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Whirl-winner: The gadget that's essential for making super soup

Cuisinart SmartStick

If you like to make hearty fall soups there's one tool that you shouldn't be without: an immersion blender (also known as a stick or hand blender).

Any soup that calls for chunks of squash, carrots, parsnips or potatoes generally requires pureeing to produce the right texture. Pouring the soup into a traditional countertop blender or food processor to puree it creates a hot mess. With an immersion blender you simply submerge the rotating blade into the pot of soup and press the button for a few seconds. Mission accomplished.

When it rated immersion blenders last year Consumer Reports put the $100 Breville at the top of its list; the $50 Miallegro was rated a Best Buy. The model I have, the Cuisinart SmartStick hand blender (CSB-77), wasn't among the blenders CR tested, but I consider it a personal "best buy." In addition to blending and pureeing, it comes with a whisk attachment for whipping cream - much less hassle than hauling out a stand or hand mixer when all you want is a dollop for a hot fudge sundae.

The CSB-77 lists for $59.95, but you can find it for around $50 online and in department stores. It's a plug-in model, by the way; according to the reviews I've read cordless immersion blenders aren't quite as powerful as the corded versions.

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