Ninja Ultima Blender BL830CB review

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No, I’m not Bill Henderson, aka Mr. Headphones. I’m his wife, Cheri. And let me start this review by telling you a little about what it’s like to be the wife of Bill Henderson.

I’m a freelance writer and editor who works out of a home office. I spend a lot of time on the phone – doing interviews for stories, touching base with colleagues, on conference calls. And almost invariably when I’m on the phone, the doorbell rings. It’s another gadget delivery. For Bill.

When the doorbell rings, the dogs bark. And bark. And if I have multiple calls in one day, I can be sure of more deliveries. More doorbells. More barking. More boxes, some of them heavy.

I like gadgets too, just gadgets of a different nature. My toys have contributed to Bill’s weight gain over the 26 years of our marriage. I cook. So when Bill asked if I wanted to review a Ninja Ultima blender, I was all over it.

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One day the doorbell rang and a big box was there. It had Bill’s name on it, but I knew it was for me. Somehow the barking didn’t bother me, and I was gratified to see my box was bigger than any of his. He was thankful the thing had finally arrived so he would no longer get hourly messages from me asking when my new toy would arrive.

Here’s my big reason why I wanted the Ninja: I’m hypoglycemic, as in dangerously so. My blood sugar can suddenly drop to the you’re-gonna-die range, so yogurt smoothies are literally my lifeblood. But my poor Osterizer blender was going to be the death of me yet.

I needed something that could actually blend fresh and frozen fruit, yogurt, ice and greens. And I needed something that could do it before I passed out or before the neighbors filed a noise complaint.

My son helped me unpack this beast of a blender, and we both were very excited to see individual smoothie cups with sippy lids. Yes, I could blend my smoothie in its own cup, remove the blade, screw on a lid and move on with my life. Beautiful.

But I do have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed with all the components, at least initially. See, here’s the thing: I can write product manuals, but I’m really lousy at taking time to read them. Most of them are boring. The one exception was a Nelson sprinkler manual I actually sat down to read about 20 years ago because it was really funny. But the learning curve with this blender would compel me to read the manual, dull or otherwise.

Don’t tell my husband, but I got away with a quick scan of the manual and found the whole thing was way less scary than it looked. The one thing that still freaked me out was the blades. My husband had read online about how ridiculously sharp they are. And I’ve foreseen my death, and it is by a lethal cut to a finger. Much care must be taken to extend my life.

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But if you’re smart – and I will be smart if it’s life-saving – you never have to touch the blades, not even to clean this thing. The single-serving blade goes right into the dishwasher (because I would sever a finger and die if I tried to wash it by hand), and the main blades are washed by pulsing soapy water in the container, then rinsing. My fingers are intact, and I am alive.

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Here are some specs of  the Ninja Ultima:

  • 1500W/ 2.5 peak horsepower motor
  • 10 Speed Variable Dial
  • 72 oz. pitcher
  • Removable quad blade
  • Sealed and lockable pitcher lid
  • (3) 16oz. cups with sealed lids

Once everything was clean and assembled, I had to figure out where to put this thing, which is about the size of a young hobbit. Young hobbits may be small compared with humans, but try to fit one in a standing position underneath your kitchen cabinets. In fact, if you do this, please send me a picture. I mean that. However, we managed to tilt the hobbit-sized blender backward and wedge it under the cabinet. To use it, we must tilt it back and pull it out. If it were larger, it would have to be collapsible.

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As my first test, I made an especially hard-to-blend green smoothie that always takes five to 10 minutes to blend to a chewable consistency in my Osterizer. Instead of having to blend every new ingredient individually, I was able to throw all the ingredients into the Ninja at once. Using the bottom and top blades, I pulsed a few times and then blended on 8 till smooth. The result: a smooth – not chewable – smoothie. Yum. No passing out and no finger loss.

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Though it’s quieter than the Osterizer, which sounds as if you’re living in an airplane hangar, it still could function as an alarm for late sleepers in your house. If you have college students living in your house, don’t expect them to share your joy about your morning smoothie. But if your smoothie is especially good, you may not care.

