipe, it’s also good to add ingredients in the order listed. Blender recipe books tend to be specific with the order (Vitamix, for example, generally lists ice as the last ingredient).

To limit the risk of hot liquid shooting out the top of a blending jar, always start on a low setting and slowly increase the speed (presets generally do this automatically for you). Never fill the jar past the hot liquid fill line, and for good measure place a dish towel over the lid, with your hand firmly holding the lid down, while you blend to limit the risk of the lid popping off.

In our own testing, we found that the best way to clean a blender jar is to use a bottle brush or scrub brush. Processing water and a little soap in the blender jar will help loosen up tough ingredients like peanut butter, and the brush should do the rest. You can use a toothbrush to get gunk out of the controls, as Tess Masters does.

Hand wash the blending jar with warm, soapy water rather than running it through the dishwasher. This will help extend the life of the jar.

The competition

Blenders we tested in 2016:

Falling between $600 and $700, the KitchenAid Pro Line is one of the most expensive blenders we’ve tried, and it’s also the heaviest (22 pounds!). It blended silky smooth textures, but not quite as easily as the Vitamix 5200, and it also didn’t do well at emulsification. Its performance did intrigue us, though, so we’re holding onto it for long-term testing.

The Cuisinart CBT-1500 Hurricane is a compact, powerful blender, but it struggled to process foods. Blending thick smoothies and peanut butter required more liquid, a lot of starting and stopping, and banging the jar on the counter. It did make mayonnaise on the first try, though, unlike the more powerful Cuisinart CBT-2000 Hurricane Pro. But without the Turbo button of the Hurricane Pro, it’s just another middle-of-the-road blender.

The Cuisinart CBT-2000 Hurricane Pro performed similarly to the Cuisinart CBT-1500 Hurricane, except it didn’t make mayonnaise as well (we only achieved emulsification on the third try). We did find the turbo button useful to get a fine puree. But again, without a tamper to bust air pockets, this blender needed a lot of tending to get uniform, smooth purees.

After discontinuing sales in North America for eight years, the Braun brand is back in the US with a line of kitchen small appliances manufactured by De’Longhi. The PureMix is a small, tamper-less blender that didn’t impress us in the least, with a flimsy jug and lightweight base. The PureMix had a hard time mixing our smoothie; we needed to add so much liquid to the mixture that the texture was way too thin—yuck! We disqualified the Braun after the first test.

We also tested these during the past three years:

Blendtec Designer 675: Will it blend? Yes, but not as well as our top picks. Despite Blendtec’s clever, if at times mildly sinister, marketing campaign of blending everything from rake handles to iPhone 6s, we’ve found their blenders wanting (we also tested the Total model in 2013). Although the Designer 675 really killed it on smoothies and blended drinks, its lack of a tamper limits its usefulness. It was a head scratcher deciding which button to use for recipes—like mayonnaise—not specifically listed for the particular presets. In our tests, it didn’t make peanut butter (a tamper would have helped), and the preset speed for soup was frightening, with hot liquid flying wildly around the jar. This model does come with a manual speed slider, but we didn’t find this obvious at first when using the machine. We do think this particular model is quite beautiful, with a sleek black, light-illuminated base. It’s a great blender if you want something that looks super slick on your counter, and that can make amazingly smooth mixed drinks and smoothies. But for $440, we think your blender should be able to do a lot more than that well.

Breville Boss: This performed about as well as the Oster Versa and Cleanblend, but it’s almost twice the price. It has a variable speed dial plus five presets. That’s almost too many presets (something this Serious Eats article also mentions). Like most Breville products, the Boss is built really nicely. It probably has the nicest jar of any of the blenders we tried, and the silver base would look great on the counter in many kitchens. Overall, though, we don’t think it performed better than our winner.

Waring Commercial Xtreme: This blender made very smooth smoothies, and it feels very substantial. But ultimately it didn’t perform better than the Oster Versa, Cleanblend, or the Vitamix. If we were willing to pay this price, we’d go instead for a reconditioned Vitamix 5200. We do like that there’s a metal jar you can purchase for this machine. If chemical leaching is a concern, this blender with the metal jar is probably your best option for a high-performance blender.

Ninja Ultima: The Ninja is roughly the same price as the Oster Versa and Cleanblend, but it’s not as good. We feel like this model has a lot of odd additions that might be making up for poor design. It has suction cups under the base to fasten it to the counter, presumably to keep it from moving on the counter when the motor is going. But a good blender should have a heavy enough base to keep it from moving. Its clamp-on lid was tedious to use compared with better-fitting ones offered by other brands. This model also has Ninja’s signature multi-blades, which didn’t perform any better than models with just a blade at the bottom (and cut both of our testers fingers when washing the blades!). We would only recommend this blender if you got it for free.

Vitamix Pro 300: This was our top pick in 2012, and we still think it’s a great blender. It has a shorter jar and is quieter than the Vitamix 5200. But in subsequent updates we found that the Vitamix 5200 is more highly recommended by a variety of pro cooks and editorial reviews. From a performance standpoint, the Pro 300 doesn’t outperform the less expensive 5200.

Blendtec’s Total Blender: We tested this blender in our review from 2012, but found that it couldn’t compete with the Vitamix we tested. The lid felt flimsy and its panel controls seemed cheap. Blendtec has also phased this model out, although you can buy refurbished units through its site.

Breville Hemisphere: This was The Sweethome’s prior budget pick, and we still like this machine. It has a really nice control panel, with buttons that light up, an LCD timer, and five speed buttons. The vortex was very efficient, and it passed all of our blending tests. At this price point, though, we think the Oster Versa gives you more bang for your buck. Although the hardware on the Breville is nicer than on the KitchenAid 5-Speed, we thought the two machines blended about equally.

