More watts, more problems
The first of our more rigorous tests was to see how well the blenders were able to make homemade spinach pesto. With a variety of ingredients of different sizes and densities, we wanted to push the blenders a little bit, and see which ones were able to handle our leafy greens with ease.
The recipe called for us to pulse our blenders 15 times. The Vitamix set the standard here, producing a chunky, well-blended pesto within five pulses (15 pulses turned out to be overkill, giving us something more like a pesto smoothie). The Cuisinart, on the other hand, was barely able to handle the load. After 15 pulses, it had blended the bottom 10 percent or so of the spinach -- everything above that point hardly moved at all.
I didn't want to leave my blender hanging, so I pulled the lid off and started digging around with a spatula, doing my best to mix things up and get more of the ingredients in a position to make contact with the blades. This definitely helped, with the contents of the jar finally starting to look less like a salad and more like pesto, but even after another 10 pulses, I still had large, leafy chunks and uncrumbled nuts. As pesto goes, it was edible, but it wasn't good. So I kept at it, giving it another good stir and a few more pulses, then repeating. Finally, after a total of 35 pulses or so, I had a decent-looking batch of spinach pesto -- although it was still a bit chunkier than I would have liked.
The bright side here is that you definitely can make complicated, multi-ingredient recipes like pesto in the Cuisinart -- but compare the results with those of the equally priced Breville and Ninja models. Both yielded uniform pesto in those first 15 pulses with no additional stirring required, exactly according to the recipe. Those are just patently better results than what the Cuisinart produced.
Next up was our two-part almond test. First, we wanted to see how well each blender ground almonds into almond flour. From there, would any of the blenders be able to grind the almond flour into almond butter? With the right machine, our recipe said it would take about 10 minutes.
Predictably, the top-end Blendtec and Vitamix models had no problem with either part of the test, producing fine, consistent almond flour, then grinding it into almond butter well within that 10-minute benchmark. The Ninja Ultima, however, was the real standout here, pulverizing those almonds into smooth, spreadable butter within 6 minutes. The Breville and KitchenAid blenders successfully made almond butter as well, although they both required us to stop and stir a little more often.
This brings us to the Cuisinart, which got off to a bad start and never recovered. After the initial blend cycle, there were almond chunks and even whole almonds still present within the powdery almond flour (again, those four plateaus proved problematic). I gave the half-blended mixture a good stir by hand, hoping to fix the problem, but still, the Cuisinart seemed overwhelmed and unable to cycle the nuts from top to bottom. Like with the pesto test, only the bottom 10 percent seemed to get much attention, but unlike the pesto test, no amount of stirring seemed to help the situation.
I pressed on with the test, hoping to at least get some chunky almond butter out of it, but at the end of 10 minutes, there was none to be found. Instead, the dusty, crumbly almond mixture had seized up, with just enough of the almonds' oil released to make things mush together, but not enough to get me anywhere near almond butter. The only other blender that failed to spin the almonds into butter was the Hamilton Beach -- although it did a better job than the Cuisinart of producing fine, consistent almond flour.
In fairness, the Cuisinart manual recommends blending no more than a half cup of nuts at a time for the best results, and our recipe called for two cups of almonds. Still, it was a key disappointment that the Cuisinart couldn't rise to the challenge in the way that the Breville, the Ninja, and the KitchenAid models did.
Usability and maintenance
Using the Cuisinart PowerEdge 1000 Watt Blender is simple enough, with touch-button controls and presets designed to make blending as easy as possible for the user. The count-up timer is nice as well -- make a recipe often enough, and you'll quickly know precisely how long it takes to get it just the way you like it.
When it comes time to clean the Cuisinart, you'll want to unscrew the bottom of the jar to remove the blades. Unscrewing by hand is nearly impossible, but if you simply twist the jar while it's still nestled into the base, the blades should unscrew fairly easily. From there, the blades and the jar are dishwasher safe, as is the jar's lid. Just make sure you keep both the blades and the lid on the upper rack.
You'll want to be sure and read through the blender's instructions before using it, as safety should always be a concern with devices designed to whirl sharp blades at hundreds of miles per hour. You'll also find lots of helpful hints for more efficient blending, as well as info on the Cuisinart's limited three-year warranty. Service info and troubleshooting tips are available online at Cuisinart's customer care Web site -- you can also call Cuisinart toll-free seven days a week at 1-800-726-0190.
Cuisinart is a well-respected name in the world of kitchen appliances, and despite disappointing us in our test kitchen, the PowerEdge 1000 Watt Blender does nothing to besmirch that. Overall, it's an average blender with an above-average build. Put the Cuisinart name on it, and I can definitely see why someone would pay $199 for it. Depending on how they used it, I could even imagine that person feeling totally satisfied with their purchase.
None of that changes the fact that the PowerEdge simply isn't the best blender at its price point. In fact, it failed to outperform the equally priced Breville Hemisphere Control Blender or the $259 Ninja Ultima in a single test, nor could it best the the less expensive KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender. At every turn, those three competitors seemed like the better machines, and given that, I just don't see how I can recommend the Cuisinart.