If I was allowed just one piece of equipment in my kitchen, it would be the Vita-Mix TNC. Way more powerful than your average blender, the Vita-Mix can handle ice, frozen fruit, nuts and seeds and all manner of other raw ingredients, as well as the more obvious soups, smoothies and dressings.
I've had my machine for several years now. Yes it's expensive (it typically retails in the UK for about £395), but goodness the value I have already got out of that machine is a hundred times over what I paid for it. It really is priceless.
Regular readers of my blog or eZine will know that I am also known as the Smoothie Queen! So having this machine work, live and breathe in my kitchen while other shadows of machines would have run out of steam, withered and died, is a complete blessing and an ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE.
Read on for a review I wrote about this fabulous machine way back when - it's as true today as it was back then, and I am EVEN more of a fan!
And if you do decide to go for it, I promise you won't every regret it and, like me, it may just become your most favourite kitchen buddy EVER!
Vita-Mix TNC Review by Karen Knowler
The Vita-Mix machine has to be one of the most versatile pieces of kitchen equipment available in the world today, however, as many of you know, it's far from cheap.
Manufactured in the USA, where there are several models to choose from, here in the UK there are only two household models available - the Vita-Mix TNC, and the Vita-Mix Super TNC. (TNC stands for Total Nutrition Centre). The difference between the two is very simple: the latter comes with an extra jug - a 'dry' jug as it is called, which is used purely for milling dry ingredients such as nuts, seeds and grains. It turns them into a fine powder in no time at all.
The basic TNC - though 'basic' is hardly a fitting word for this machine - comes with a 'wet' jug as standard. (The Super comes with both). It holds up to 2 litres of liquid, is made of a clear incredibly tough plastic (polycarbonate), has a durable rubber lid with a removable clear plastic top, for easy access for adding ingredients and also through which to place the 'tamper' (plunger) when needed. The completed jug fits onto the heavy square base, which is white, is fitted with a 2 horsepower, commercial duty motor, and has an on/off switch, a speed dial, and a variable speed option switch (full power/variable). The variety of speed settings is a very useful feature, and we make use of it often.
When I first came across the Vita-Mix in someone else's home, I was very impressed. It's a big machine - it stands approx. 52cm tall (around 21"), and is very solid looking. The base also weighs quite heavy, so from every angle it seems to speak quality. I watched in amazement as it made light work of blending a whole assortment of foods, which, from experience, I knew my cheap high street blender would never have handled.
However, it wasn't until I finally saved enough money to buy my own that I became aware of the wide range of uses it has. These include: 'Juicing' (though the fibre remains), milling, grinding, whipping, chopping, homogenizing, blending, creaming and puréeing.
It even 'cooks' if required (soups and so on), because of the speed the blades turn. If left long enough (minutes, rather than seconds) it will use the friction created by the blades to actually heat foods right up.
However, for those of us who aren't interested in this function, it's not a worry to our raw food prep, as the blades have to be spinning for quite some time to generate the heat, and most of the recipes I have ever made in it have never got even slightly warmed, let alone cooked, as I am typically done in well under a minute.
The types of things I use my machine for are: Thick shakes using fresh or frozen ingredients; ice-creams using frozen fruit; dips and dressings of all types and consistencies; milling oats, grains or nuts for cookies, cakes or pizza bases; making whipped or creamy desserts, and making soups and smoothies.
At first I did wonder how often I would genuinely use the machine. After all, we are all, I'm sure, very much aware as to how often a juicer or other kind of food processor can often sit looking at us from the corner of the kitchen or hidden in a cupboard for weeks on end. I use my juicer about 3-5 times a week in the summer, and less so in the winter, and my food processor maybe once or twice a month. Not so with the Vita-Mix. It's so easy and quick to use, and literally takes 10 seconds to clean, that mine gets used every single day, often more than once - and this has been the case since I bought it.
So while the cost seemed very high initially, when I weighed up the number of uses, the fact it has a 3 year warranty, the ease and speed of use and cleaning, and just how much benefit I will gain from it over the years to come it really has actually come to seem like excellent value for money.
There is plenty more I could say regarding its uses and how it works, why it is so powerful and durable and so on, however the Vita-Mix people have brought out a stunning colour brochure all of their own which does the job far better than I ever could. So for those of you who are interested in learning more, contact The Fresh Network.
However, as always I avoid trying to 'sell' anything to anyone, so this review is coming from me as a householder rather than a Vita-Mix agent! In which case it's time to mention the negatives as well as the positives.
To date, to be fair, I've never blown the fuse on it, but it has cut out from time to time. At first this was alarming as suddenly the machine just stopped!
This was because we were working it too hard, trying to process too much, too fast. As much as I hoped the machine would be invincible, I learned quite soon that even the Vita-Mix does have its limitations. So when the machine stopped for the first time I admit I panicked, but upon reading the manual I found that there is a special button underneath the base which simply needs to be popped back in to get the machine to start working again. (It has a safety mechanism built in so that should the machine start overheating it cuts out to protect the motor). All it meant was that in future I had to take more care with what I put in and the consistency of it.
Of course, I am possibly a harder taskmaster than most, and I was trying to blend a huge amount of dates with carob and avocado to make a large amount of chocolate pudding! But because the dates weren't soaked at all it struggled for a while, and this led to overheating - understandable really. The same thing happened with a large quantity of frozen bananas. Once more, I just had to learn to either soak the ingredients first, or use foods a little more defrosted. "Ah," I finally realised one day, "that's why it's called a 'wet' jug." So… be aware, it's important that you use at the very least moist ingredients when using the standard 'wet' jug.
Likewise the 'dry' jug should ideally only be used for dry foods, as mentioned earlier. It can double up for wet foods as well if you have both jugs and one has already been used, but it doesn't work the other way round - the wet jug can only be used for wet foods.
Apart from that, there have been no other problems or concerns encountered by me or our customers. It has just taken a bit of getting used to as to its limits, but there's no way I could go back to using just a normal blender as this is so superior in so many ways (and I've blown other blenders up before!).
What also makes this, on weighing everything up, a very good buy all told, is that with both machines you get a free instructional video, an impressive 'Getting Started' recipe binder containing hundreds of recipes and colour photos, and with the Super TNC comes a whole grains booklet to show you how best to use your dry jug.
All in all, and it's a hard decision to make, if I could only have one piece of electrical kitchen equipment, it would be the Vita-Mix. The Champion juicer comes a very close second, however, as I rely on that nearly as much.
But the best thing of all has to be the ease of cleaning, which is simply a case of filling the jug with warm water, giving it a whiz on high speed for a few seconds and pouring the water away to reveal a pristine jug. Magic!