So I’ve had the Bellini Kitchen Master for nearly 2 months now and have had to occasion to make a number of different recipes to see whether it really does live up to the claims that it can chop, mix, mince, whip, knead, blend, stir, cook, fry and steam and can “significantly cut down” hands-on time in the kitchen “cooks entire meals in the stainless steel bowl leaving only 1 dish to clean afterwards!“ Lofty claims indeed but the Bellini already has a large number of fans on Facebook and a “Bellini Addicts” private Facebook group! Not to forget that its more expensive counterpart has a huge loyal following all around the world too. People really do love their thermal blenders!
Initially, I made pie crust dough, Danish pastry dough and risotto, with some success. With a little more experimenting, I perfected the risotto, made ice cream, soup, carrot and cranberry loaf and lemon curd. It’s a machine that comes with a learning curve and I definitely noticed that the more I used it, the more comfortable I was. Practice, as they say…. I went on to make apple sauce,
The soups and apple sauce were spot on, so was the tart crust pastry. The bread wasn’t bad, although the recipe didn’t call for quite enough proofing the second time around (plus the machine was tricky to clean of all the sticky dough – much harder to clean than my KitchenAid dough hook) while the hollandaise sauce didn’t work at all. Encouraged by the beautiful lemon curd I had made a couple of weeks before, I was eager to try the hollandaise and followed the recipe which called for the sauce to be cooked for 4 minutes. The lemon curd, to give you some comparison, was cooked for 20 minutes (and was perfect). Unfamiliar with the machine as I am, I didn’t know how much longer to cook the sauce for – didn’t want it overcooked – so by the time I finally figured it out, my poached eggs were hard-boiled. In the end it took 20 minutes to cook properly as well.
So, a few weeks of trying the BKM (not for everything I cooked or baked, and therefore not for as many recipes as I had hoped) and I’ve come up with a decidedly non-exhaustive list of pros and cons about my experience using the machine.
Bellini Kitchen Master: my (non-exhaustive) list of “pros”
1. It definitely can chop, mix, mince, whip, knead, grind, blend, stir, cook, fry and steam.
2. It allows you to “set and forget” in a lot of cases – case in point, the risotto and the lemon curd where I placed the ingredients in the bowl, set the timer and temperature and walked away whilst they cooked.
3. It does do the jobs of many different appliances, so if you don’t already own a stand mixer, hand beater, blender, food processor, spice grinder etc… it might be a great one stop shop for you.
4. It doesn’t really take up much room on a countertop. If you don’t already own the appliances listed in #3 and you have a tiny kitchen (I am thinking my Parisian garret apartment where I had ONE hotplate and a fridge for 4 years that counted as a “kitchen”), this would be a great alternative.
5. If you honestly don’t mind letting a machine do the work for you, then the BKM is for you.
6. The even stirring and even heat the BKM produces is great for dishes that many consider tricky (like risotto and custards) so once the issue with standardising the recipes is sorted out (see below), it’s a great appliance for people who think they “can’t cook” dishes like that.
7. Indeed, I feel the “gadget” aspect is appealing for a lot of non-cooks. I’ve seen people who are absolutely not cooks at all fall in love with this machine – essentially, it’s turned them into people who cook. If this machine would encourage more people to get back to cooking from scratch, I’m all for it!
8. It’s a time saver, absolutely. It can whip up a simple one pot dinner like soup, for example, in no time – chopping, cooking and blending all while you get on with other tasks. All in one bowl. No mess, no fuss. For busy weeknights, I can see this would definitely appeal to a lot of people.
9. The cost. Yes, it’s less than 1/2 the price of “the competition” so if you’re interested in these types of machines, it is a good alternative. Of course, $700 is not an insignificant amount either but if you’ve been looking and considering the different brands, this might be an option for you. You can see a chart which compares “the competition” to the BKM here.
Bellini Kitchen Master: my (non-exhaustive) list of “cons”
1. If you are someone who is a tactile, visual cook who likes to be able to smell, see and feel your food as you are preparing it, a thermal blender is probably not for you. The very fact that it is able to prepare dishes on its own – you just set the timer and temperature and walk away – takes away the pleasure of the process that I personally missed. Chopping, stirring, tasting, watching ingredients transform and smelling the dishes as they cook – all the things I love about cooking and baking – well the machine does a lot of that for you. The lack of a see-through lid was frustrating for me too – I like to see/ know what’s going on when I’m cooking!
