We all have our favorite kitchen tools and machines that are our go-to when we need to get things done, but what if our go-to was gone? Sometimes we forget that we’ve come to rely on one machine to do so many things, but we tend to remember this rather quickly when we need it, and it isn’t working.
This can be the case if we find ourselves without our food processor or blender. These things do so much for us, allowing us to blend, chop, puree, and shred our whole ingredients, turning them into whatever kitchen masterpiece to which they’ve become a part.
The good news is, a lot of the ingredients we blend today were being successfully blended together in some form long before the advent of our favorite kitchen machinery so, chances are there’s a way to achieve the results we need.
So, if you’re wondering how to blend food without a blender, you’ve come to the right place!
The Right Tool for the Job
The tools we’ll find ourselves using to get our food chopped, shredded, minced, or blended without the use of a blender is solely dependent on the results we’re trying to achieve. What is our recipe calling for and what is the consistency of the final product?
Sometimes achieving our results may require a combination of tools or several of the same tool can be used to change the results. For example, we might have to use a knife to cut larger ingredients such as potatoes into smaller pieces before or after another utensil is used to cut or mash it.
Our food processors and blenders do the same work as these kitchen utensils, but they get the results in a much different way. Whole pieces of our ingredients, or in some cases the whole ingredient like berries or nuts, are placed inside a contained area and, using extremely sharp blades and high speeds, we just let it run or pulse until the food inside reaches the consistency we need.
Since we’ll have to take that task into our own hands, we can expect the speed in which it happens to be considerably slower and probably messier because our “contained area” is now our entire kitchen. This is another reason to have the right tool for the job as it makes the process a much smoother one.
Shredding and Grating
There are several different tools we can use for shredding and grating. Some we may choose to use because of personal preference, while some simply do what others can’t.
Box graters are probably the most common and give us the most options because they have either three or four sides with holes on each side and in varying sizes that range from fine to coarse grating. Some of the larger versions also have a single sharp blade for shaving thin slices.
If you’re leery of using the open sharp holes of a box grater, there are rotary versions available that will keep your knuckles risk-free during the grating process. These graters use a drum-style design that houses the blades safely away from our fingers.
A mandoline slicer steps up the grating game by giving us the versatility of interchangeable blades and height adjustments to control the thickness and shape of our grating.
This tool also allows us to cut, slice, and julienne ingredients rather quickly, which we sometimes need in this process to get the whole foods small enough to work with. These larger pieces can be cut until the finer pieces we need are achieved.
When using a mandoline, please keep in mind that the blades are extremely sharp and are not opposed to cutting whatever crosses their path. Always exercise caution when using this and all other sharp tools in this process.
Zesters can give us small thin strips or finely grated ingredients, depending on the type we use.
The traditional zester provides us with thin ribbons, while the Microplane type zester resembles a wood planer or rasp and is designed for very fine grating that can’t be achieved with a traditional box grater.
Both are also great choices in those situations when we need a small quantity of an ingredient, even when we do have access to a blender or food processor.
Fine Slices or Shavings
If we need fine slices, the mandoline might not be able to get us there simply because most haven’t been designed for that result. However, a vegetable peeler is hands down engineered to get us the finest of slices, depending on the amount of pressure we apply when using one.
There are several kinds of peelers, from swivel to Y peelers or speed peelers, but the results will be the same no matter which you choose. The main differences in them are mainly the design, so it boils down to a preference of how you want to hold the tool or what feels comfortable in your hand.
If you’re trying to figure out how to blend food without a blender, crushing is one of the prime functions that you’ll need to achieve manually.
Using a plastic food storage bag, seal the food to be crushed inside. Place it on a solid surface, such as a cutting board, and using a rolling pin, lightly hammer then roll across your ingredients, alternating as needed until you have the desired consistency.
We can also use a meat mallet to crush these same ingredients, but be aware that most meat mallets have a textured surface. Pounding the ingredients with the textured mallet head can put small holes in the bag containing our ingredients, potentially spreading the contents from the bag to our tool and work area.
