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It didn't take long for the Thermomix to reach cult-appliance status after it launched in Australia in 2001. For years, stories came out of Europe about this magical kitchen appliance that could do absolutely everything, so when it finally became available here, Australian cooks just had to have one.
Well, wanted one. The hefty price tag has long been a deterrent to wannabe Thermomixers, and for a long time there were no alternatives. Over the past few years, more and more all-in-one cooking appliances have started to appear on the market; some, in the case of the Magimix Cook Expert, launching in April this year. But as most of them share a similar price tag, if you're going to spend the money you want to make sure it's on the right machine.
Making plum swirl cake with a Thermomix
Self-confessed 'massive Thermofreak' Dani Valent demonstrates how easy it is to use the all-in-one cooking gadget with her recipe for plum swirl cake.
We take a look at the most popular all-in-one machines on the market.
A note on the process: to test the major functions of each machine, I cooked five different recipes in each.
1. Pizza dough, to test the kneading function.
2. Custard, to test the cooking and stirring function.
3. Garam masala spice blend, to test the milling and grinding function.
4. Steamed vegetables, to test the steaming function.
5. Pureed steamed vegetables, to test the machine's pureeing and blending abilities.
Some overall observations and comments:
1. One thing I can't test for is longevity.
2. The dough worked pretty well in all of the machines – for most of them it came down to the speed of the knead rather than the end result.
3. Steaming worked well in most of them, too. There is an advantage in those machines that come with an external steamer, as more things can be cooked in the machine at once. Those with an internal steamer are restricted to performing only that function at that time.
4. In general, milling, grinding and pureeing worked better in the taller, narrower bowls (like the Thermomix and the Hotmix Pro Gastro). The wider bowls, like the Tefal, KitchenAid and Magimix tended to push the spices around rather than blitz them.
5. A single handle makes a bowl easier to pour and scrape from – it's harder to pour and use the spatula with those bowls that have two handles.
The machines we tested, in no particular order.
The Vorwek Thermomix TM5 has both internal and external steamer basket attachments. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
Vorwerk Thermomix TM5
Made in Germany
The Thermomix has been the leader in the all-in-one market since the first machine was manufactured in 1971. The latest iteration, the TM5, is a well-designed machine, larger than the previous TM31 model, but easy to move thanks to a handle on the top of the base. The controls are intuitive so it's very easy to use, and it comes with both a recipe book and a recipe chip (preloaded with more than 200 recipes) that is easily clipped into the side of the machine. There are also many Thermomix-based recipe books and magazines available to buy, as well as large online communities. The TM5's functions include pulse, turbo, reverse, dough and stir, and it has a temperature range up to 120C (in 5C increments). It has both internal and external steamer basket attachments, integrated scales, and the bowl (2.2 litre) and accessories are all dishwasher safe. It can be noisy during operation, depending on the contents, and it does emit an annoying beeping sound when it's finished cooking. The machine also has a tendency to shake at high speeds or during heavy kneading, and the lid can be a little slow to unlock. It performs every function well, but it won't work as well with small quantities of ingredients.
Who's this for? Everyone – home cooks and chefs alike.
What it does really well It does most things really well, but what separates it from other all-in-one machines is its milling/grinding capability. It can turn whole spices to dust, raw sugar to icing sugar, and whole grains to flour in seconds.
Best thing Availability of online forums/communities and recipe books.
Worst thing Doesn't work as well with small amounts.
The Magimix Cook Expert comes with quality scales, but they're not integrated. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
Magimix Cook Expert
Made in France
New to the Australian market, the Cook Expert, like all Magimix products, is beautifully designed and built. With all its various attachments, it can do almost everything, and its 3.6-litre capacity bowl makes cooking for large groups possible. It has a temperature range up to 140C, in 1C increments for more control and for sous-vide cooking. While the food processor attachment is a quality piece and works as well as Magimix's stand-alone food processors, having to change the bowl to blitz and mill is annoying, and kind of defeats the purpose of an all-in-one-machine. For the garam masala, I toasted the spices in the metal cooking bowl, but then had to transfer them to the food processor to be blitzed. Same with the vegetables: they could be steamed nicely but the puree wasn't as smooth as the others when made in the metal bowl – it needed to be transferred to the plastic processor bowls to get the desired result. On the plus side, the smaller bowl attachments mean you can blitz small quantities effectively. It comes with quality scales, but they're not integrated.
Who's this for? An appliance virgin in the mood to spend (you won't need anything else).
What it does really well Food processor – Magimix is the market leader there for a reason.
Best thing Replaces all other appliances.
Worst thing Can't do it all in one bowl.