2. The recipes. Even someone who knows what they are doing in the kitchen will need recipes to guide them starting out with this machine. You need to learn the different speeds and temperatures to use for different purposes. Currently the recipes provided with the BKM are mainly reader contributions (see the Bellini Addicts Recipe Book – a compilation of home cooks’ recipes from the Bellini Addicts Facebook Page). As I stated in my first post about using the BKM, with a “new product that advocates a completely different style of cooking, it’s important to provide tested recipes.” I know the folks at Cedarlane Culinary are working on standardising the recipes which accompany the machine – the Cedarlane-produced booklet is a first draft, if I am to understand correctly (although that’s where the 4 minute hollandaise recipe came from) – and I know that in their demos, Cedarlane uses tried and tested (by them) recipes – many of which you can find on their website. I’d love to see a final iteration of the recipe booklet, with the recipes standardised and all of them tested. To be honest, I feel a lot of my issues came from user error (that would be me!) – that I didn’t fully understand the operation of the machine so when things went wrong, I didn’t know what to do. Of course there’s Google for when things don’t quite go to plan, but I don’t feel I should have to Google information that is not clear in the literature provided with a $700 machine.
3. One pot cooking – yes and no. It’s sold as a “one pot stop” and can make certain, simple dishes in one bowl only, yes. And only one thing at a time, obviously. For someone like me who on weekends, often makes multiple dishes at the same time, that’s where my stovetop (where I can comfortably fit five pans of different sizes), microwave, oven, stand mixer and food processor come in (quite often all at the same time). Sure the BKM can absolutely do most of the jobs the aforementioned appliances are capable of but not all at the same time. Sure you could buy a second bowl (at an additional cost), but even with two bowls in use it would be hard to have more than a couple of components on the go at once.
4. If you want to learn the mechanics of cooking, thermal blenders are probably not for you. Since they do the work for you (one of the “pros”!), if you don’t know how to dice an onion before you buy one of these machines, it certainly won’t teach you. This may, in fact, be a “pro” for some people!
5. At first, the time-saving aspect is really only evident in easier recipes. Because I didn’t know what I was doing with the temperatures and times etc.. I found it actually slowed me down in the kitchen. I felt clumsy and a little clueless – constantly having to stop to look a the recipes to check things (and then having to Google things because sometimes they were not clear). Again, the instinctive part is something that will come with practice but at first you might not reap the rewards of the time-saving.
6. I actually found the blades a little hard to clean. With bread dough, especially, the dough got stuck all around and underneath the blade and was quite a challenge to remove. The blade itself is very very sharp and because it’s smaller than, say a food processor blade, it’s trickier to clean quickly. Of course all the components are dishwasher safe (that would be a pro) but this doesn’t help when 1. you don’t have a dishwasher or 2. you are using the “one bowl” idea and need the bowl/ blade immediately for a different (component of a) dish.
7. With some recipes, you need to change the blade in the middle of the process (so, from the cutting to the stirring blade or vice versa). Since the blade is inserted from the bottom, this can be a challenge making sure the food doesn’t fall out the hole where the blade goes. A small thing, perhaps but definitely something that slowed me down. Again, I am sure with more practice this gets easier.
In short, an intriguing machine – one I do not claim to fully understand and one whose surface of capabilities I have barely scratched. But in the short time I have worked with it, I have realised that these types of machines are not for me. I just love the process of cooking and baking too much! And as someone who already owns a lot of the small appliances that the BKM claims to “replace”, I don’t really have any need for it. In a different phase of my life (the one where I didn’t have a kitchen and didn’t own any appliances), this would have been the perfect appliance for me. At this point in my life, it’s not. However, you must understand that I am one of very few, it seems, who has tried the machine (or something similar) and has not been converted.
The bottom line: At the end of the day, whether it’s with a Bellini Kitchen Master or a more traditional method of cooking, I feel that anything which helps people get back to cooking should be celebrated. Indeed, if the BKM can make a non-cook enthusiastic about cooking and perhaps encourage them to cook a soup one night instead of ordering takeout, then I’m all for it. And if a more competent cook finds a place for this machine in his/her kitchen and is able to use it to its full advantage, then great! Whatever works, right?
Disclosure: Cedarlane Culinary provided me with a Bellini Kitchen Master for a limited amount of time for the purposes of testing and reviewing it. I was required to write at least 2 honest reviews of my experience within 30 days of receiving the machine and as many other posts as I liked after that. These are my personal opinions.
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