Cuisinart Smart Stick Variable Speed Hand Blender (CSB-79) review:

A Hand Blender That Can Totally Cut It

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Specifications
  • Reviewed:
  • Price:$55.45 - $59.95
Where to Buy
The Good

Industrial-chic design, a powerful motor, and a food processor attachment that actually works.

The Bad

The whisk attachment is seriously flimsy.

The Bottom Line

For just under $60, you get the function of a good blender and a decent food processor. This is a great space-saver for the single cook or two-person household.

The Basics

The original Smart Stick came out in 2002, and Cuisinart’s been introducing more and more feature-rich variations on the hand blender ever since. The latest model launched last year, but the CSB-79 Variable Speed Hand Blender reviewed here costs around 20 bucks less. Our question: Can a moderately priced immersion blender with lots of included add-ons do more than just purée soup?

Design & Construction

Cuisinart says the Smart Stick does at least some of the tasks of three appliances: blender, hand mixer, and food processor. The CSB-79 breaks down into five primary pieces: the main body (and motor housing), a detachable blending shaft, a chopper/grinder attachment (consisting of a work bowl, reversible blade, and domelike cover), a whisk attachment (with detachable gearbox), and a 16-ounce (500-milliliter) mixing/measuring beaker.

Like a lot of Cuisinart appliances, the look here is low-key industrial. The motor housing and blending shaft are brushed stainless steel; the former has an embossed Cuisinart logo that looks both expensive and understated. The motor is 200 watts; the handle plastic with two soft-touch buttons (“High” and “Low”) that allow for some pretty responsive pulsing. At 1 pound 11 ounces with the blending shaft attached it’s slightly heavy (3 ounces heavier than an earlier version of the Smart Stick in the CHOW Test Kitchen). We measured the power cord to be 68 inches (just under 6 feet), which is useful for reaching both pans on your cooktop and the sink for immersion washing.

The food processor–like work bowl has a 2-cup capacity, with a blade that has both sharp and blunt edges; you can switch from one to the other by sliding the blade ring off the blade sheath, turning it upside down, and sliding it back on. The whisk attachment twists and slides out of the gearbox for cleaning. The metal whisk, as well as the work bowl, blade assembly, and mixing/measuring beaker, can all go into the dishwasher. The blending shaft can be immersed in soapy water, but everything else has to be wiped with a damp, soapy cloth. There’s a three-year warranty against factory defects, and the instruction booklet comes with 21 recipes.

Performance

We tested the CSB-79 with three common tasks that engaged its three functions: puréeing a fruit and yogurt smoothie, chopping ingredients for a chunky tomato bruschetta topping, and whipping cream.

Puréeing: We followed the Strawberry Kiwi Smoothie recipe from the CSB-79 booklet—frozen strawberries, a fresh kiwi, yogurt, milk, and honey, puréed in the mixing beaker using the blending shaft. We definitely had to steady the beaker with our free hand, but after 35 seconds on high, and with minimal up-and-down blender movement, we had a beautifully smooth and silky drink.

Chopping: Again, we followed a recipe from the Cuisinart booklet, the Tomato and Basil Topping for Bruschetta. Using the chopper/grinder attachment, we fitted the sheath with the sharp side of the blades. We minced a clove of garlic in the bowl for 30 seconds on high, then added fresh basil leaves and pulsed five times on high. So far, so good. Then we added a pint of grape tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and gave it 15 pulses on low. The results were pretty satisfying, once we dumped the contents into a mixing bowl and stirred to distribute everything: a mass of finely chopped tomatoes, interspersed with medium-sized hunks (see the photos at the top of the page). This was much more consistent than the results we’ve gotten when trying to chop in a variety of standard blenders, and pretty much what we would have gotten from a dedicated food processor.

Whipping: Following Cuisinart’s instructions and using a stainless steel bowl, we combined 1 1/4 cups chilled heavy cream, some sugar, and vanilla extract. We slid the metal whisk into the gearbox-fitted motor housing and went to work on low speed. This was the least successful of our tests, with slow results that challenged our patience. Dipping the flimsy whisk in and out, it took a full two minutes to achieve soft peaks, even after switching to high: twice as long as the time given in the instructions.

General stuff: A hand blender has certain built-in limitations. That said, we liked this one a lot. You get a lot of function for the price (though we’d probably rarely, if ever, use the whisk attachment). Another plus, shockingly rare with small appliances: The recipes in the accompanying booklet seem to have been tested, and the yields look correct. Washing an immersion blender is always a bit of a pain—the best solution for the blending shaft (the attachment you’ll use most) is letting it whir in soapy water. For what the CSB-79 offers in return, we can deal with that.

Photos by Chris Rochelle