Earlier this month, an Australian blogger was called a “scammer,” a “poor little rich girl,” and “rude,” all because she didn’t love a certain kitchen appliance. No, it wasn’t a Vitamix. Believe it or not, this machine, which isn’t sold in the U.S., costs over four times as much as the beloved, $400 blender.
It’s called the Thermomix, and, in case you can’t tell from the blogger’s backlash, it’s much hailed in certain parts of the country. In Australia, where it sells — neither online nor in stores — for $2,089 Australian (about $1,600 U.S.), there are Facebook pages, forums, and websites devoted to cooking with the appliance. So what is this machine many Americans have never heard of, and why does it inspire such ardor?
What it does
Maybe you should ask what it doesn’t do. Composed of a lid-with measuring cup, a motor, mixing blades, a heating system, integrated scales, and a temperature-sensor-equipped mixing bowl, the company boasts that the machine is a replacement for 12 other appliances, as it performs 12 functions. These include steaming, chopping, whipping, mixing, emulsifying, blending, kneading, cooking, stirring, weighing, and precise heating. Basically, it can chop vegetables, grind coffee beans, and blend up a smoothie. Its attachments, like a butterfly whisk and spatula, add to the range of things the machine can mix up. But the added heating ability means it goes beyond a blender (even one that can make hot soup). You can set the temperature to between 98.6 and 248 degrees Fahrenheit; it lets you stir and simmer at the same time, which makes it great for risotto, for example. It can tackle soup, sauces, baby food, cheesecake, and (most importantly) frozen cocktails.
Why it’s loved
It does all the things in one machine. For space-strapped kitchens, it’s definitely handy not having to have a food processor, plus a blender, plus a coffee grinder, plus a scale. The Thermomix is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, including the stirring and the chopping, cooks can tackle other tasks. Its design is definitely unique. While the potatoes are simmering in the mixing bowl, the varoma basket captures the steam to cook the vegetables, which then passes to the meat in the varoma tray.
People are gaga for that kind of quick multifunctionality. They even dress up their Thermomixes. “It’s the kind of appliance that your rich mother-in-law gets you, because she doesn’t think you can cook,” says Kate McCartney, one star of Australian YouTube series The Katering Show. “Or something that you buy yourself because you’ve always wanted to join a cult but don’t have the energy for the group sex,” adds McCartnery’s co-star Kate McLennan in an episode that mocks the machine.
Why it’s not
The price tag definitely causes sticker shock, particularly if you already have a blender and food processor. In addition, it doesn’t replace everything. You’ll still need your oven, for example, for lots of recipes. You can’t bake an apple pie in your Thermomix. And it’s not as if you can open up the box and start whipping up your favorite recipe. No, there are specific steps. To make a chicken-and-chorizo stew, you can make the whole thing in the appliance, but you have to get used to a new set of symbols and a particular sequence. If you’re flying blind, it’s going to take a while to figure out the speed and duration to chop a carrot versus puréeing a parsnip.
Then there’s the way you have to get one. While they were once available in the U.S., the company pulled out several years ago. If you’re in Australia, you can’t waltz into a Best Buy or Bed Bath & Beyond. You have to fill out a “contact inquiry” before you can even order it, or schedule an in-home demo.
The Thermomix doesn’t like to be referred to as a “cult,” but it all definitely makes you feel like you’re trying to join a secret club.