A stick blender is a hand blender which is designed to be inserted into the food being blended. The shape is roughly sticklike, which explains the common name. Stick blenders can be highly useful around the kitchen for a variety of applications, especially when they come with a range of attachments. Most kitchen supply stores carry stick blenders, which may also be called immersion or hand blenders. Cooks can also order stick blenders directly from manufacturers, if they have difficulty finding a good supplier in their area.
The design was developed in Switzerland in the 1950s. The inventor of the stick blender realized that there are some instances in which a blender or food processor is unwieldy, because the food needs to be transferred into a container for blending. However, a blender is highly useful for things like pureeing soup or emulsifying sauces; sometimes a whisk is simply not strong enough for this purpose. Therefore, he developed a blender which was designed for immersion in food, a rather neat solution to the problem.
By the 1960s, the stick blender had found its way into many European kitchens, including professional kitchens. In the 1980s, the concept became more widespread in the United States, and now many recipes around the world call for the use of a stick blender. The device may look strange and feel slightly silly, but it can save a great deal of time and energy, and it can reduce the number of dishes created during the cooking process.
To use a stick blender, the cook selects the desired attachment and fits it on. The stick blender may be battery powered or it may plug into the wall; in either case, the blender is inserted into the food and then turned on. Many cooks find it useful to blend in a high pot or bowl, thereby minimizing splash back. Some stick blenders include attachments which are designed to reduce splashing, and most take a moment to come to full speed or have multiple speed setting to ensure that they don't send food flying.
When seeking out a stick blender, make sure to read the care directions. A stick blender should ideally be fully immersible in water so that it can be carefully washed, and the attachments should be easy to remove for cleaning. You may also want to look into a stick blender which is designed for stovetop use, with heat-resistant attachments. Be aware that stick blender attachments are easy to lose, as they can slide below larger kitchen utensils; you may want to use a box or tray to hold them, along with other small kitchen gadgets.