Is there a multitasking kitchen appliance that actually works?
November 5, 2013 12:31 PM   Subscribe

I have extremely limited kitchen space but consider both a food processor and a blender to be essential pieces of equipment, especially around holiday food prep time. I currently have a Cuisinart food processor I'm not unhappy with and a crappy compact blender that can barely handle making salad dressing, let alone crushing ice. I'd like to replace both with an all-in-one device, ideally a powerful base that I can put either a blender jar or food processing bowl on. But I'm wary of all-in-one devices because they tend to be not very good at any of the things they do. Are there any blender/food processor combos that are actually good at both?

Intended uses: crushing ice for beverages, making mayo and salad dressings, pureeing soups, making dough, chopping moderate-to-large quantities of vegetables, "grinding" meat, and pulverizing spices and nuts.

I do have a handheld immersion blender which is great for salad dressings and decent for soups, but doesn't crush ice or other frozen things and takes too much work to puree chunky soups as smoothly as I like. And I have a nice coffee grinder but its reserved exclusively for coffee and I'm not willing to use it to grind spices or nuts.
posted by rhiannonstone to Shopping (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you want one machine to do all that and do it well, you may be disappointed. A kitchenaid stand mixer could do most of those things (grinding meat included, which is unusual for a multi-purpose electrical appliance), except pulverizing spices and blending soups conveniently. I think you might need at least two devices to do everything you've mentioned.
posted by clockzero at 12:44 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, since you didn't specifically say that you were averse to taking out a second mortgage on your house: You could get a Thermomix. So far as I can tell, you can then dispose of the rest of your kitchen.
posted by emilyw at 12:50 PM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

We've looked at this, and it's not really possible. We have a really good blender (VitaxMix), a really good stand mixer (KitchenAid 6 Qt), and are in the process of getting a really good food processor. The blender will cut things up, but it can't do shredding/slicing type work with any type of precision that the food processor is really good at. It also doesn't do a particularly good job of mixing, the one time I tried making cookie dough with it.
posted by ethidda at 12:50 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only thing I have seen that actually does this and does it well is the old-timey Oster Kitchen Center, which is no longer manufactured. My mom switched to separate Kitchen Aid appliances (she had the stand mixer, a blender, and a food processor) at one point and lamented the loss of her Oster. It was just what you describe: a fairly powerful base with a million attachments, including an ice-crushing blender, a food processor, a meat grinder, and a stand mixer. It was amazing. After 15 years of lamentation, I bought her a used Oster KC from ebay for Christmas and she happily gave away her set of Kitchen Aid stuff and now is using what must be 20+ year old Oster, and many attachments. She actually said that it made holiday cooking/baking much easier.

Right now I have a rather chintzy Farberware stand mixer/blender combo and it's fine for what it does, but I would buy a used Oster if I were in the market for one.
posted by Ouisch at 12:56 PM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Essentially, the kind of action you want for spice grinding versus ice crushing versus food processing... they aren't the same. Any one thing that's going to be able to do all those things decently will have so many attachments that you might as well purchase them separately. I have a blender that billed itself as being able to do a certain amount of food processing, but its idea of chopping is not at all what I consider adequate for that purpose. Great blender, though. I guess there are a few things I'll put through it, but grinding ham for a ham salad produces something more like a ham-flavored paste if I'm not careful. I would not be able to manage, say, a chunky salsa without there being some huge chunks left over.
posted by Sequence at 1:13 PM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is the Bosch Universal. Not cheap. I think they even make (made?) a version that you could mount permanently under your countertop, with the mounting base poking through.
posted by adamrice at 1:13 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a general rule you don't want machines that can do everything because A) when they break your fucked and B) they're not going to be among the leaders at any task.

Vitamix breaks that rule. I love those things so much. But if I bought a $500 blender I would be killed by the wife and I don't even want to think about how she'd do it.

Unless you want to drop that kind of money, a Kitchen Aid with attachments is probably your best bet.

Ice will probably be the biggest problem because crushing it uses heat from friction and then your ice melts. It might be time to consider getting a new fridge for that one.
posted by theichibun at 1:15 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have the Ninja Master Prep Kit, it isn't ALL in one as it has three different bowls and two different blade sets but I love it.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:29 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone who has a problem with kitchen gadgets...

