Do You Need an All-in-One Cooker? And What Is a Thermomix, Anyway?
It chops! It cooks! It blends! It’s a single appliance that does the work of many! But it’ll set you back a bundle. Here’s what you need to know before you make a major investment.
In the mid-20th century, Vorwerk, a German company, invented a machine called Thermomix that chops, cooks, and blends. Over the years it’s refined the appliance, so that its latest model now performs over 24 functions including steaming, kneading, sous-vide cooking, and slow cooking. However, all this functionality will set you back to the tune of $1,500. Over the past few years, competitors to the Thermomix have sprung up that, while still pricey, sell for less. Here’s our take on what these all-in-ones do, whether you should consider buying one, and which one would best suit your needs.
What Does an All-in-One Cooker Do?
Think of an all-in-one as an amped up food processor. It consists of a large deep stainless-steel bowl sitting on a base that contains a motor and a heating element. In the bottom of the bowl, there’s a blade for chopping, mixing, kneading and blending. A whisking attachment is also included for making cakes, whipping cream and creating sauces. The machine is designed to do the work of a food processor, blender and stand mixer. Although it takes up more space than any single one of them, it requires less room than owning all three. Some have a built-in scale, so you can weigh each ingredient as you add it.
When you activate the heating element, it cooks as well and can even do the stirring for you. It chops your onions and then sautés them. After cutting up vegetables, it simmers them until they’re tender and then purees them into a soup right in the bowl. As it has multiple heat levels, it can do everything from simmering to searing. They have settings for particular functions like sautéing, steaming, or boiling eggs to take the guesswork out of figuring out the heat level or timing.
Using the touchscreen controls, you can choose your own settings or use interactive or guided cooking, which leads you through the steps of recipes from the company’s database; for each step, the time, temperature and speed is preprogrammed, so all you have to do is press start.
Things to Consider Before Buying and Using an All-in-One Cooker
- For starters, you have to love to cook. Just owning this machine isn’t going to put dinner on the table. You still have to decide what to make for dinner, shop, assemble ingredients and perform basic prep work like peeling onions, washing greens and juicing lemons.
- The recipes that are programmed to work with these machines are well-tested and produce tasty results. If you don’t know how to cook, they can help you whip up a delicious dish and teach you how to cook in the process. However, if you want to use the machine to prepare your own recipe or simply to steam fish or stir fry vegetables, it will take some trial and error to figure out the correct heat setting and cooking time.
- Do you own and use a food processor, a blender, and a mixer? If you don’t own these appliances and never wish you had them or own just one and see no need for the others, you certainly don’t need a Thermomix.
- If you like to take a call or help the kids with homework at the same time you’re making dinner, this machine will give you a helping hand by doing the chopping, stirring and timing. However, if you’re one of those cooks who takes joy in cutting vegetables precisely, stirring broth into your risotto, and whisking butter gradually into your hollandaise, you may find the machine takes the fun out of cooking. And keep in mind that just like a food processor, it chops, but it doesn’t cut as precisely as a skilled chef with a knife.
- All-in-ones are great for risottos, soups and can steam veggies or fish, however they are not meant for browning or cooking meat like a pressure cooker or slow cooker. All-in-ones stir at the same time they heat, cooking the rice evenly and creating the classic creamy texture. They're also great for making soups and tomato sauce as they can do the chopping and simmering and even the pureeing if you want a smooth consistency. What they're not good for are steaks, chops or stews as they don't brown well and can puree the meat by stirring as they cook. All in ones do a good job of steaming vegetables or fish, but they take longer than on the stovetop and a lot longer than in the microwave.
- As they cook with their lids on, you can’t watch your food as it cooks. Each time you have to stir or add ingredients, you have to remove and then replace the lid, which has to be positioned correctly and locked into place; while not a very difficult process, it’s nowhere near as simple as putting on and removing a pot lid or even a blender cover.
- Although built-in rinse cycles help with cleaning, you ultimately have to wash, rinse and dry all the pieces. While all the part except the base are dishwasher safe, the bowls will take up a lot of rack space and any cooked-on gunk may require some scrubbing by hand.
- These machines are on the larger side, so you have to have room on your countertop to dedicate to one. After all, if you’re splurging on an all-in-one, it should be something you plan to use often and won’t be stashing away in a cabinet or closet. You will also have to find space for the myriad accessories that come with the appliance.
All-in-One Cookers To Try
What it does: weigh, chop, grind, mill, whisk, stir, knead, blend, brown, steam, sauté, simmer, boil, thicken, emulsify, cook rice, boil eggs, slow cook, sous vide, ferment, cook sugar to specific stages, warm, pre-clean
What’s included: Machine with 8-cup bowl with mixing knife and touchscreen, steaming attachment, simmering basket, butterfly whisk, splash guard, spatula
Best for: Home chefs who want the latest and greatest and have the money to pay for it will love the Thermomix as long as they don’t have a burning desire to stir risotto or dice carrots themselves.
