Do all-in-one kitchen machines make the Jetsons-kitchen dream a reality?
"It slices! It dices!" Such were the catchcries for the first wave of kitchen machines, and now, not only do they heat and stir as well, but some also come with recipes built in. The Philips HomeCooker with Cutting Tower ($529.95) is sold with a Jamie Oliver recipe booklet, but Tefal's Cook4Me ($349) goes a step further, with 80 one-touch, pre-programmed recipes - the machine prompts you as you go. The category leader has in recent years been the Thermomix (around $1900), the first machine to really popularise the set-and-forget advantages of self-stirring, temperature-regulated mixers. Likewise, one of the big selling points of the HomeCooker is that you don't really need to do very much - the cutting tower chops and slices straight into the bowl and the integrated stirring function means a tired cook's only physical exertion will be walking away while it's running, which Philips says is perfectly safe. But while Thermomix proclaims its machine can chop, beat, mix, emulsify, mill, knead, blend, cook, stir, steam, weigh and melt, suggesting significant bench-space savings, none of these machines yet does a better job of every function than their equivalent dedicated appliances. And the time savings they trade on count in large part on the skill (and, crucially, the interest level) of the home cook in question.