When crushing ingredients such as crackers or dried stale bread for bread crumbs, we can use the same method, but we will need to sift the crumbs through a sieve or mesh strainer. This will remove the finer bread crumbs from the larger coarse crumbs that need to be crushed further.
In both dry and wet uses, we can put multiple sieves together, alternating the mesh openings to make them smaller. This allows us to get our ingredients down to finer particles than using only one.
Once larger whole ingredients are cut or chopped small enough and cooked, they can be pressed using a potato masher or garlic press to achieve a smooth to chunky consistency. Those chunks can then be pressed through the holes of our sieve using the back of a spoon to create a puree.
A device that we often associate with medicine but has been used in kitchens since ancient times, a mortar and pestle is a wonderful tool to use when we need to grind up or crush harder ingredients like nuts, spices, or garlic into a powder or paste.
This is the tool we should use to make dishes like guacamole, gazpacho, and pesto, whose name was derived from the process as the Italian word pestare which means “pound or crush”.
Grinding and Mincing
A meat grinder or meat mincer can be electric or manual, but the result is the same – a finely chopped ingredient. This tool can be used to chop raw or cooked meats and vegetables and usually has different hole plates to control the size of the finished product’s grind.
When using a meat grinder, the ingredient is loaded into a top compartment and, on manual models, a crank handle turns a large internal screw. This screw cuts the ingredient while also feeding it into a knife that also turns as the food pushes past it and into the holes of the fixed plate where it comes out Play-Doh Fun Factory style.
Dough Hook Alternatives
Many of us have found that our food processor’s dough hook attachment is, well, the best thing since dough hook-kneaded sliced bread. But what happens when that option is removed?
When making doughs, such as pastas, pastries, or breads, we can use two butter knives, one in each hand and crossing them through the premixed ingredients using a scissor motion. This method allows us to cut in butter with our dry ingredients.
The tines of a regular dinner fork or a pastry blender are useful in crushing and mashing the ingredients together to achieve the same results. A stiff whisk can also be used but may not be as effective.
These tools are only used during the cutting in and blending process and will keep your hands clean during mixing, but kneading the dough will have to be done by hand.
Hand kneading dough will require a large surface area such as a countertop to be prepared by first cleaning it with warm, soapy water and making sure it’s completely dried before sprinkling it with flour.
Parchment paper can also be placed on the countertop before putting flour down, but cleaning should still be done prior.
There are other electric tools we can use as well if we’re figuring out how to blend food without a blender.
An electric mixer can be used once the ingredients are small enough to blend together. The blunt paddles on the mixer won’t help us with cutting, chopping, or slicing the ingredients, but they will make mixing the prepared ingredients together a much faster process.
Sometimes we have tools in our kitchen that we can temporarily repurpose and use it as a substitute for the tool we need. For example, an electric coffee grinder can be used in the same manner as a food processor for pulverizing dry ingredients such as herbs, grains, or precut nuts.
To ensure that our recipe doesn’t have a coffee flavor and that our coffee doesn’t have the taste of our ingredients, we must clean the grinder thoroughly both before and after using it.
Let’s Try It!
Now that we’ve learned how to blend food without a blender, let’s make some Italian breadcrumbs using bread and try it.
- Plastic food storage bag
- Rolling pin
- Approximately 28 saltine crackers
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
Step 1. Place the crackers into the plastic food storage bag and seal.
Step 2. Use the rolling pin to crush the crackers into crumbs.
Step 3. Hold the sieve over the bowl. Pour the cracker crumbs into the sieve and shake the finer crumbs into the bowl.
Step 4. Put larger cracker crumbs from the sieve back into the bag and repeat steps 1 through 3 until all the crackers are in the bowl.
Step 5. Add Italian seasoning and garlic powder to cracker crumbs.
Step 6. Mix with fork until well blended.
Makes approximately one cup of Italian breadcrumbs.