Monday, January 31, 2011

Who Needs 14 Speeds In A Blender? Osterizer Thinks Everyone, I Think Different!

The Good: Generally safe, Easy to use, Looks good, Durable
The Bad: Lack of color options, Redundant speeds, Not the easiest appliance to clean
The Basics: Average-at-best, after years of using, the Osterizer 14-speed blender fails to impress me because it has never perfectly blended any of the projects I've used it for.

Some years ago, I worked at a department store in a mall and while it might seem conceptually like a bad fit for me, it paid the bills, I had some fun and up until the moment I had to interact with customers, I did quite well at it. As my days at the job waned, I decided it was the perfect time to get ahead in life and that the best thing I could do with some of my additional money was stock up on appliances that I would need for the foreseeable future. Being the pragmatist I was, I determined that I absolutely needed a blender and therefore I picked up one. It was the Osterizer 14-speed blender and while I have had it for years, I use it a lot less frequently than I thought I would years ago.

The Osterizer 14-speed blender, model number 60242, is in many ways a standard blender with a glass pitcher that blending occurs in as a result of little rotating blades at the bottom of the pitcher. It connects to a plastic base and this unit is accented in white plastic, which has not, traditionally, fit the stainless steel look the rest of my kitchen has been working to achieve all of these years. So, while it might fit some kitchen's decor, it does not fit mine any longer.

That said, the curves of the base and the round toggle buttons have a much more modern appearance than, say the old blenders of the '70s, '80s and early '90s. Instead of being blockish, the unit makes the attempt to blend in with curves as opposed to sharp corner. Still, that it is (or was, at least) only available in white, is problematic for those who want both function and style and do not have a white or neutral colorscheme to their kitchen.

The 14-speed blender is comprised of two essential parts, the base and the glass pitcher. The base is a six inch square block at its base that tapers some to the pitcher lock-in at the top, seven inched above the bottom. The base has a rubberized bottom to prevent slippage and that works exceptionally well to prevent the combined unit from tipping over. The base is remarkably stable and users who are worried about safety with children around will find that it is difficult for children, animals, or just klutzy adults to pull this off any countertop because the rubberized bottom has a significant amount of friction that holds it there.

The controls for the Osterizer blender are eight toggle switches on the front face of the base. One is a simple "Off" button and pressing it at any time unlocks any of the other buttons, preventing the blades from spinning. Moreover, if the jar pitcher is lifted out of the base while operating (NOT a safe or recommended thing to do under any circumstances!) the blades stop spinning. The seven controls are easy to us; either press and lock the button in the "on" position or hold the button down and release for "pulse" function (see below). The base has a three foot long white electric cord which connects it to a two-pronged wall outlet.

For those concerned about saving space, this Osterizer 14-speed blender has both an extensive footprint and lateral space need, though pretty much any blender would. On its own, the base has a large footprint with its six inch square space needs, making it not ideal for cramped quarters.

As for the pitcher (the jargon of the industry appears to be "jar," but I find that to be a misnomer) is a thick glass pitcher with a plastic and metal ring at the bottom and a plastic and rubber top that fits snuggly onto the top of the pitcher. The five cup (40 oz., 1.25 L) pitcher stands seven and a half inches tall on its own and has a much wider top than base. The bottom of the unit is a screw-on plastic ring which holds the rotating metal blades to the glass pitcher. This plastic ring connects to a similar ring on the base of the blender, which allows the base to use a motor to control the blades within the pitcher.

The top of the pitcher is capped off by a plastic and rubber top. The top fits the square shape of the pitcher and has a half-inch rubber seal on the bottom of the top that snugly hugs the inside of the glass pitcher, keeping the top in place. In all my years with the unit, I have never had the top pop off or slide off for any reason. Also as part of the top is a clear plastic seal in the center that twists off. This means that without removing most of the top off the pitcher, one may have access to the blender for dropping ingredients into the pitcher. This is handy because the opening is too small for one to stick fingers, hands or even arms into, making it very safe. (In a worst case scenario, a baby's arm could hypothetically fit through this hole but even fully-extended, the fingers of a baby whose arm would fit through the hole would not even reach the blades at the bottom. And no, no babies were harmed in the testing for this review.)

