Review: Thermomix TM6

Review: Thermomix TM6
A rock-solid kitchen appliance with thousands of tested and tasty recipes. It’s the smartest of the smart kitchen.
Expensive. With coming updates, the company may be about to go overboard on the smart part, but you won’t have to use those features.

SOMETIMES WHEN A kitchen classic is updated, a good critic might highlight what’s new. Other times, they might champion what made it so great in the first place. With the newest Thermomix, my wife Elisabeth and I just fell for the same parlor trick the does-it-all kitchen appliance has been able to perform for years.

After dropping a fat handful of plum-sized Parmesan knobs into its stainless-steel blender jar, then setting the lid on top, we cranked the speed to 10 and ducked. For two seconds, it made a racket like we’d thrown a rock and a big hunk of glass in there, then it purred so quietly that it sounded like the drive shaft had sheared. I’d been cooking in this thing for weeks, and Elisabeth—who’s typically immune to the constant flow of gadgets through our kitchen—had ignored it until now. When we opened the blender jar and peered inside, we found a perfect, fluffy snowdrift of cheese.

“Whoa,” she said. “I want one.”

Similarly, I was excited to be taking the new Thermomix for a spin. A global phenomenon since the first model was produced in 1971, the Thermomix is only just catching on in the United States. Perhaps that’s because it’s a tricky-to-explain object, akin to describing to someone what you can do with a computer.

At its simplest, the Thermomix is a blender that cooks. A good example would be butternut squash soup, where you chop onion quarters in the blender jar, sauté them a bit right inside the jar, add squash chunks and broth, let it bubble away until the squash is tender, then spin up the blades and purée it. It all happens in the blender jar, minimizing dirty dishes, and you get a tasty, low-effort homemade soup in less than half an hour. You can also control heat, time, and blade speed manually, via the controls on the six- by three-inch touchscreen and one dial. Recipes can be run right on the screen. Speaking of dirty dishes, every part except the base goes in the dishwasher, something for which I’d trade a thousand “smart kitchen” innovations.

Soup is the tip of the iceberg. In the Thermomix, you can knead bread and pastry dough, steam rice (or anything that fits in there), make beans or chili or pasta sauce, sauté vegetables, caramelize onions without stirring a thing, make yogurt, nut milks, smoothies, stock and stock bases, and whipped cream. There are so many options that a long list like that still feels like it leaves a lot out. Beginners get handholding and the assurance that if they follow directions they’ll be able to make good food, and busy folks get what amounts to an extra pair of hands. When I asked a high-end chef how he uses his, he said, “Hydrocolloid work [whatever that is], cream bases, and kneading dough.”

Recipes on the machine are designed to keep the ball rolling. You add one ingredient, often pouring it into the blender jar, which—trumpet fanfare!—weighs it, then you tap next and add the following item by weight. If it’s a heating or mixing step, it will do things like tee up two minutes of spinning at speed setting five at 225 degrees. You’ll soon notice how quickly this moves things along. If you’re the kind of person who tries to jam out a week’s worth of food on a Sunday afternoon, this is your new best friend.

Stir Crazy

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Realizing that I had enough supplies on hand to make a smoothie, I started there.

Immediately, the magic struck me: The smoothie recipe asked for 10 ounces of water, followed by nine ounces of yogurt, and eight ounces of frozen berries, and you pour these from the tap/container/bag directly into the blender jar, tapping “Next” after each ingredient and taking advantage of the built-in scale. I did the same with a few other ingredients it called for: a few kinds of seeds and nuts, and a banana. After that, I put the lid on and it set a timer that started when I turned the blender speed up to 10. I put away the ingredients while it whizzed away, and a minute and a half later, I enjoyed my liquid breakfast.

I had similar early-day success making hummus, and with just these two recipes under my belt I figured out two of my favorite things about the Thermomix. First, it is a loud advertisement for cooking by weight. For many recipes, you can crowd the ingredients in front of the machine, then just stand there, following the prompts and pouring things in left and right like a mad scientist, bringing dishes together quickly and with a minimum of mess. Second—and this is critical—the in-house recipes offered by Thermomix range from solid to excellent.

Thanks to it being a decades-old brand that has needed to train its customers on how to use its unique machine, then grow along with them, the company has recipes galore—some 50,000 of them in many different languages. Search for “smoothie” in the app and you’ll find more than 20 options. The recipes are all tested by folks with good palates, which means that unlike much of the stuff you can find online, they’ll be good. This is a constant stumbling block for many manufacturers, particularly those making unique devices.

Connecting the Thermomix to the internet, downloading the app, and logging into the Thermomix website—all part of the goofily named “Cookidoo” platform—is a bit of a chore and a lot to take in, but it’s a one-time process and immediately shows off the depth of the bench.

Punch in something you’re long on in the fridge or pantry, and it will have ideas for you. Plus, each device you use to access the platform has distinct advantages. Use the laptop to take in lots of options quickly, bookmark something so it’s easy to find on all devices, or plan out a week’s worth of eating. Pull it up on a phone on your way home to figure out what to grab at the grocery store. When it’s go time, fire up the recipe on the machine itself, and encounter exactly zero texts, tweets, or news notifications—something so important when you’re trying to cook that it feels like a luxury in the age of distraction. You’ll pay $39 a year for access to Thermomix’s recipes, but the more I used it, the more reasonable that $3.25 a month became.