This solidly built machine is the latest and greatest version of the original all-in-one. With lots of special settings, it’s the most versatile for cooks that want to be hands off. Among its automatic programs are ones for cooking sous vide, making yogurt, heating sugar for candy and frostings, and emulsifying foods like bearnaise sauce. Its 2-quart bowl is smaller than those on the other machines, so while the appliance will fit more easily under a cabinet, it will limit the quantity of dough you can knead or soup you can blend. You don’t get a shredding or slicing blade so you’ll still have to grate Cheddar and slice tomatoes.
When it comes to performance, it easily kneads enough dough for a pizza, blends super smooth smoothies and silky soups, and cooks risotto to a perfect consistency without the usual hands-on stirring. It excels at the tricky task of caramelizing sugar. To chop vegetables, you have to experiment with the speeds to avoid merely getting big chunks or pulverizing, but you can grind Parmesan cheese to a fine consistency. As it stirs while it heats, and as the deep bowl creates steam, it’s not great at browning; plus, if you cook something like beef stroganoff, it may come out pureed from the constant stirring.
Thermomix has a database of thousands of interactive digital recipes which you can access by connecting the machine to Wi-Fi. When you choose one of them, the 6.8-inch wide touchscreen clearly shows you what to do every step of the way and everything from weighing the ingredients to setting the speeds, temperature, and time are controlled by the machine. However, to take advantage of the full range of recipes and utilize some of the functions including sous-vide and caramelizing, you have to subscribe to Thermomix’s Cookido platform for $39 a year. The recipes are also available on an app.
What it does: weigh, chop, mix, whisk puree, knead, slice, shred, dice, sauté, simmer, steam, slow cook, proof dough, make risotto
What’s included: Machine with 18-cup bowl with chopping blade and touchscreen, slicing disc, shredding disc, chopping blade, dough blade, whisk, stirring paddle, steam basket, funnel, spatula, accessory storage case, dicing kit
Best for: Cooks who can’t live without their food processor will appreciate that this model can also cook and blend their soup after it chops the veggies.
As you would expect from a company whose name is synonymous with food processors, this all-in one excels at food processing tasks like chopping onions, mincing parsley and grinding almonds. It’s the only all-in-one that comes with reversible slicing and shredding blades as well as a dicing kit to give you neat cubes of vegetables and fruits for salad. Also like a food processor, it purees, but doesn’t whip up super thick and smooth smoothies or create velvety-textured soups. It successfully kneads dough for a loaf of bread, but may bounce or even "walk" on the counter as it works.
There’s no built-in scale, so you need to measure out the ingredients yourself. The directions on the small touch screen are easy to follow and the timing for the company’s recipes is spot on, but you’re limited to a library of about 200 recipes. The lid to the stainless-steel bowl is clear which lets you see how your food is progressing as it cooks. With the Complete Chef you get a very thorough manual and a case to hold the discs and small accessories.
What it does: weigh, steam, stir, sauté, warm, clean
What’s included: Machine with 18.8-cup bowl with blade, smart kitchen hub and stand, steam basket, simmering basket, butterfly whisk, spatula
Best for: Anyone who is willing to spend some change on an all-in-one but doesn’t want to pay more than their monthly mortgage payment should consider the Multo. As if often the case, a lower price tag means fewer features.
The Multo gives the Thermomix a run for the money for a little more than half the price. It’s a sturdy machine with a built-in scale. Rather than an on-board touchscreen, it comes with its own 9-inch digital tablet which sits on a small stand. You connect the tablet to the machine via Wi-Fi and then use it to control the all-in-one. While this gives you large, easy to read instructions, it also means you have another product to charge and keep on your countertop. You can also access the recipes without the automatic programming on a companion app on your phone.
On the Multo, there are limited settings. There’s no "blending" mode so if you want to make a smoothie, frozen margarita, or soup from your own recipe, you need to select the "manual" setting and leave the temperature setting blank. However, as it still says the machine is "cooking", it can be confusing.
As this is a brand-new product there are only about 100 guided recipes in the database, but the manufacturer claims it will add five a week and there is no subscription cost to you. Those that are available are well-tested, producing perfectly seasoned results in the programmed time. However, tomato soup came out with a few chunks rather than a totally smooth consistency. The machine was able to completely pulverize ice, frozen fruits and kale for a smooth smoothie but didn’t create a thick icy texture. When it kneaded dough for a loaf of sourdough, it rocked and even moved along the countertop so you definitely will want to keep an eye on it when it’s kneading.
Sharon Franke has been testing and writing about kitchen equipment for over 30 years. Before becoming a cooking tools expert, she spent seven years working as a professional chef in New York City restaurants. In her free time, she's busy baking sourdough bread and rustling pots and pans on her own stove.