The motor has decent power, it grinds coffee well, and it's the perfect size for whipping up single servings of shakes and smoothies.
The chopping and food processing functions are MIA.
If you drink a smoothie every day, you can probably justify the cost. If not, you’re left with a machine you can’t use for very many jobs, and a lot of parts to keep track of.
Any blender that comes with 17 pieces is bound to be predicated on versatility and practicality. On its website, Los Angeles–based Homeland Housewares surrounds the Magic Bullet with the bold graphics and dynamic call-outs of appliances hawked on infomercials, positioning it as the affordable solution to a slew of kitchen challenges. The reason for those 17 pieces? The Magic Bullet is designed to: make blended drinks and smoothies, chop vegetables, grind nuts and cheeses, whip up sandwich spreads, and even make a quick red sauce for pasta. It is, it seems, the perfect blender for young or less experienced cooks, single people, or anyone interested in downsizing by chucking the full-size blender and the food processor in favor of one small appliance that fits in a drawer (a big drawer, but still). But is the Magic Bullet really all that? Can it perform enough blender functions to be worth the $50?
Opening the Magic Bullet's box and seeing its 17 pieces, we felt like a kid opening a train set under the Christmas tree. First there’s the High-Torque Power Base, with its 120-volt motor and blade housing. It looks, well, like a bullet casing set into a wavy black base, sprouting a cord that’s a little longer than 4 1/2 feet. There are two blade sets that fit into the base: a cross blade for chopping and blending, and a flat blade for grinding and whipping cream. There are two so-called Bullet Cups (i.e., blender jars made of clear plastic, safe for both microwave and dishwasher): a tall (5 3/4 inches high) and a short (3 3/4 inches high). There are four tops that screw onto these: two solid lids and two shaker tops, with perforations in a couple of sizes. You get four Party Mugs—essentially 5-3/8-inch-tall blender jars with handles like beer mugs—and four screw-on Comfort Lip Rings, one each in yellow, red, blue, and green, presumably so you can find your mug if you set it down at a party. Finally, there’s a user guide and a recipe booklet called “10 Second Recipes.”
The Magic Bullet’s numbers don’t end with its 17 parts. There are three techniques you can employ, depending on what you’re processing. For chopping there’s the pulse technique, achieved by twisting the Bullet Cup back and forth in the base. For thick mixtures like smoothies there’s the shake technique (you lift the whole unit and shake it as it blends). And for chunky, low-moisture ingredients like spreads, there’s the tap technique, in which you keep all of the Bullet Cup’s contents in contact with the blade by gently smacking the base against the counter as you blend. We used each of these techniques in a total of four tests: grinding coffee and making strawberry smoothies (shake), making deviled ham spread (tap), and chopping onions (pulse).
Coffee: Fitted with the cross blade and the short cup, the Magic Bullet rendered whole beans into ground like a charm. In 20 seconds, we had a grind just right for our French press.
Smoothies: We filled the Party Mugs with fresh banana, hard-frozen whole strawberries, and ice and twisted to engage the cross blade. After 10 seconds, a significant part of the contents was unblended, so we shook the Magic Bullet. It took nearly 40 seconds of constant blending (not 10, as the Magic Bullet suggests) for the smoothies to achieve the thick, smooth texture we were looking for. We followed up with CHOW’s recipe for Frozen Pineapple Daiquiris, which calls for frozen pineapple chunks, and found that the Magic Bullet had a harder time getting rid of lumps (we figure our frozen pineapple was denser and more fibrous than the frozen strawberries for our smoothies). We shook the Magic Bullet for more than 40 seconds as it blended (the instructions warn against running it longer than 60 seconds), and still ended up with chunky daiquiris.
Deviled ham spread: This was a recipe from the “10 Second Recipes” booklet: cubes of ham, Dijon mustard, onion, and a little water, blended using the tap technique. But after 10 seconds, instead of having a smooth spread, we had a wildly inconsistent mass of smooth and chunky.
Chopped onions: We used the pulse technique for chopping half a red onion, but after 10 seconds (the instructions said we’d have a medium chop by then) we had a mix of wet, tiny pieces and large hunks. Another 10 seconds and our onion was beginning to purée while large pieces lingered, so we gave up—a disappointing end to our testing session.
General stuff: Most people probably buy the Magic Bullet to make single servings of smoothies, and that’s fine—it can handle that. As for doing the jobs of a food processor (chopping and puréeing denser ingredients), the Magic Bullet just doesn’t deliver. Buy this blender to make drinks and shakes (and to grind coffee and nuts), but don’t expect it to satisfy the rest of your food processing needs.
Photos by Chris Rochelle