We have a Cuisinart and a Vitamix. I love them both, but can't decide which one would be better for your purposes. Definitely use the Vitamix more.

I use the Vitamix for: crushing ice for beverages (though it makes "snow" pretty quickly), mayo and dressings, soups. It can make nuts into powder (there's even a special "dry" carafe that does it better.) I also use it for smoothies, frozen drinks, and pureeing barbecue sauce and hummus. (Smoothest hummus ever.)

I use the Cuisinart for: mayo and dressings, dough, chopping and slicing. I could use it for grinding meat, but the texture is better with an actual grinder. I also use it for grating large quantities of semi-firm cheese (probably its primary use in our house...).

Both can do mayo, like I said, but I use the immersion blender for anything under 2 cups.

Spices should be done in a $10 blade coffee grinder.

So... that's unhelpful, but I think that's where their strengths are. I can't imagine an all-in-one, even one as expensive as the Vitamix, doing half as good a job as the two together.
posted by supercres at 1:31 PM on November 5, 2013

I have an Oster Kitchen Center snagged from a thrift store. It does almost everything you want, although I'm not sure it's a good choice for pulverizing spices.. I'd get a small coffee grinder for that. Everything else is great, though.

I would imagine ebay has them for cheap if you want to give it a shot.
posted by zug at 1:47 PM on November 5, 2013

We have an Oster blender (the higher end 2 speed base) with the blender container, the food processor attachment, and the milkshake container. The blender is decent, it's no Blendtec but it certainly handles most sauces and basic crushed ice needs. The food processor container is a little small, but is great for the drier stuff.

I used to have a Braun food processor, but eventually found that if you factored in clean-up, it was easier to just use manual processes for most grating and slicing needs.
posted by straw at 1:47 PM on November 5, 2013

I have a Braun MultiMix, which can work as mixer, immersion blender and mini food processor. It's rock solid, and no longer made. Boo. But that's on a smaller scale than what you want.

The Multiquick is still being made. I've never used it, but it seems to be well reviewed.
posted by holgate at 2:01 PM on November 5, 2013

I had an Oster Kitchen Center for many years, 20, I think -- tiny kitchen, not much storage space, etc. I finally decided that I needed a larger food processor -- although unfortunately it's hard to find them in the flying saucer shape of the Oster KC -- and once I did that, it was downhill from there. I've got one of everything now, except no Oster KC. Here's my take on it: It was incredibly serviceable -- it did everything pretty well. Each unit I replaced it with, however, does everything SO well that it makes me wonder how I got along without them for so many years, especially when I consider how much cooking I did in the early days of owning it. I now really wonder whether it actually saved me time or space.

But oh boy it was hard to let go of that thing. Faithful as hell.
posted by janey47 at 2:16 PM on November 5, 2013

Thermomix will do all of those things well, except chopping veges. It tends to just pulverise them -- I find it hard to control that aspect of things.

Also: a thermomix is awesome, but it's is not the kitchen panacea it's made out to be (you will find yourself keeping all your pots and pans, despite the hype).
posted by prettypretty at 4:00 PM on November 5, 2013

Heh, this sounds a bit like me a couple of years ago. I have an Cuisinart Duet that is okayish. The food processor is generally adequate, but the blender isn't very good. It also ends up taking nearly as much space as I think two devices would as the base isn't a particularly large proportion of the device. I think you'll see the same sort of pattern for most appliances that claim to serve as both.

If I were you, and you currently have the space for your existing blender, I'd just upgrade the blender to something better. As it is, I'll probably end up replacing it with two devices at some point myself.
posted by Aleyn at 6:21 PM on November 5, 2013

Thermomix! It does not chop so much as dice because it doesn't have that feeder chute with the blades up high. If you need them for a recipe like a casserole or sauce, it's fine. We have a cheap mandoline we use for dicing/slicing/shredding instead.

There are cheaper versions with fewer features or plastic parts, but the Thermomix is extremely solidly built and it requires next to no maintenance or clean-up.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:32 PM on November 5, 2013

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