To Thermomix or not to Thermomix? That’s the $1939 question. I expected to come out of the other side of a two-week trial period of the tricked up kitchen mixer knowing if it is worth splashing out almost $2000 on one. I don’t. I’ll put my cards on the table — I wasn’t considering buying a Thermomix when I asked to review one. But I was intrigued about why so much fuss was being made over a piece of kitchen equipment. When a colleague who works with me at The Australian Financial Review asked if it was worth buying one, I suggested he review one for the newspaper and find out for himself. I decided to go one step further and review one myself. I wrote a rolling review over six of the days of the trial period. We had our ups and we had our downs.
The Thermomix does just about everything but the washing up. It chops, mixes, mills, blends, stirs, beats, emulsifies, kneads, cooks, steams and melts. It smashes ice for smoothies then blends the requisite ingredients, it simmers sauces, soups and one-pot meals, steams vegetables and fish while simultaneously cooking an accompanying sauce, it kneads dough, minces meat, and chops super fine vegetables in a heartbeat.
I like the fact that it weighs ingredients as they’re added to the bowl. So if you’re making bolognaise you can weigh in the onion, chop it, saute, weigh in the right amount of meat, saute again, weigh in the tomato sauce — blah-dee-blah.
I’m also impressed with its meat mincing capabilities, although it took me several attempts to get the knack of this technique. I ended up with mushed lamb the first time, then exceptionally fine minced beef the next. The third time I nailed it, or at least the Thermomix did.
I liked its fairly compact shape on my not-so-roomy bench-top. The cupboards in the old kitchen we procured with the house six months ago are uncomfortably full — it’s a cue for a dummy spit every time an infrequently used utensil or baking tray needs to be found — so there was no chance of it finding a temporary home in there. And it would certainly look the biz in the Kitchen Of My Dreams (capitalised intentionally) that I plan to sell my soul for in a few years time.
If you want a one-pot wonder that can pull off individual dishes in a short amount of time, the Thermomix is it. If you want lots of functionality in one appliance — a rice cooker, steamer, juicer, blender, mixer, grinder, frother, an all-in-one fancy pants blitzer — a Thermomix will meet those needs. If you want something that looks the bee’s knees the Thermomix ticks that box, too.
But for every box that the Thermomix ticks there is another, in my experience, that goes unchecked. If you’re a tactile kind of cook — someone who likes to get their hands dirty, who doesn’t mind putting in a little elbow grease because you appreciate the pay-off in the finished dish — then the Thermomix will likely disappoint. I’m a spice fiend. I love pounding spice mixes and pastes in my trusty, granite pestle and mortar. I think about all the idiots who have crossed my path that week, on-the-job annoyances, and things on the to-do list that never got done. I pound and vent, pound and vent. The effort, and gentle waft arising from fractured spices, soothes my stressed little soul.
Similarly, when I cook stove top I love the fact that the smell of my Sri Lankan chicken curry wafts half way up the street and compels even strangers to comment on it when they walk by. I adore the comforting smell of sautéing onion and garlic, the spice-packed punch of chorizo as it fries and splatters and splashes in the pan. For me, getting my hands dirty and that inhalation of precursory aromatics is what cooking is all about — it’s part of the kick I get out of being in the kitchen. There’s not a lot of that with the Thermomix. On my watch, roasting spices and sautéing onion and garlic elicited little smell. I could cook an entire dish and there would be no sign of it in the air until I removed the Thermomix lid. It’s all a bit ‘boil in the bag’.
However, this kitchen wonder-kid does have time-saving capabilities, and even the most tactile of cooks wants — or needs — to cut corners from time to time. Admittedly, there are days when I’d forgo the indulgent smells and stress-busting spice pounding just to get a meal made more swiftly. But there are also days when I need to cook in bulk and, for me, this is where the Thermomix fell short.
Often on a Sunday I indulge in what I like to call a cook-a-thon. This means cooking three or four meals simultaneously — or at least in rapid succession — which are portioned and packed in containers in the fridge and freezer. They serve us well over the busy working weeks. When I attempted this with the Thermomix it severely slowed me down. Why? Admittedly, being a Thermomix novice it took time to work out the different speeds and dials, but I also had to keep washing the bowl — and at times dismantle it to wash the blade — so it could be re-used. Where I can have four pans on the stove top — not an uncommon sight during a manic cook-a-thon — and one big wash-up at the end, I was cooking-washing-cooking-washing with the Thermomix and tearing my hair out a little, too.
I’m told this is where a second Thermomix bowl set comes in handy but that’s an additional cost of $395 (unless there is a special offer on). And if you start buying extra accessories, it negates the Thermomix’s space saving argument. There’s also the question of what to do with all your other appliances and equipment that will be made redundant by the purchase of a Thermomix. You could, of course, have a kitchen sale. Perhaps that’s what I’ll do when I clean out the full to bursting cupboards ahead of the Kitchen Of My Dreams renovation. Perhaps the Kitchen Of My Dreams will feature a Thermomix.