Blenders are go-to kitchen appliances for quick homemade soups, dips, smoothies and more. But processing some foods in portable blenders can ruin results or the appliance.
Things that are too hot, gooey or stringy can shorten the lifespan of your mini blender. Food items that are too hard or big can dull or, worse, break the tiny blender blades, too.
So, to steer clear of any blender disaster, here’s a list of things not meant for portable blending. I’m also adding better alternatives for processing these foods at home.
1. Hot Liquids
Extra-hot liquid gives off steam. And putting it inside an enclosed blending cup or container will create hot air between the food and the lid.
Once you start the blending cycle, pressure builds up inside, increasing the chances of your appliance exploding.
Aside from a broken blender and a huge kitchen mess, this can seriously harm you and anyone nearby.
Best alternative: Remember not to put hot foods in portable blenders and use a cordless immersion blender instead.
These hand or stick blenders let you process food directly in a pot or open container, allowing steam to evaporate freely. You can also let the hot food cool down a bit before blending.
2. Coffee Beans
Typical portable blenders do not have a motor powerful enough to make a fine coffee grind.
Some would use the pulse mode to process small amounts of beans and keep them in contact with the blade. But doing this will only give you uneven granules. It also destroys the coffee flavour.
Coffee beans are also too hard for portable blenders and can dull the blades. The hard granules hitting the plastic blending jar can scratch and ruin it, too.
Best alternative: Expensive food items like coffee beans deserve a proper processing appliance, and that is a coffee grinder. It should give you better control to produce the perfect grind every time.
Getting a coffee pod machine is another option, too.
3. Whole Spices and Nuts
Like coffee beans, you should not put hard foods like whole spices and nuts in portable blenders.
Aside from damaging the blades, the construction and shape of most portable blenders are not for crushing these ingredients.
Best alternative: The kitchen gadget or tool for the job depends on your desired results.
For instance, if you’re making fine spice blends, I recommend using a spice grinder. For a coarse grind, using a mortar and pestle is ideal.
As for nuts, you can soak them first before blending or use a knife or food processor instead. However, I prefer purchasing store-bought ground spices or nuts to save time and effort.
4. Dried Fruit
Dried fruits like prunes, sun-dried tomatoes or dates are delicious mix-ins for blender recipes. The problem is these ingredients are naturally leathery and sticky.
They can get stuck to the spinning blades, making the sticky paste hard to remove. Clean-up afterwards is a pain, too.
Best alternative: Depending on your recipe, you can mince the fruit by hand or soak it in warm water before blending. Hydrating the fruit should make it less sticky.
Also, blend the dried fruit with other ingredients to avoid jamming up your portable blender.
5. Large Ice Cubes and Rock-Hard Frozen Fruit
While cold smoothies are delicious, putting big chunks of ice or rock-solid frozen food in a portable blender is a no-no.
You’ll only end up with a rough smoothie with uneven bits of ice or fruit. Also, doing this puts your portable blender motor at risk of breaking down.
It can also dull or crack the blades or break the blending cup or container.
Best alternative: Use crushed or smaller pieces of ice instead. Also, let your sealed frozen fruit thaw for a few minutes in the fridge or a bowl of water before blending.
Chopping the fruit into smaller pieces also works. Blend your frozen ingredients with enough liquid to reduce impact, too.
6. Potatoes and Raw Dough
Have you tried making mashed potatoes or cookie dough in a portable blender? My advice: don’t even try.
These mixtures are too thick and dense for your mini blender blades. Also, portable blender jugs do not have enough room to process these food items.
You’ll only end up over-blending them, giving you paste-like potatoes, tough dough and a waste of quality ingredients.
Gooey foods also make blenders work harder. It can overheat the appliance and result in an electrical fire.
Meat has fibres and fat that your portable blenders cannot break down efficiently. The appliance will only turn it into mush, which gives an undesirable mouthfeel unless you’re making baby food.
The fat content of your meat can also clog the blades and overheat the motor. Portable blenders usually have BPA-free plastic containers, which can stain or absorb odour, too.
And the last thing you’d want is to transfer any leftover residue to your healthy smoothies.
Best alternative: Consider using a separate tool or appliance for meats to avoid cross-contamination. For instance, a meat grinder or a powerful food processor is a good option.
Also, some stand mixers work with optional attachments like a food grinder or sausage stuffer.
This one may sound unusual in the home setting. But processing meat bones from an industrial kitchen is an excellent way to reduce food waste.
Manufacturers can turn meat bones into powders or pastes and mix them into food items like noodles, meatballs and sausage for extra nutrient value.
Others also use them for making condiments, healthcare products, or animal feeds.
It’s a complex process that is too much for a portable or traditional blender can handle.
Best alternative: Use the right tool or appliance when processing fillets or deboned meats.
Slaughterhouses and commercial kitchens should also have tie-ups with bone processing plants to reuse these valuable by-products.
9. Strong-Flavoured Foods
Ingredients like chilli peppers, garlic, onions and ginger are very potent. So, processing them in your portable blender can potentially leave lingering smells or flavours.
And these can be difficult to remove even after washing the container. At times, it can also stain the plastic or rubber components of the appliance.
Best alternative: To avoid making garlic-infused smoothies, process strong-flavoured foods with a dedicated food chopper or processor.
My preferred method is to use a mortar and pestle or a good old chopping board and knife.
I find these easier to wash and sanitise after use. Also, it’s better if you can find non-absorbent tools made of marble or stainless steel.
10. Fresh High-Fibre Foods
Finally, do not put fibrous foods in portable blenders. Examples are leafy greens, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and beans.
The small blades of your mini blender can only separate the fibre from the fleshy parts of these vegetables, creating a stringy mess.
These foods will clog the blender, overheat the motor and dull the blades.
Best alternative: At times, cooking or blanching vegetables first, like beans, makes the blending process easy. Food processors are also ideal for making cauliflower rice.
As for the other high-fibre foods, it’s best to chop them by hand. Cold-press juicers are also excellent at processing fibrous ingredients.
Modern kitchen appliances that are small yet powerful never fail to amaze me. But no matter how multipurpose or well-made they are, these innovations have limits.
And knowing these limits is vital in making your appliances last longer. So, remember not to put the foods above into your portable blender.
Also, follow your product manual and understand how to use and clean it properly.