Foodservice Equipment Reports

SPECIAL REPORT: Blending At Its Best

Food blenders have been around for decades, but the commercial-grade and chef-focused, 3-hp motor versions offered today are a more recent development for commercial kitchens. The latest editions offer versatility, super-precise blending cycles and significant labor savings. These heavy-duty units excel at those kitchen tasks that require a high-quality, consistent blend of liquid and/or solid ingredients, combining them more homogenously than other kitchen appliances.

Food blenders can purée, chop, emulsify, liquefy and fine-grind everything from chocolate blocks to fresh and frozen produce in seconds, using a powerful vortex action that pulls ingredients down into the blades. Commercial-grade blenders produce silky purées, hot and cold sauces, chunky salsas, ice creams, syrups, soups, dressings, thick batters, spreads and even dough very quickly at price points that run $400 all the way to $1,200 in range. These are good choices for heavy-duty commercial applications, maybe 75 to 100+ batches per day, compared with medium- to heavy-duty use, defined as 35 to 74 batches per day.

The Jar

Food blenders are available with clear polycarbonate plastic jars, a newer copolyester, Bisphenol A (BPA)-free plastic or stainless jars with clear lids. The virtually unbreakable clear plastic jars let you see what’s being processed to monitor consistency.

The jar must be able to handle both hot and cold food products and have ample space for larger quantities—typically you don’t want to fill the jar more than half to 2/3 full because it needs rooms to do its thing. Some manufacturers offer containers in two or more sizes—such as 32 oz. and 64 oz.—to address varying batch-size requirements.

Food blender jars vary in shape among manufacturers as well, and you should take the time to ask how the shape affects the blend—several manufacturers’ jar shapes are patented—for a reason. The jar shape (most are square—it’s considered the standard now) works in unison with the shape, angle and span of the blade assembly and with the power and torque of the motor. That combination sends ingredients through that consistent cycling vortex, processing all the ingredients equally so that you’re not left with unprocessed chunks in the blend.

Different manufacturers have different approaches to blade design, and each will happily share the reasoning behind those designs and how the blades work with the shape of the jar. Some blades are thick and blunt, capable of vanquishing tough items such as ice and apple halves quickly and thoroughly. Some are thinner and super sharp. Some blades have two flanges, some have four in a cross shape. Most have tips that wing up or down to aid the vortex action. It’s important to discuss blades with the supplier to decide which cutting design suits your menu and the ingredients you need to blend.

Blending Business

High quality food blenders usually come with a 3-hp motor and all-metal direct drives. They accommodate blend cycling, which is a combination of time and speed. Several manufacturers’ units allow you to program optimal blend cycles for recipes you do every day (one even lets you download cycles through a USB port).

Why is blend cycling important? Blending happens in the business end, at the bottom of the jar by the blades. If you just run the blender for a period of time, the ingredients will eventually blend, but a lot of the content will hang around the top of the jar for a while, pushed up there by the power of the blades. But if you speed up and slow down the rpm’s, the ingredients go up and down and mix around much more quickly and thoroughly through the blades. This type of user control offers a wide range of blending results, from chunky to silky smooth.

You’ll have a choice of capacitive buttons (touch-control, not push) or dials to control the blend cycles and speeds, depending on the maker. The 3-hp motor provides enough power for the blade to quickly reach the rotational speed for the best performance and end result.

The pulse function on a food blender provides added control to chop, grind, blend or purée with precision, but without over-processing the ingredients. The pulse option manually controls blending in long or short bursts, depending on your desired outcome. It also can displace large food items that have gotten stuck.

Some blenders are equipped with automatic shutoffs and cooling systems to avoid burn-out if the blender is overused or abused.

Cleaning

Some ingredients used in food blenders (think nut butters) can make them tougher to clean. However, a food blender typically has fewer pieces to clean than a food processor and you won’t misplace parts.

A best practice is to partially fill the container with warm water and a drop of detergent, then blend on a low speed. One manufacturer said it will release a container rinser next year that rinses all jars smaller than one gallon in seconds with minimal water. Some jars are dishmachine safe, but over time, harsh detergents can cloud plastic and decrease visibility.

Warranties

If you’re investing in a higher-end food blender, you can expect a decent warranty. High-end blenders--$500 or more—should have at least a three-year warranty. And be sure to check exactly what’s covered; some cover parts for three, but labor for the first year only. Others cover parts and labor for three years.  

SIDEBARS:

Best Blending Tips

  • Place softer, high-moisture foods in the blender jar first (greens, liquids, fresh fruits and veggies, etc.). Place hard, solid foods last (ice, frozen fruits and veggies, nuts, etc.).
  • If a blend is too cold, cavitation can result. This is when an air pocket forms around the blade. Be sure to keep a good balance between ice (or any frozen food) and liquid.
  • For round food objects such as apples, cut them in half before placing them in the jar for better surface-to-blade contact.
  • Cut fresh food items to fit in half the height of the jar to give the blender room to blend.


Source: Blendtec

Blade Assembly Troubleshooting

Replace the blade assembly if it

  • “Pinwheels” or rotates freely and effortlessly like a pinwheel in the wind
  • Does not spin or is difficult to spin by hand
  • Makes an audible noise when spinning
  • Has vertical movement
  • Has side-to-side movement
  • Shows ball bearings where the seal should normally be located


Source: Vitamix

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