Oster Beehive Blender: We thought this did a pretty good job at making green and berry smoothies. It left a lot of pulp behind, and we kept having to open the lid to tamp down ingredients for our bean spread and ice tests. Overall, if you have less than $100 to spend on a blender, we think this would make a good choice. It is super loud (and at a really annoying frequency). We do like that it has a glass blending jar and looks very retro. The Oster Beehive was recommended by Tess Masters and Good Housekeeping gave it an A+.

Oster Versa 1400-Watt Professional Performance Blender with Tall Jar: This comes with the same motor as our main pick, but with a taller jar. It performed comparably to the Versa with the shorter jar. We preferred the feel of the shorter jar to this model’s tall jar. We also don’t like the hard plastic lid on this version, which is more difficult to remove than the softer lid on the short Versa. This Versa did make mayo, although we had to pour the oil very slowly, and we found that the emulsification broke easily.

Ninja Master Prep Professional: For the price, the Prep Professional is a pretty good machine, but we don’t think it compares with the Oster Versa, the Cleanblend, or the Vitamix. The Master Prep did a surprisingly good job at smoothies, bean spread, and blending margaritas, but the design fails at making mayonnaise. The motor is top-mounted, so you can’t actually drizzle anything into the jar. The Master Prep comes with three blending jars in various sizes. We felt like there were too many parts, and they would just end up cluttering our cupboards. Overall, the machine feels really cheap.

Ninja Professional Blender: This didn’t blend as well as the Ninja Master Prep or the Oster Beehive. For green smoothies, it left a weird confetti-like texture to the greens. Every time we ran it, there was a strong burning-motor smell. The jar is hard to get on the base, and the lid is finicky to clamp on. The mayo it made was super loose, which means more air was getting whipped into it. The base is big and clunky as well as cheap feeling. We really didn’t like this one. The Ninja Professional was also recommended by Consumer Reports.

Magic Bullet: This is the only personal blender we tested. It didn’t blend the kale in our green smoothie (there were big chunks of stem left over), and it left chunks of frozen raspberries and strawberries in our fruit smoothie. It did not emulsify mayo or blend the ice in our margaritas. It was a struggle to blend our bean dip (we had to shake the bullet to get things to process). This is probably an okay machine if you just want to make really simple smoothies with the convenience of taking the blending jar with you in your car, but it can’t really go head-to-head with an upright blender.

Other blenders we looked at but dismissed for testing:

Vitamix 5300: Several readers have asked us about this model, as it’s advertised as being an improvement or update to the basic Vitamix 5200. However, the 5300’s specs look almost identical to those of the Vitamix Pro 300, which we tested. They both have 2.2 horsepower, shorter 64 ounce jars, and a variable speed dial and pulse button (the controls look identical). Technically, the 5300 comes from Vitamix’s “C” line—which includes the 5200—and the Pro 300 comes from their new generation “G” line. We opted not to test the 5300 because it looks so similar to the Pro 300. It’s probably a very good machine—like the 5200 and Pro 300—and if a shorter jar is important to you, it’s a little cheaper than the Pro 300. Ultimately, though, all of Vitamix’s many models are a variation on the 5200, which multiple experts have told us is the company’s best model for most people.

Vitamix’s The Quiet One and Blending Station: People often want to know what blenders coffee and smoothie shops use, and we’ve found that many employ these two pro-level machines from Vitamix. After calling five locations, we found Starbucks uses Vitamix’s The Quiet One blender (also called the 36019). Five Jamba Juice locations told us they were using either Vitamix’s The Quiet One or its Blending Station. Both are commercial-level blenders with 3 horsepower, 48-ounce jars, and an extra flip top that goes over the blending jar. But at upwards of $1,000 (or more) for either, we consider both too expensive for most people. None of our experts recommended either machine for home cooks. We think the Vitamix 5200 will be more than sufficient if you’re looking for a high-end blender.

Blendtec’s Stealth 875 and Connoisseur 825: These can also be spotted in pro coffee and smoothie shops. Like Vitamix’s commercial machines, these Blendtec models have an extra plastic flip top. They come with Blendtec’s traditional Wildside jar, have 3.8 peak horsepower, manual speed, and programmed cycles. But, again, at upwards of $1,000 we don’t think either is right for most home cooks and our experts didn’t recommend them, so we opted not to test.

Omniblend V: This has received some good reviews, but we found it difficult to find user reviews or information about the company that makes this blender. It also didn’t look better than equally priced models we decided to test.

HomCom 1800W Multi-Function Commercial Juicer Blender: Another budget high-powered model. It didn’t get higher reviews than those we did opt to test.

Froothie: Another budget Vitamix-ish looking machine. We couldn’t find enough user reviews, or editorial reviews, to warrant calling it in.

Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender: Doesn’t look like it will blend ice, and didn’t receive higher user reviews than those we tested.

Hamilton Beach Commercial Tempest HBH650: Didn’t get high enough reviews to seriously consider for this review.

Oster 6706 6-Cup Plastic Jar 10-Speed Blender: Received too many user complaints to seriously consider for this review.

Vitamix Pro 750: Does not get better editorial or user reviews than the Vitamix 5200 and is almost $200 more expensive.

Waring Pro MX1000R: Didn’t get high enough reviews to seriously consider for this review.

L’Equip RPM Professional: Didn’t get high enough reviews to seriously consider for this review.

NutriBullet: This personal blender looks almost identical to the Magic Bullet and is in fact made by the same company. Although the NutriBullet receives slightly higher Amazon reviews, we opted not to test it because at $90 it’s almost twice the price of the Magic Bullet but doesn’t seem to perform much differently. We plan to test this for an upcoming review of personal blenders.

*This guide builds on reporting by Seamus Bellamy.