This Osterizer 14-speed blender is remarkably easy to use. With the pitcher properly assembled, the ring at the bottom of the pitcher fits into the receiving ring on the base. The pitcher must be twisted ninety degrees to lock it into the base. This is, I have discovered, all that keeps the pitcher from easily tipping out of the unit. Many times after cleaning the blender, I will simply stick the pitcher on the base and it falls off the base very easily when not locked in. The blender is remarkably stable when the pitcher is locked into the base. Any direct force against the base yields a pretty unmovable object. However, pushing against the top of the pitcher (i.e. back, instead of down) can cause the base to lift if enough force is exerted. Moreover, the pitcher still may be pulled off the base by lifting straight up, even when locked in. For most operators being careful and wanting to use the blender for its intended purposes, though, this is safe and fairly easy to use.

With the pitcher locked in, simply press or hold one of the buttons for the speed desired. Here is where the 14-speed blender is a bit of a misnomer. There are seven buttons and speeds are considered different when the pulse function is used as opposed to a constant speed by the blender. So, for example, "Whip" and the pulse function from the same button are actually the same speed, but when the button is pressed and locked on "Whip," that is considered a different speed than when one holds the button without pressing it fully in. That latter function, known as pulse, allows one to stop the blades simply by releasing the button; one need not hit the "off" button to stop the blades. Pulse is good for "touch ups" on cutting and when one does not need a lot of grinding.

As for the operation, after years of using this Osterizer 14-speed blender, there are two notes. First, it is very durable. In all that time, I've never had to have the blades sharpened, though at peak usage, I used it every day for a month. Second, this is a thoroughly redundant machine. I cook a lot and using this blender has made me suspect of all blenders with a lot of speed options. The difference between "liquefy" and "ice crush" is not easily determined, nor is the difference between the slowest speeds of "Stir" and "Puree." Is there a difference between "Stir" and "Ice Crush?" For sure; it is the difference between ice mixing with a drink and ice being broken up for a drink.

The problem the Osterizer 14-speed has - in addition to too many options that are so similar as to be more gimmick than substance (a six-speed would probably have all the functionality anyone using this would actually need) - this blender suffers from what most work top blenders seem to suffer from, which is an inadequate ability to blend based on design. To be sure, the blades at the bottom is the safest style of blender; it is also the least efficient in terms of functionality because most heavier objects one wants ground will remain buoyant atop the spinning blades as the pulverize whatever is immediately atop them. This tends to necessitate some pressing on the ingredients one needs ground, which effectively nullifies the safety feature of having the blades at the bottom.

So, for a perfect example, I used to make a lot of fruit shakes. This was composed of cut up fruit that was then frozen for at least twelve hours, juice and a few ice cubes. I would put the frozen fruit and ice cubes in and a little juice and set the machine at various speeds to try to get a uniform, thick fruit shake that did not have any large fruit chunks in it that could not get sucked up by me and my straw. The problem is, the bottom fruit would get pulverized, but there would be a large frozen block of fruit that would not get sucked down and into the blades. As a result, I would have to stick a wooden spoon through the access hatch in the top to push the frozen fruit down (while the unit was not running, of course). It would take an average of fifteen minutes to get the entire batch of fruit and ice (less than five cups worth, obviously) chopped up enough to get a drinkable shake. There would always be a piece or two of fruit lodged underneath the spinning blades, intact. The ice tended to get so destroyed as to not actually be ice any longer. The functional problem here is that I often ended up with either a few big chunks of fruit in an otherwise wonderful shake or I ended up with a slightly thick form of juice. Neither of which is the ideal fruit shake. Keep in mind, I experimented for years using every setting and this never yielded perfection either way, even with fewer ingredients added!

As for cleanup, that is a bit of a process. The base simply wipes clean, but the pitcher has to be disassembled. The glass pitcher may be put in a dishwasher, but the plastic ring, rubber ring that forms a seal between the glass pitcher and plastic ring, and metal blades - along with the top - should be washed by hand. There is a lot of assembly and disassembly that goes into cleaning up the Osterizer, but again, this is pretty standard for a work top blender.

In all my years of using this, I have never needed to exercise the warranty and the motor is still running strong (which is why I have not replaced it with a food processor as opposed to a worktop blender). It does seem durable.

Ultimately, this is an average blender and I suspect people without children would do better with a food processor as opposed to a blender. The problems with work top blenders might all be design-based, but it is a flaw enough for me to not recommend this blender. I would rather have a blender with fewer options that actually worked than one with as many options that still leaves the work unfinished.

For other kitchen devices reviewed by me, please check out my reviews of:
Chef's Choice Electric Kettle
Hamilton Beach 727 Milkshake maker
Cuisinart ICE-20/ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker


For other kitchen product reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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