A pastry blender is used to mix dough for pies, bread, and rolls. For best results, these should have metal blades that are evenly spaced. Blades must be sturdy so they will be able to cut through shortening or heavy butter. The design and construction of the handle is also important when choosing a pastry cutter. The right sized utensil is normally somewhat longer than it is wide.
The sides of a pastry blender should be mostly straight, and the center should contain five or six slightly curved blades. Aluminum or steel are good materials for these blades, as plastic ones may not hold up well when making pastry. There should be around 0.75 inches (0.64 cm) of space in between each blade, as this will allow flour and shortening to move freely without getting stuck. It is helpful if the blades are contained in a single unit rather than individual pieces, as this can ensure they do not become detached.
You may want to move the blades back and forth to see how much play is in them. Ideally, the blades of a pastry blender will not move at all, but if they do give they ought to do so very slightly. Blades that are too flexible may not be rigid enough to cut through heavy dough; avoid those that are similar to a whisk, if possible.
Look for a handle that is mostly straight rather than curved. You may need to press down on the pastry blender while you are using it, and a curved handle can make it difficult. The handle should be securely attached to the side pieces so it will not come off while you are using it. Wood or vinyl are both good materials for this piece because they are usually durable yet comfortable to grip. A blender with a thumb tab can keep your hand from becoming tired while allowing you to press harder through extremely thick dough.
A standard sized utensil is around 5.25 inches (13.34 cm) long and 4.75 inches (12.07 cm) wide. These dimensions are ideal for a pastry blender because it is long enough to reach the bottom of a standard mixing bowl while being just wide enough to grip with one hand. A blender this size is normally not heavy even when bits of dough become caked in the blades.