They cook, mix, crush, cut and steam. Modern kitchen appliances seem to be the perfect tool for an urban population attracted to healthy food but always running short of time. These devices prepare dishes from beginning to end without human intervention: just insert the ingredients, press a few buttons and set the table.
Brands like Kitchen Aid, Kenwood and Vorwerk are creating more and more sophisticated machines for a growing market. Germany and France both show double-digit annual growth, and Germany’s Vorwerk achieved a turnover of almost €1 billion on Thermomixes in 2015. In Portugal, 40% of all households already own the machine despite its approximate €1,100 price tag.
“Basically, these devices still use the same technology as 30 years ago: an electric motor which drives a knife, a container and sometimes a heater”, says Christiane Böttcher-Tiedemann, an engineer at Stiftung Warentest, an independent German consumer organisation involved in product testing. “What’s new is the extension of applications. For example, the knife now has a blunt side that allows actions like kneading dough. Another improvement is the integration of smart elements.” The heater regulates temperature autonomously. Thermomix even includes a chip with recipes: just follow the instructions on the touchscreen.
Will these machines replace pots and pans someday? Böttcher-Tiedemann isn’t optimistic. “Most kitchen machines prepare only rather simple dishes, and the results aren’t always convincing. In one of our tests, we noted that vegetables were overcooked.” Another inconvenience is the noise: during certain processes, they reach the same decibel level as a jackhammer.