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Ninja promotes its products as tools for a healthier lifestyle. The website encourages users to “get healthy with Ninja” using recipes broken into the following categories: Metabolism Defense, Probiotics, Immune Support, Healing & Calming, Heart Healthy, Super Natural Foods, Muscle & Bone Builders, Cell Defense, Mood Lifter, and System Purifiers. Some appetizer and entree recipes are included, but most involve some form of smoothie.

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It was time to try a single-serving smoothie. I used spinach, banana, some strawberries, and some orange-tangerine juice. Then I screwed the blade onto the top of the jar, inverted it, and screwed it onto the motor base. With a few pulses, my smoothie was perfectly blended..

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The challenge with single-serving smoothies is you can’t fill the cup without impeding the movement of the blades if you use leafy greens or frozen fruit. Fresh fruit combined with yogurt and/or liquid gives you the best bang for your cup.

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If you’re making more than one, it’s best to put it all in the main container, which makes quick work of smoothies for two. When I did this, I realized something that was certainly in the manual I almost kind of ignored: The lid has a pouring spout so you can easily dispense your drink without fear of lethal encounters with slipping blades. Genius. Just be sure to snap the spout shut before pulsing the blender clean or else you’ll end up with soapy smoothie goo all over your kitchen. Not that I’ve done that. Twice.

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But it was clearly time to venture out. I had some whole almonds in my freezer and decided to whip up some almond honey butter, one of the recipes on the Ninja® Ultima site. The directions called for using the bottom blade only. First you toss toasted almonds in some oil, then pulse the almonds until finely chopped. Then you pulse five times after adding honey and salt. (I added a touch of cinnamon as well. Good call.) Next you’re instructed to turn to Speed 3 and slowly increase to Speed 8, adding more oil as needed.

However, the ground almonds stubbornly sat unmoved in the bottom of the blender. I added more oil, tried again, then added more oil and tried again, then added more honey and oil and tried again. My lump of almond goo sat unmoved. Adding the top blades did not change the equation. I moved the lump to my Cuisinart food processor, adding more oil and honey as it processed, with little improvement. Finally I finished it off using my KitchenAid stand mixer. Much more oil and honey were required before the butter took on more of a spreadable consistency. So much for my healthy recipe.

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Now it was time to try some salsa. The Ninja recipe book includes a salsa recipe, but it looked pretty bland. I improvised, combining a pint of grape tomatoes, some red onion chunks, a seeded jalapeño, garlic, a bunch of cilantro, a cup of tomato sauce, some coarse salt and fresh pepper. I pulsed just a few times before I achieved yumminess. If you’ve never filled an omelette with Mexican cheese and topped it with fresh salsa, you have not lived.

Overall, I’m thrilled with my Ninja and am determined to find new uses for it. Juicing, perhaps? And just between you and me, I do think Bill is jealous because he’s already plotting to review something that comes in an even larger box than my toy. This could be war.

Updates 04/30/15

Today my husband, Bill “Mr. Headphones” Henderson, told me it’s time to update my review seeing how my Ninja Ultima and I have cohabitated for a while now. His timing was perfect, but I’ll get to the reason for that in a minute. First I want you to rejoice with me that I’ve yet to experience a lethal finger cut. This is my primary concern and consolation.

Now for why Mr. Headphones’ timing was spot-on. We’re in Week 1 of the Whole 30 diet, so tonight I decided to complement our spicy chicken meatballs with a lovely fresh cucumber-zucchini-mint salad. But to make my salad really pop – because Mr. Headphones isn’t so impressed with the whole idea of sacrificing his artificial sweeteners and sugar and bread for 30 days – I decided to create noodles with the veggies.

The whole stinking 30 minutes I stood over the cutting board, I found myself thinking, “If I had a Vitamix, these veggies could be julienned in no time flat.” So if I could change something about my Ninja Ultima, it would be that I could wiggle my nose and find my Ninja replaced with a much-pricier Vitamix so I could have even more cool features. Oh, and if the pouring spout could automatically close, I’d be really, really happy. (Yes, I still forget to snap it shut before cleaning the unit, thus sending soapy, food-filled scum flying around my kitchen.) But at least my upper cabinets are wiped down often.

But, seriously, how often do I make veggie noodles anyway? My world is smoothies and salsas, with the occasional blender Hollandaise, all things the Ninja does flawlessly. (Try it sometime. Find the recipe in The Joy of Cooking.) Okay, so I did try to use it as a food processor to chop some pecans recently, but I have to admit the resulting pecan meal was a happy accident for my pan-basted mahi mahi.

