On the countdown now to release the Bellini from layby. While I’m waiting, I thought I’d run over the differences between some of these machines, for people who haven’t been obsessively reading the facebook pages and blogs. All of the machines below have the same basic premise – a good to excellent food processor which has a heating element, so it can cook, chop, stir etc simultaneously. You can throw in chunks of an onion, have it finely chopped, then add oil and the machine will saute, then add tomatoes and set the temp and time to simmer and stir. This is only a simple example though so visit any recipe blog or Facebook page for these machines to get a better idea of their abilities.
Now for the machines. The Thermomix is the big daddy, the original one. It’s made in Germany and has been around since the 60s. It retails in Australia for about $1900. They are only sold via party plan/ demonstrators. Apparently the retail price in Europe is much more reasonable – almost half the price.
Despite the dizzying price, I’ve never met an unhappy Thermomix owner. The major advantages over the machines below seem to be: reliability, superior European manufacturing and parts, a reverse function, inbuilt scales and a fantastic support community, including the ongoing support of the sales consultant.
My choice, based mostly on price, is the Bellini Intelli Kitchen Master. In Australia, it’s sold exclusively through Target for $399 (although you can get it on sale if you are patient). No scales or reverse function, and made in China. The first batch came out in March 2012 and were pretty terrible by all accounts. They are now onto v3, which seems to be more reliable. Still, lots of anecdata about failed machines etc. You get a 12 month replacement warranty from Target. So for me, it’s a gamble as I can’t afford a Thermomix but would love to have a play with the technology. Follow this blog and prepare to chuckle gleefully if you are a Thermomix owner.
Finally for this post, there’s the Kogan Thermoblend. It retails for $249 (again, it’s on sale regularly) with free shipping. It has the same drawbacks as the Bellini – but I haven’t heard as many complaints of machine failure and returns. This could simply be because it hasn’t been around for long enough, so let’s wait and see. It doesn’t have any kind of cookbook, and has less of an informal support community than Bellini, although this will probably change. Unlike the Bellini or Thermomix, you can’t steam and cook at the same time, and the return process is painful – you have to ship it back to Kogan who will repair or replace.
There’s also a Thermochef, and Good Guys SuperChef machine, but I haven’t investigated these machines so won’t cover them here.
Edit (13/3/13): Since I wrote this initial post, I’ve created a table here that compares the features and specs of all the thermal cookers (on the Australian market) in greater detail.