It was 6:00 a.m. when the sound came. A mechanical whir that turned into a roar — part chainsaw, part Huracán pushing the redline. It screamed. I pulled on a pair of long underwear and pushed the bedroom door ajar. My girlfriend looked back over her shoulder with a mischievous grin. She’d found the new blender, unboxed it and had a good 24 ounces of liquid breakfast moving in a vortical flow. I gave her one of those squinty, twisted facial expressions of disbelief. The countertop was covered in empty produce bags and an open container of almond milk. I looked at the squat die-cast metal base of the Breville Boss ($450), sitting there cool and stolid like a Russian strongman. I thought, “Is there such a thing as too much power?”
Breville introduced the Boss at the end of 2014. It’s a professional-quality blender intended for home use, which means it has the qualities professional chefs look for in a restaurant kitchen — durability and power, mainly — plus some bells and whistles for the home cook. The die-cast metal base feels like a piece of mil-spec hardware and it’s the reason the Boss weighs 13.2 pounds. The BPA-free 68-ounce plastic jug is made of shatterproof Eastman Tritan copolyester. Internally, the coupling is heavy-duty metal instead of plastic and there’s a resettable thermal fuse to protect the motor in case of overload. Suffice it to say the Boss is durable, which explains why it comes with a seven-year warranty. And as for power, the 1500-watt motor pumps out 2 horses of the stuff. That puts it in the category of outboard motors and pool pumps — not your average smoothie machine.
“It all boils down to the power of the motor”, chef Candy Argondizza said.
You spend $450 or more on a blender because of power. The Ninja Master Prep, the #1 best seller on Amazon in the household blenders category, has 400 watts of power, and the NurtiBullet Pro 900 Series, the best seller in the countertop blenders category, has a 900-watt motor. These may be fine if you use them to mix up a protein shake, incorporate a vinaigrette or make a simple smoothie, but a blender with real power can break down leafy greens like kale, blend and heat soups (the motor generates heat), truly crush ice, mill grains or beans into flour, turn peanuts into peanut butter and grind up hard cheese like Parmesan.
“It all boils down to the power of the motor”, said Chef Candy Argondizza, VP of Culinary and Pastry Arts at the International Culinary Center in New York. Argondizza has been a chef for 36 years and an instructor for 15. She said that over the past 10 years blenders have improved to the point where they do a lot of tasks in the restaurant kitchen that used to require a food processor, and they’ve eliminated other steps of preparation. “Right now I have a beautiful seafood sausage on the menu [at the ICC restaurant] with a celeriac-apple velouté — a puree where we’re looking for a creamy, smooth consistency. Years ago you’d have to put it through a tamis or chinois to get any lumps out; now it doesn’t even have to be strained.”
IN A NUTSHELL
+ Beautiful design
+ Set-and-forget presets are useful, if overkill
+ Works exceptionally well
– Lid is semi-difficult to remove
Argondizza uses Vitamix blenders in her professional and home kitchens — and that’s the brand you’ll find in almost all restaurant kitchens. Breville launched the Boss as a direct competitor to household blenders made by Vitamix and the other high big name in macho blenders, BlendTec (of “Will It Blend” fame). The Vitamix 5200 sells for $474. BlendTec’s Designer Series is $450. Whereas those two brands also make blenders that cost in excess of $1,000 (especially the Vitamix commercial products), the Boss is Breville’s top-of-the-line blender. The differences between the three have been discussed smartly and in detail elsewhere, but the key point of differentiation — the one that lets you know Breville is gunning for savvy homemakers — is that the Boss has a battery of presets. There are one-touch buttons for pulsing ice, blending smoothies, making green smoothies, whipping frozen desserts and a six-minute cycle for blending and heating soup. There’s also a manual knob that simulates the fully analog knob you’ll find on a Vitamix. The Breville knob adjusts to 12 speeds, and it still offers a large degree of control.
My girlfriend made that first drink on the “green smoothie” preset, and I was a bit skeptical when it came out. It was so loud and it blended for what seemed like forever (30 seconds). With my Hamilton Beach stick blender I am accustomed to blending for a few seconds and then quitting once it jams up with frozen fruit (or sinewy greens). This loudmouth seemed better. The final product — a combination of frozen blueberries, almond milk, yogurt, banana and kale — was unlike anything I’d blended at home before. The ingredients that went in were no longer individual entities. The drink was something entirely new, with a velvety texture and the perfect amount of aeration to make it feel light. Chef Argondizza said (referring to blenders generally, not Breville) that she thinks presets are mostly a marketing gimmick. I don’t disagree, entirely. As I’ve started using the Boss for soups and nut butters, I rely less on the presets and more on look and feel. But the presets did introduce me to a new way of blending, one endowed with the knowledge of professional cooking and backed by serious machinery. Using a professional quality blender, you’re not just mixing stuff around: you’re using power to make something new.
Sometimes too much power is a problem. Jeremy Clarkson himself once said that the Ferrari F12 would be better if it had a bit less power. A cocktail that’s too strong can end your night early. And the widely quoted Lord Acton wrote in a letter to a fellow English historian, Mandell Creighton, that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Great men, he thought “are almost always bad men.” Well, let me tell you this: if power corrupts, then the Boss has turned me into a very bad man, indeed.