Should This Do-It-All European Appliance Replace Every Gadget In Your Kitchen?
The Thermomix, complete with built-in WiFi and recipes, is a staple in many European kitchens and even some high-end American restaurants. Do you need one? Or even want one?
It weighs, chops, whisks, purees, boils, steams, cooks perfect rice, ferments yogurt, and even kneads bread dough—all for a list price of $1,499.00 at the time of publication. Is the Thermomix TM6 really worth its sky-high ticket price? This countertop appliance has been a popular splurge in European homes for years, and the newest model available in the US, the TM6, comes with built-in WiFi, an easy to use touch-screen, and a companion recipe platform (hence the WiFi), Cookidoo, with more than 50,000 recipes developed by their in-house “professional food experts”. It boasts a dizzying 22 cooking functions, to help with meal prep, cut down on cooking time, and replace a half-dozen other appliances. So, I created a Cookidoo account, hooked up a WiFi hotspot, and put the Thermomix TM6 to the test.
First, a Snapshot of Me as a Cook
As an associate food editor, you can regularly find me in our New York test kitchen, testing and developing recipes. I actually love the process of cooking, using my hands, dirtying dishes (if not cleaning them), and interacting with my food along the way. I spent months in culinary school being reminded to taste as I cook, so often I sometimes still reach for a tasting spoon in the chef coat I'm actually no longer wearing everywhere. So I was a bit unsure how to feel about a do-it-all appliance. It honestly felt a bit like a meal kit to me: useful for someone who doesn’t actually like to spend hours in the kitchen. And then there's the machine itself.
How do You Use a Thermomix?
I was initially intimidated by the Thermomix (it combines a sharp-bladed food processor with a heating element and boasts the warning labels to match), but it turns out that setting up and using the Thermomix is rather simple. You plug it in, connect to WiFi, and optionally sign in to your Cookidoo account (their online recipe platform). The on-screen keyboard is a bit small, and I’d prefer to log in on my computer and have it find the device over WiFi, but since it is a one-time process, it works just fine. From there, you can use the machine manually, selecting the time, temperature, and blade speed, or begin a programmed recipe from the cheerfully named Cookidoo. (Anyone else think Cookidoo sounds like a gently encouraging children’s television character?)
What Can a Thermomix Do?
Um, nearly everything? The Thermomix TM6 has a built-in scale, mixing knife, heating element, whisk attachment, measuring cup, and steamer basket. Its 22 cooking functions and techniques range from slow cooking, emulsifying, whisking, chopping, and blending, to caramelizing, kneading, and new features like sous-vide immersion cooking. It cues you to add new ingredients (measuring your additions by weight), how and when to use various attachments, and takes the guesswork out of cooking. When I tested a risotto, it not only finely ground a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, steamed spinach, and chopped an onion, it also precisely heated and stirred the rice, all while I stood back and watched, carefully peeking into the machine but not actually cooking anything myself.
How Do Restaurants Use the Thermomix?
Obviously, most chefs aren't secretly letting the Thermomix cook the meals you eat in restaurants. Still, it has some utility to the professional cook. Brian Lockwood, chef de cuisine at Eleven Madison Park in New York, uses a Thermomix in the restaurant kitchen for every service, though certainly not to replace the team of chefs working the line. He says, “we have used them for emulsified egg sauces, and certain purees like mushroom or truffle that need to get hot while blending to make them homogeneous.” Their famous duck with blueberries and chanterelles comes together with a Thermomix, which helps the chefs transform mushrooms into a tender, delicious tart shell. Because of the absolute precision with which the Thermomix holds temperature (from 98 to 208°F), weighs ingredients, and spins its blades (from 40 to 10,700 rpm), the machine is right at home in a high-end professional kitchen.
Can the Thermomix Make Your Life Easier?
There are however, some great everyday uses, too. I (or, rather, the Thermomix) easily whipped up hollandaise without breaking the emulsion, steamed grains, and blended up a super smooth smoothie. Where I’d normally use a food processor, stand mixer, slow cooker, whisk, blender, or stovetop, I used the Thermomix. It does so much more than I initially thought, and testing their programmed recipes shows off just how much it can do. Take Cookidoo’s Jalapeño Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Guacamole, for which the Thermomix mashes the guacamole, and cooks the chicken and prepares a warm freekeh salad. Other appliances can do all of those things, and well, but the Thermomix does it all in one single device. The kitchen in my apartment boasts one countertop, coming in at 18x20 inches, which is just enough space for my wooden cutting board to entirely cover. So does the idea of just a single appliance on the counter sound appealing? Yes. At the expense of my nice big cutting board? OK, now I’m torn.
How Does the Thermomix Make You Feel as a Cook?
As Chef Lockwood says, “The best part about using Thermomix is the convenience of it. The fact that you can do so much with it, like scale your ingredients, cook at whatever temperature for as long as you choose, and blend makes it an incredibly handy kitchen tool.” I can also see it being a helpful aid in the kitchen for folks with mobility or grip issues, since it tackles so much chopping, stirring, and whisking for you. The learning curve is faster than I anticipated, and after two or three recipes I felt comfortable playing with the machine. It is more intuitive than I’d imagined. Where it suffers, for me, is in the very fact that it really does it all. I want to smell, taste, and interact with my food. I want to test a carrot for doneness, and be involved in the preparation of my food. I couldn’t stop cooking a dish “early” to my doneness preference, until I’d learned the machine and switched to manual mode. Using the Thermomix left me feeling a bit detached from the process of cooking, except when it came to cleaning. Even with a self-clean function, scrubbing around the blades (much like in a blender) was awkward and a bit tricky.
Does Buying a Thermomix Make Sense?
So, is it worth the price and the countertop space? As always, the answer depends on you. How do you like to cook, how big, exactly, are your counters, and are you eager to clear out several smaller gadgets for an all-in-one? The Thermomix TM6 offers one elegant, if incredibly expensive, option. Maybe you’re all good with a few more appliances in your cabinets. On the other hand, do you like to experiment in the kitchen? Do you actually use your sous vide immersion circulator, multi-cooker, and stand mixer? You’ll probably enjoy cooking with the Thermomix. Do you love your meal kit subscription and want a hands-off way to make a great meal, every time? Its precision is confidence-boosting and freeing. You can walk away from that risotto. Or, you can make it 17 times, adjusting the manual settings, the ratios, and creating something truly, specifically yours. I recommend learning the functions through a few Cookidoo recipes and then playing with the manual settings. Try a silky vegetable soup, or sticky toffee pudding (cooked entirely in the machine) to get a feel for how it works before going off on your own.
What Kind of Person Should Buy a Thermomix?
As I packed up the Thermomix, I thought about how it had changed my own cooking that week. It seems built for a just a few niche audiences (all of whom, it’s important to note, must have a budget for luxury, high-end kitchen appliances): the curious and science-minded cook, the busy person who just wants to get dinner on the table, and perhaps the ones who can’t quite stir a pot for an hour but love time spent over the stove.
I find myself rather in the uncertain middle. I loved how quickly I felt at ease with a machine I assumed would be hard to master. The user interface made sense and the overwhelming number of features felt seamlessly integrated once I used the machine a few times. It also genuinely works. So many appliances fall short in the simple task of doing what they promise. The Thermomix reliably performed its listed functions every time. It's the philosophy that has me stuck. Part of me loves the possibilities this machine opens up in a home kitchen, and part of me prefers the simple interaction of a wooden spoon and a pot. For now, it’s back to basics for me.