Smaller, lighter, cheaper and easier to use than a blender, a stick blender – also known as a hand blender – can make you a whiz in the kitchen.

It's great for pureeing hot soup in the pot, and if you have a baby to prepare food for you'll appreciate having this handy appliance in arms reach. You might even save money if you're making more things from scratch, and you'll definitely save time if you're used to doing everything by hand.

You can even save on washing up

Because you can puree, whip or emulsify ingredients directly, you won't need to transfer from one bowl to another – which cuts down on all that washing up. If you can make salad dressings, baby food, smoothies and sorbet as easy as that, think how much more often you might cook! A stick blender will also save you from heavy lifting, as you won't need to lug your full-size blender out of the cupboard every time you need to whiz something up.

What should I look for?

Grip

The stick blender needs to have a comfortable grip that's easy to hold. A non-slip grip will make it less likely that the blender will slip from your grasp while you're whizzing up an oily aioli.

Controls

Look for sealed controls which will make it less likely for food to get into any crevices.

Attachments

Some models come with a whipper/beater attachment specifically for whipping cream and beating egg whites. For some it's a large whisk, while for others it's a disc-shaped attachment.

Cord

The power cord shouldn't get in the way of your hand when holding the stick blender.

Pulse function

This is a common feature and gives a short burst of power. It's useful for small quantities of dry foods, to help distribute the load and encourage an even consistency.

Jug/beaker

A tall, narrow jug/beaker is useful for pureeing or blending things like soups and smoothies without making a mess.

Wall mount

This is useful for easy-to-access storage of the blender and accessories.

Cost

From as little as $12 to as much as $525.

You don't need to spend big on a stick blender, as even the cheapest will blend the basics, but you may want to dish out a bit more if you want a quality product that will go the distance.