The Vitaeco Hotmix Pro Gastro has a much larger temperature range than any of the domestic machines. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
Vitaeco Hotmix Pro Gastro
Made in Italy
This is a commercial machine, so it's designed to be durable rather than pretty – this is one you'll want to keep in your cupboard and not on your benchtop. It has a much larger temperature range than any of the domestic machines (up to 190C), so it can be used to make toffee and caramels, and the temperature increases in 1C increments for greater control. It can also heat and cook while the blades are stopped, so it can be used for boiling and sous-vide cooking. Shockproof feet keep it sturdy on the bench even while kneading and mixing dough. Overall, its cooking performance is good. It kneads dough faster than the Thermomix, and does a pretty decent job milling spices (although not quite at the level of the Thermomix). It's not an easy machine to use, though. Its functions aren't intuitive, there's a level of assumed knowledge in the programmed recipes and the display screen is small and slow. It doesn't come with scales, either integrated or external, and although there is a steaming function you need to buy an (internal) steamer basket separately. It's also quite noisy, both during operation and afterwards – the loud cooling fan can run for up to 20 minutes after the machine has stopped. The lid is secure once on, but can be difficult to snap on and off.
Who's this for? Chefs and professional cooks.
What it does really well Higher temperatures mean it can be used for toffees and caramels.
Best thing It's built to last.
Worst thing The design and interface.
The Tefal Cuisine Companion comes with a good hard-copy cookbook. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
Tefal Cuisine Companion
Made in France
The Cuisine Companion was touted as Thermomix's main competitor when it was released, and it does perform some things similarly, although the Tefal version can't mill or grind like the Thermomix. It doesn't come with built-in recipes either, although it comes with a good hard-copy cookbook, and there are six automatic functions: soup, sauce, slow cook (up to two hours), steam, pastry and dessert. The temperature ranges up to 130C, and the lid is transparent so you can see what's going on inside without stopping the machine. There's just one bowl (dishwasher safe), but there are multiple blade attachments, and although changing them is easy enough, the separate case holding them does require extra storage. The steamer sits inside the bowl, so you can't do more than that at once. No integrated scales. Performance-wise, the custard took a few extra minutes to cook than it did in the other machines, but the texture and flavour were perfect.
Who's this for? Those who want to save $400.
What it does really well Slow cooks.
Best thing Has an easy-to-use and responsive interface.
Worst thing No in-built recipes.
The KitchenAid Cook Processor makes a subtle, inoffensive beep when it's finished cooking. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
KitchenAid Cook Processor
Made in China
KitchenAid is the market leader for stand mixers – could it be for all-in-ones, too? It's certainly an attractive, sturdy and well-designed machine, complete with stabilising feet and shock absorbers so it won't move even during heavy kneading. It has good in-built cooking programs, especially for dough, although you need the recipe book for prompting. There's a regularly updated app, too. It makes a subtle, inoffensive beep when it's finished cooking. It has a temperature range up to 140C and the bowl can heat with the speed at 0. It comes with a lot of attachments, including a smaller capacity bowl to mix smaller quantities and an external steamer. Very good overall, although requires a lot of storage space.
Who's this for? Those who want their all-in-ones and their stand mixers to match.
What it does really well Makes bread.
Best thing Stabilising feet means it doesn't move even during heavy kneading.
Worst thing Storing all the attachments and extras.
The scales of the Termochef Natura are inbuilt, but not integrated. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
New Wave ThermoChef
Made in China
The best thing about the ThermoChef is the price – at $795, it's significantly cheaper than its competitors. It steams well, and it comes with an external basket as well as an internal stainless steel basket. It also pureed well – better than those machines with a wider bowl. But, it does operate like a cheaper machine. The lid is really annoying to get on and off. The blade, too, needs to be put back exactly right or else the bowl won't fit back on the base. The scales are inbuilt, but they're not integrated – you still need to place the bowl on top of them. The interface is fairly intuitive but it's not that receptive, and often it turned off by itself. It's also hard to see if you're not at eye level. During cooking, the custard thickened but burned on the bottom, and the dough worked but there was a lot more flour left over in the bowl than in the others. I could toast the spices for the garam masala well, but they didn't mill at all, even in the narrow bowl. It's also the only bowl that's not dishwasher safe.
Who's this for? Someone who really wants an all-in-one but can't afford to spend the money. It works OK at a basic level, but there are definitely annoying elements.
What it does really well Puree.
Best thing The price.
Worst thing The lid.
Thanks to suction pads on its feet, the Bellini Super Cook Kitchen Master sticks well to the bench. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen
Made in China
The Supercook is similar in design to the ThermoChef – it has in-built, but not integrated, scales, and internal and external steamer baskets. It has a removable control panel with an SD card slot in the side which can be preloaded with recipes and then inserted into other machines. The control panel is hard to use though, the manual function is not intuitive, and the in-built recipes are limited (although there is a Facebook group called Bellini Addicts with almost 40,000 members). The machine beeps when the cooking program is done, although the machine won't switch off automatically – it will keep cooking until you manually stop it. Thanks to suction pads on its feet, it sticks well to the bench, although it still vibrates at high speeds. The lid is very stiff and hard to get on and off. The custard cooked but didn't thicken as well as it did in the other machines; it also burned on the bottom.
Who's this for? People who are curious about all-in-ones but aren't ready to commit yet.
What it does really well No stand-out features.
Best thing The shockproof suction pads.
Worst thing The control panel.
Disclaimer: This article was produced by the team at TMix+ for Good Food. TMix+ describes its mission as "Getting the most from your Thermomix". It is an independent journal and is not connected with or endorsed by Thermomix Australia, Vorwerk International, the creators of the Thermomix, or any other appliance manufacturer.