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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

CHOICE review on Thermomix and Thermochef


In 2010 we reported on the Thermomix, which our home economist, Fiona Mair, praised it for its versatility and time-saving ability. Since then you’ve asked us to look into the Thermochef, a similar appliance but less than half the price.
Like the Thermomix, the Thermochef can perform a variety of functions, however, Fiona found it’s not as easy to use as its more expensive counterpart.


A mixing bowl, butterfly attachment, spatula, measuring cup and steamer are included in the unit, and all parts are dishwasher-safe except the mixing bowl. 
The scale allows you to reset to zero at any time to weigh in new ingredients, however you need to remove the mixing bowl from the base each time to place it on the scale, which isn’t ideal if you need to weigh during cooking. 
The heating element isn’t incorporated into the bowl like the Thermomix, sitting instead in the main unit. 

Performance and ease of use

When assessing the functions of the Thermochef using the recipes supplied, Fiona found vegetables to be chopped too finely and potatoes overcooked, resulting in a grainy, watery mash. The recipes are fairly limited and some may need modification - she was unable to blend the mayonnaise made from the recipe as there wasn’t enough mixture.  
But once you’re familiar with the unit you can easily adjust recipes to suit. On the upside, it’s excellent for kneading, whisking, melting chocolate, mixing wet ingredients, grinding and milling, mixing thick batters and crushing ice.
The Thermochef has fairly clear labelling, push-button controls and a large digital display. Recipes with several steps require you to select the function, speed, time and temperature multiple times during cooking, which can become annoying. 
You also need to be at eye level with the digital display to view it properly. The lid, which must be locked into position to operate the unit, requires some strength to open and close and we found it difficult to fit (the same goes for fitting the steaming basket). It’s also noisy during operation, which will be irritating when you’re cooking for a longer period.  
When making heavy batters or doughs the unit can vibrate around the bench, and removing these mixtures can be difficult. Liquid can splash out when mixing wet ingredients if the measuring cup isn’t in position, and when braising, browning can occur on the bottom of the bowl and be difficult to clean.
The unit’s stainless steel exterior requires close attention when it comes to cleaning. To remove doughs and batters you can run through a cycle with water and detergent, however baked-on food can be difficult to remove from the bottom of the bowl. 

CHOICE verdict

Like the Thermomix, the Thermochef is great for a busy family or less experienced cook, saving time and promoting healthier cooking - but it doesn't impress us as much as its rival. 
It performs very well for cooking but just isn't as easy to use. Although you'll pay substantially more for the Thermomix, that is a product whose quality justifies its high price tag.
The Thermomix has been around since the 1960s, when it first launched in Germany as a food processor. After many years of innovation, it found its way onto the Australia market in 2000. Combining the functions of 10 appliances in one unit, the Thermomix can chop, beat, mix, whip, grind, knead, mince, grate, juice, blend, heat, stir, steam and even weigh food. After CHOICE tested the latest version, the TM31, our home economist Fiona Mair - a harsh critic - declared it her new favourite appliance. 

Included with the unit is a mixing bowl and lid, simmering basket, stirring attachment, measuring cup, spatula and Varoma (steaming bowl), as well as a recipe book. The heating element is incorporated into the bottom of the mixing bowl rather than inside the main unit, and the lid has provisions for spillages should a mixture boil over while cooking. It has a magnetic motor, said to increase the longevity of the product as it has no moving parts or belts to wear out over time. Its handy scale increases in increments of 5g and at any time you can reset to zero to weigh newly-added ingredients. The unit will not operate until the lid is locked into position, and if it hasn’t been used for 15 minutes it automatically switches to standby mode, which draws less power. 

We assessed most functions of the Thermomix and found it succeeded on all counts. We assessed most of its functions and found it didn’t miss a beat. Fiona also tried some of the recipes supplied in the cookbook, which the Thermomix cooked to perfection. It also makes decent servings, with some meals feeding up to six adults (though you can easily adjust recipes to suit your needs). 

While the unit has many controls, which can seem daunting at first, they’re well labelled. The Thermomix is only available through in-home demonstrations so before you buy you’ll have a chance to familiarise yourself with the unit, and you’ll find it’s easy to use. Minimal parts mean it’s easy to assemble and disassemble, and cleaning is also a breeze. All parts are dishwasher-safe and the main unit is easy to wipe over. Keep in mind that the plastic parts may stain with some food colours, however bicarbonate soda should remove any stains.

CHOICE Verdict 

The Thermomix is built to last; we would give it five stars except for its hefty price tag, although staggered payment options are available. It’s great for a busy family or a less experienced cook. It also saves time, as you can set the timer and be free to get on with other tasks, and allows for healthier cooking through its strong emphasis on using fresh ingredients. 

1 comment:

  1. When I first heard about the Thermomix I got so excited and wanted to buy one right away but then I saw the price and I was like, “Is this really worth it?”. I’m sure some of you guys can relate but let me tell you this, this kitchen wonder is sooooo worth it!