I’ve been putting the KitchenAid Cook Processor & the Thermomix through their paces. They’re both great machines – here’s my review.
July 2016 – To see my review of the new Magimix Cook Expert head over here!
For a little while now I have been in the enviable position of having two of the most desirable kitchen appliances – the KitchenAid Cook Processor and the Thermomix (TM 31, not the fancy-pants new one) – sitting side by side on my kitchen bench. I’ve owned the Thermomix for more than seven years and was kindly given the KitchenAid Cook Processor to play with by the folks at KitchenAid Australia. I’ve been putting them both through their paces to compare them and, while I can’t cover absolutely all the bases in this one post, I have tried to be as objective as I possibly can – here’s what I think about how they weigh up.
Appearance – Design and Features
Straight up, I’m going to be very shallow and comment on their looks. The Thermomix has a functional, if oddly-shaped, white plastic base with a stainless steel jug – no excitement there. The KitchenAid Cook Processor, on the other hand, is of die-cast metal constructions, looks squat and sturdy sitting on the bench and comes in a range of stylish colours. Mine is a handsome, shiny red – ’nuff said.
Both machines come with durable, stainless steel cooking containers and a range of accessories, including large steamer baskets, scrapers, whipping blades and cookbooks. In addition to these basic accessories, the Cook Processor comes with an inner steamer basket, a mini-bowl with mini blade for processing small amounts, a dough blade and the stir assist (more about that later). While that seems like a lot of extra stuff to find room in your cupboards for, the KitchenAid Cook Processor also comes with a storage container. The Thermomix doesn’t.
Functionality and Use
The machines vary a little in their specifications. The Thermomix has four blades making it capable of milling at high speeds and has a built in measuring scale. At 1050 watts the Cook Processor has a stronger wattage heating element than the TM’s 1000 watts, has a larger capacity cooking pot, will cook at higher temperatures than the TM and is programmable to slow cook for longer than my TM31 (I can’t speak for the new TM5 cooking times).
Both machines chop, mince, process, puree, stir and cook and the TM31 is fairly simply controlled by a speed dial, timer and temperature buttons, although the newer model has pre-programmed recipes built in to it. The KitchenAid Cook Processor has pre-programmed cooking functions for boiling, frying, stewing etc and speed, time and temperature controls which are moderated by a central dial, which is all simple enough to work, once you’ve familiarised yourself with the functions.
When it comes to use, there are a few differences between the units that need to be considered. The first is the absence of scales in the KitchenAid Cook Processor. Initially, this was a bit of a surprise as I had become accustomed to having them handy in the TM31, but as I have a reliable digital scale I quickly adapted.
The second difference worth considering is the lid design of each machine. I’ve always felt that the design of the Thermomix, with it’s solid steel bowl and non-transparent lid, disconnects the user from the cooking process, making it impossible to see what is going on in the bowl without switching it off and opening it. This issue is addressed in the KitchenAid Cook Processor with it’s clear lid, giving the cook a good view of what’s going on inside and reducing cooking interruptions. The KitchenAid lid also has more ventilation, resulting in a less ‘stewed’ result in some dishes where that is not desirable.
The shape of the two cooking vessels is also important. The TM31 design is more of a jug shape, with a narrow base and wider mouth, whereas the Cook Processor is a wide-based pot shape. This is a significant difference and impacts directly on the cooking processes. The broader base, combined with the KitchenAid’s higher temperature capacity, means that it is possible to achieve a degree of caramelisation and to brown things when cooking – an important flavour component in many dishes.
One of the other things that impacts on the quality of a dish is it’s texture and this is where the KitchenAid Cook Processor’s clever little StirAssist makes a difference. When cooking food in the TM31 the procedure is to reverse the blade action while cooking to stir, rather than cut, the food. However, I find that I still generally end up with a dish that is more soft and processed than I’d like. With the Cook Processor, once the chopping part of the procedure is done, one swaps the blade for the stir assist which keeps the food moving without making it mushy. This means that you can cook whole cubes of meat or things like chicken legs, rather than just minced up protein. Combine this with the ability to brown things and it means that is it simple to make great stir-fried dishes in the KitchenAid appliance.
Both come with dedicated cookbooks and the recipes in the KitchenAid Cook Processor book are all beautifully photographed. They are divided up into the auto function categories to help the user get comfortable with each. Once familiar with the six auto functions it is a simple matter to begin adapting your own recipes.
When it comes to cleaning up, once again the two devices differ here. The TM31 jug is completely dishwasher-safe, as is the Cook Processor cook pot. Both are made of stainless steel, but the latter seems much less inclined to have things stick. Because of the wide base and curved sides it is very easy to give it a gentle scrub and, so far, that’s all I’ve needed to do. On the other hand, I have spent lots of frustrating time trying to scrub the narrow base of the TM31 as things seem to stick to it more readily. (Edited 19 Aug 2015. Seems my instructions incorrectly stated that the KitchenAid Cook Processor was not dishwasher safe. In fact it totally is.)
Finally, there is the issue of noise. The TM31 is a terrifically noisy machine when running and makes intensely irritating beeping noises on completion of tasks. The KitchenAid Cook Processor operates more quietly and smoothly and has a much less annoying chime to indicate the completion of stages or cooking.
I guess it all comes down to what you want out of these machines and how you prefer to cook. If you are short of time, opportunity or inclination to stand around bonding with the stove, then one of these will make you very happy indeed. You’ll find yourself turning out wonderful homemade sauces, pastes, soups and stocks. Both will also produce great bread doughs and cake batters.
The Thermomix TM 31 is fast and powerful, which means this user must be very careful not to over-process things (something I still struggle with). Also it is unable to brown foods or cook large pieces, so is limited when it comes to depth of flavour and variety of textures. I find most cooked dishes come out with a similar, soft texture, great for the elderly or kids, not so much for the rest of us. It also has a smaller capacity. Further, I dislike their direct-marketing sales methods which can leave the susceptible feeling a little pressured.
I like to connect with what I’m cooking so the ability to see what’s going on in the pot is important to me, and while this machine is almost as powerful as it’s competitor, I find it less likely that I will end up with over-processed mush, thus feeling a little more in control. I don’t want to eat food that is too soft or mushy, so I love the KitchenAid Cook Processor’s ability to make rich, flavoursome stews, casseroles and tagines with properly browned cubes of meat or chicken on the bone. All in all, I much prefer the quiet performance, stylish good looks and wider cooking capabilities of the KitchenAid Cook Processor.
Obviously, I can’t cover every single aspect of each of these appliances on this page, but if you have any further questions, ask away and I’ll do my best to answer them.