One note: As you can see for yourself, one reader complained her Ninja bit the dust prematurely, as Ninjas as reportedly wont to do. Mine is very much intact, thank you, and does everything it’s supposed to do. Maybe I need to work it harder. Regardless, I’m mostly happy. And still alive.

Source: The sample for this review was provided by Ninja. Please visit their site for more info.

 

Product Information

Price:$230-$380 depending on which store
Manufacturer:Ninja
Retailer:Macy's, Kohl's, Costco Wholesale, BJ's Wholesale Club, Sam's Club
Pros:
  • Huge box that competes with my husband's toys
  • Powerful and solidly built
  • Cheaper than a Vitamix
  • Safe to use despite seemingly lethal blades
  • Makes smooth smoothies and great salsa
  • Quieter than an airplane
Cons:
  • Not much quieter than an airplane
  • Hobbit-sized
  • Makes lousy nut butter
Posted in: Home, Kitchen, Reviews

7 comments… add one

  • Pam T. April 18, 2014, 9:41 am

    Great (and fun) review, Cheri. I’ve been eyeing the Ninja for awhile but haven’t hit the Buy button on it yet. And that salsa looks marvelous!

  • Cheri Henderson April 18, 2014, 11:23 am

    Hey, Pam! The salsa IS marvelous! I’m making more today. Let me know how you like the Ninja if you buy it.

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 18, 2014, 11:50 am

      I have a previous version of the Ninja and used it a lot for the first couple of months. I mostly used it to make “ice cream” with frozen fruits like strawberries, black berries or raspberries. A couple cups of fruit, a few stevia packets, and some coconut milk and voila! It worked great. Now that winter is over, it might be time to get it back out. :)

  • Cheri Henderson April 18, 2014, 1:52 pm

    Sounds yummy, Julie! I’ll have to try that. Mr. Headphones is picky, so he won’t eat it.

  • Kim Wright April 17, 2015, 7:54 am

    Why oh why do people do reviews on any product that is new. These reviews are not really helpful as they do not tell us how well a product performs over a period of time – should be time tested for performance. A very bad product will more than likely perform as to specification when new but will show its true worth over a period of time. Cheri Henderson, you need to look at all the Amazon reviews – huge amount of reviews pro-ing the Ninja Ultima and also a good amount reviewing its failing around the same period and all with the same problem the motor packing up. There must be truth in it when there are a huge proportion or reviews and some with pictures illustrating the Ninja Ultima’s failing with exactly the same problem. Those that gave it 5 starts I can only imagine are elated users of a NEW machine but a good proportion of a differing opinion some months down the line of usage. Please stop these useless early reviewing of products and give potential customers a more time tested longevity review of product performance from start to say a year minimum and with importantly extensive use. I was nearly roped into the wowness of the Ninja Ultima and almost bought it but sensibly accessed the amazon reviews which are much more time useful of a products performance than the WHICH these days whom again also review products when they are new and not over a time tested period.

    • Julie Strietelmeier April 17, 2015, 8:53 am

      @Kim We review new products because… they are new and people want to know about them. Are you saying people shouldn’t buy a new product until it’s been on the market for at least a year? Seriously though, we’ve started doing posting regular review updates on a weekly basis. Hopefully this review will be updated very soon.

      BTW: I have the previous model Ninja and it still works great after several years.

      • Kim Wright April 17, 2015, 9:09 am

        Thank you for that and I half heartedly agree with you that waiting a year on all products may not be practical as is 99% of all products reviewed when new will perform as per specification. So not only should we have new product reviews in the short term period bought but also ongoing reviews to show how they have been performing over a time tested period as this is what is most useful. A lot of the best reviews on Amazon are such those because I as a customer don’t want to buy a product that from the outset appears brilliant but will not stand the test of time which matches money well spent!!! I think on the internet there is amble time for time tested reviews as I’m sure some of these products have been out for a good number of years. And I am finding that some customers are reviewing in this way as an immediate new-ish product review is only good advertising to make a potential customer part with their money (as I nearly did) but not useful to see how far their money goes. So a good review meets somewhere in the middle but not at the start.

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