Next, I made bread dough, weighing out the flour by pouring it directly from the King Arthur bag into the mixing bowl, then, one by one, added the yeast, salt, and water. The machine kneaded the dough for two minutes. Everything else—proofing, baking, et cetera—happened on my countertop and in my oven, but if you’re new to bread baking, it takes away a lot of the trepidation. Ditto for a nice spinach and pea risotto. The machine chops the spinach, onion, and garlic, then sautés it. When the rice and wine go in and get heated, the low blade in the blender jar keeps anything from sticking to the bottom of the bowl. It’s nice to make authentic risotto, where you stand over the stove and constantly stir raw rice until it’s fully cooked, but I’m more likely to eat more risotto if I can hand the task of making it to a robot.

Next, I made potstickers, where ginger, cilantro, and cabbage are chopped in the blender jar. I added ground meat, soy, and sesame, with every step broken down, every ingredient weighed in, and all the mixing done by the machine. Occasionally, you even have the rare feeling of confidently speeding through a recipe that you’re barely familiar with. Cooking potstickers also got me to use the Thermomix’s two-level steamer basket, a giant oval that sits on the blender jar, making the whole thing look like a mushroom in a snowdrift. I wasn’t that interested in the steaming capabilities the last time I reviewed a Thermomix but my desire for dumplings overpowered my reluctance.

Side note: There’s a whole weird nomenclature thing going on with the Thermomix. Along with the goofy-sounding Cookidoo platform—something only the Swedish Chef could get excited about, her, dee, doo, cook-i-doo—they call the blender jar a “mixing bowl,” and both the steamer basket and the steamer setting are called “Varoma.” It’s confusing, but you get used to it.

I was happy to learn that you can fit a surprisingly large amount of food into the two levels of the steaming basket. That’s a big deal; many countertop kitchen appliances are unable to cook for more than about 1.5 people at a time, making them a nonstarter in my book. (I’m looking at you, air fryers.)

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My favorite example of this multi-layered cooking was a simple rice salad with eggs and canned tuna. For it, you weigh water into the blender jar, and just above that, weigh rice into what they call a “simmering basket.” Above that, on the lower shelf of the steamer go two eggs, and on the top shelf, you layer veggies, putting tougher carrots below and tender zucchini, and frozen peas on top of them. Everything cooks in layers at the same time. In 21 short minutes, the rice steams, the eggs are hard boiled, the veggies emerge tender. It makes a ton of food in a short amount of time.

A pleasing upgrade over its impressive predecessor, the latest Thermomix is both one of the best and most useful kitchen appliances out there. Tying together computers, phones, and its own on-machine interface with tons of tested recipes, it’s still the smartest of the smart kitchen. There are a lot of pointless, hopeless connected kitchen products that get in the way of getting dinner on the table, but the Thermomix is built to help you cook well and do it quickly.

Returning to this kitchen classic was a joy and a reminder of what a helpful tool—connected or not—the Thermomix is. One afternoon, on what would become the fifth rainiest day on record in Seattle, I shook off the blues by making chicken garam marsala, chicken noodle soup, a basic marinara, and butternut squash soup, blasting through each one, and making several days’ worth of food, in about two and a half hours.

Mixed Feelings

I do have some quibbles. I understand that some things will need to be measured out in teaspoons, but I wish more of the smaller amounts would be weigh-able, too. I also hope we soon see more in-recipe scalability—the half and double batches that take advantage of the machine’s size.

The big sticking point for almost everyone thinking about a Thermomix is the price. It’s $1,500. It’s worth it, though, even if you have to scrimp and save. (For those of you who are thinking of the much-cheaper Instant Pot Ace, another blender that cooks, let that thought go. While both share some basic functionality, it’s like comparing a Yugo to a Tesla.) It’s a commitment, but you’ll own it for years, during which time you will make an incredible amount of good food.

More trepidation—for me at least—is what’s scheduled to come down the pike this year: software updates that will add new features to your TM6. First will be the ability to, in the words of the company’s press release, “convert any recipe on the internet into a Thermomix recipe.” This reads a bit like, after 50 impressive years of showing us around the world, our intrepid tour guides stumbled onto the gates of hell, where they peeked inside then turned to us and said, “Hey, this looks interesting!”

On a related note, why not allow Thermomix-approved cookbooks to be put up for purchase on the platform, similar to the way you can buy independent Instant Pot cookbooks?

Additional worries come with the company’s plans to turn the Thermomix into something of a smart kitchen hub that can connect to and control other smart devices in your kitchen. I have yet to see a worthy dedicated kitchen hub, especially when you could use a tablet you already own. Or nothing.

At least if those two big upcoming changes are flaming flops, you can choose not to use them.

Finally, the company has also said it will let customers order groceries directly on the TM6’s touchscreen. While I’m sure team Thermomix will enjoy its commission on your grocery spending, you’ll be fine without this.

All that said, this is one of the most powerful devices you can put in your kitchen. As long as you have a desire to cook and can see how helpful that the robotic equivalent of your own personal sous chef could be, everyone, from a first-time rice maker to a high-end chef doing whatever they do with hydrocolloids, will find a way to put the TM6 to use for years to come.