Cool-looking; a recent redesign improved the function of the lid.
The blending mechanism isn’t very smooth or efficient.
The concept is better than the finished design. This handsome gadget looks nice, but it just doesn’t make good salad dressings.
Chef'n founder and CEO David Holcomb launched the Garlic Machine in 1982. Since then, Seattle-based Chef’n has designed kitchen tools where form is an extension of function, like it is with the PepperBall, a grinder you can work with one hand. As for the Emulstir salad dressing mixer, the first design launched in 2008, with a tiny pour spout and a cap you could easily imagine losing. A new iteration hit the market just last month. It has the contemporary look and basic functionality of the original—a plastic jar with a stirrer operated by squeeze handle—but with a lid that pops up, no spout to clog with diced shallots, no cap to lose down the disposal.
Made of clear, BPA-free plastic, the Emulstir's jar stands 6 1/2 inches tall (just under 8 1/2 inches with the lid on) and can mix up to 7 ounces of liquid. It comes printed with recipes, with markings to show how much of each ingredient to add—there’s one for balsamic vinaigrette, one for Greek salad dressing, and a third for honey-mustard vinaigrette. A twisty, 5-1/8-inch-long plastic stir wand (redesigned to be twistier than the original) sprouts from the bottom of a screw-on lid. It reaches to the bottom of the jar and attaches to the squeeze lever that makes it spin, designed to mix ingredients into an emulsion, temporary or otherwise. The pull-up top reveals an 1/8-inch opening around a flangelike ring, through which you pour the finished dressing, then push the top down to close again and store. Both parts are dishwasher safe.
We tested three dressings in the Emulstir: a balsamic vinaigrette, a simple red wine vinaigrette, and a recipe printed on the previous version of the product (called Emulstir Old on the Chef’n website), Rose’s Dressing, which calls for lemon juice and maple syrup in addition to oil and vinegar. The recipes themselves didn’t matter so much to our testing (except, arguably, the balsamic, since balsamic vinegar contains natural stabilizers that can help it form a true emulsion, thick and creamy-looking). Rather, we were paying attention to the Emulstir’s ability to make simple oil-and-vinegar dressings.
The verdict: It doesn't do the job terribly well. We love the concept of a mixer you can operate easily, with one hand, and that doubles as a storage jar. Trouble is, the hand-squeeze mixing wand didn’t work that well for us, and the mechanism itself felt a little creaky.
For instance with the balsamic dressing, combining 1/3 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup oil into an imperfectly mixed dressing took many, many squeezes of the handle (at least 30), which got tiring. And for whatever reason, with every sixth or so squeeze of the lever, the mechanism made a click and gave some resistance, making it that much harder to squeeze. Once we saw how slowly the oil and vinegar were coming together, we gave up and decided to shake the Emulstir like a cocktail, the way we sometimes do with our dressing at home, in an old canning jar. But the Emulstir’s lid leaked, sending drops of oil and balsamic flying. Leakage isn’t anything to ding the Emulstir for—after all, it’s not designed to be shaken—but the impatience that led us to try: that speaks to the inefficiency of this product.
The pop-up lid works pretty well, despite the stubbornness of the mechanism (we had to pull on ours really, really hard to open it). And we’re not crazy about the fact that the jar is plastic, which is harder to clean than glass when you’re dealing with oil. True, you can pop the Emulstir onto the top rack of the dishwasher for cleaning, but if you have leftover dressing you’d like to store in the fridge, you don’t want the jar to feel greasy (despite our best efforts when making vinaigrettes, we always seem to get oil on things like the outside of jars). We'll stick with our old standby glass Mason jar.
Photos by Chris Rochelle