All-in-one kitchen machines like the Thermomix have taken Australia by storm. Designed to chop, blend, mill, mix, cook or steam your food from one convenient machine (and much more besides) they're like having a permanent sous-chef by your side.
Here we tell you how we test these feature-rich machines to see if they live up to the hype.New all-in-ones are constantly coming on to the market, each with its own quirks. Many hover around the $2000 mark – a huge investment. So how do we help you make the right buying decision?
There's no doubt our home economist Fiona Mair knows her way around a kitchen and has endless knowledge about kitchen appliances. With 30 years of experience, including 19 in the CHOICE test kitchen, she's seen lots of new technology enter the kitchen space. All-in-ones are certainly one of the most innovative developments in the past few years, and she knows what makes a good one tick.
We constantly monitor the market for new all-in-ones, and look for comparable products. Not all machines will share the same features (such as an internal scale, interchangeable blades or a recipe chip) but if they can perform similar cooking tasks, we'll think they're worth comparing. We typically look for big-name releases, but there are a number of emerging brands entering the Australian market we'll also consider, particularly if they already have an established European presence.
We use your member funds to buy everything we test. Sometimes, a product demonstration is part of the buying experience and we'll get an expert into the test kitchen to tell us how to get the most out of the product.
Our main aim is to experience the product just as someone would in a typical household kitchen. Sophisticated as these machines may seem, if they can't do the basics they're not worth the expensive price tag. Performance makes up 40% of our overall score.
We place a high emphasis on ease of use – in fact, it makes up the remaining 60% of our score. A good all-in-one won't be difficult to use, and should be straightforward for people to master, even if you're not a master chef.
For our all-in-ones test, we perform more than a dozen tasks such as whisking egg whites, melting chocolate, grinding and milling, steaming, kneading dough, chopping vegetables, sautéeing, making mashed potato and more.
We always look at the manufacturers' recipes or use the pre-programmed settings where available, to best represent the consumer experience straight out of the box. If a task fails, we'll try it again and see if any modifications can be made to improve it. If a recipe isn't available we use our tried-and-tested CHOICE method.
We also make some typical meals using the recipes provided, such as a beef stew, risotto, or cake mixture to see how well they perform.
Ease of use
- how easy it is to access and use the controls (this includes any digital controls, recipe guidance, pre-programmed settings and manual settings)
- how easy it is to follow manufacturers' instructions and recipes
- how easy it is to perform general tasks, such as putting the bowl on to the unit and using the lid
- how noisy the unit gets, and whether it jolts or knocks around on the bench during cooking
- how easy they are to clean, particularly when it comes to removing food that gets stuck in crevices or on the lid.
In light of the recent safety concerns surrounding the Thermomix TM31, we've revised the way we recommend all-in-one kitchen machines to highlight the importance of the safety features they're equipped with. To pass our safety requirements a machine must have:
- speed cut-out, where the unit will automatically reduce the speed (or prevent you from applying a high speed) if the temperature inside is over 60°C
- lid lock, where the machine won't operate unless the lid is locked into the main unit.
Regardless of performance, we consider a speed cut-out feature and an effective lid locking mechanism to be essential in light of the many Thermomix accidents we've uncovered. We don't recommend models that don't have these safety features.
We maintain a kitchen lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated tools so our testers can bring you accurate results you can trust.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.