Disclaimer: Cedarlane Culinary provided me a free Bellini Kitchen Master to test for this review. That said, I will always review products truthfully and share my real thoughts.
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Several months ago I was given a Bellini Kitchen Master to test out and I've really enjoyed using it. The Bellini is one of the new thermal cooking machines like the Thermomix and HotMixPro. It combines many of the functions of a blender or food processor with a heating element, allowing you to both chop, stir and cook the food all in one container. The Bellini is priced around $600, and is much less expensive than the $2,000 Thermomix.
After using it for awhile, I've come to realize that the Bellini is a pretty amazing all-in-one cooking machine. I've made multiple dishes in it, from a simple black bean dip and a chile pepper salsa to steamed asparagus, beef stew, and butternut squash bisque.
The Bellini can handle most of the functions of a blender, from mixing and blending to crushing ice and pureeing. It also preforms most basic food processor tasks like chopping and mincing, as well as kneading and mixing. With the heat settings you can easily cook soups, sweat vegetables, make rice and grains, make custards, and cook pureed vegetables. Filling the Bellini base with water, either plain or seasoned, and using the steam basket allows you to steam vegetables or fish. It can also be used to knead bread and make doughs.
The Bellini is sold in several places, including Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Kohls, as well as online through Cedarlane Culinary or Amazon.com. There will also be Black Friday deals coming up for it, so keep a look out for those.
Despite having so many functions, the Bellini is pretty easy to use, and it comes with a nice recipe book to help you get started. The specific process will depend on what function you are using, but in general you add the food then choose the chopping / mixing speed and the cooking temperature, then set the time for how long you want it to run. Once you press the On/Off button it will carry out your instructions.
One of my favorite uses of the Bellini was to prepare bases for sauces or stews. Usually you start with a mirepoix, a combination vegetables like carrots, celery, and onion, that you have to mince and then sweat. Using the Bellini, you can just coarsely chop the vegetables and toss them into the bowl, then use the pulse function to mince them for you.
Then you scrape down the sides and add some olive oil. Set the machine to a good sweating temperature, around 80°C to 90°C (176°F to 194°F) and set the speed function to stir the mirepoix while it cooks. This constant stirring allows the vegetables to cook without sticking and the regulated temperature means you don't have to keep an eye on a pot while you're prepping the rest of the meal.
All the Bellini controls are either knobs or buttons. The speed, temperature and timer are all knobs and are generally easy to turn. The knobs aren't tied to a specific position, they change the internal settings which are displayed very clearly on a lit screen.
The On/Off and the Pulse functions are both large buttons which are easy to press.
On the blender side, there are 10 different speed settings ranging from "lightly stir" to "pulverize the heck out of it". Picking different settings allows you to chop, mince, whip, blend, mix, knead, and stir. The stir and light mix (speed setting 3 or below) can be done either at room temperature or with heat. The higher-speed chopping or crushing has to be done at room temperature since hot liquids can explode out of blenders.
The Bellini comes with both a cutting or chopping blade and a dull stirring blade. The blades are easy to swap out, assuming the bowl is empty.
The heater ranges from 37°C to 100°C (98.6°F to 212°F) in increments of about 10°C (17°F). This allows you to keep something barely warm or bring it all the way up to a boil. The Bellini heats up very quickly, which is great to help speed up your cooking. It also has a steam setting.
After using the higher temperatures, I was initially concerned about setting the bowl on my counter because it gets hot. But the entire outside bottom of the bowl is rubber, keeping it nice and cool. This makes it safe and easy to set on the counter, and also helps so you don't burn yourself. Only the very middle section where the blades connect is hot, and it doesn't hang below the rubber.
I do wish you could run the heater without the stirring function. I understand why this decision was made, you don't want to burn stuff to the bowl, but for some cases it would be nice, such as when I was heating up my beef stew. It also would be nice if the temperature could be switched from °C to °F for those of us still not using metric.
The steamer basket is pretty cool. It fits over the mixing bowl, which means you can use it to steam fish or vegetables while you cook the sauce, soup, or any purees in the bowl, as long as there is enough moisture to create steam.
The steamer comes with both a deep steamer and a shallow steamer tray, providing plenty of options when arranging your food. It also has a drip tray, catching most of the moisture that would fall back down into the bowl. This is very handy if you are cooking multiple things and don't want the flavor or drippings to mix.
The timer is controlled by a knob and goes from 1 second up to 60 minutes. For the first minute it is in 1 second intervals, and then 30 second intervals after that. It's easy to use but it is the one setting that I would have preferred to have buttons for. Having to scroll through 60 clicks every time you want to do more than a minute gets a little old. A simple minutes button and seconds button would allow more control and be faster to use.
I also wish it could be set for longer times than an hour. I had to reset the timer 3 times for my beef stew.
Cleaning the Bellini Kitchen Master is easy. The bowl and lid easily dissemble and the blades are easy to take out. This leaves all the cooking surfaces exposed and easy to reach with a scrubber. Everything is either smooth stainless steel or plastic, which means there's very few nooks and crannies that food can get stuck in.
If you cooked something that crusted onto the bowl, you can also just fill it with soapy water and set the temperature to 100°C (212°F) and it will help quickly soak it off.
I've received my Bellini from Justin, who is the division manager at Cedarlane Culinary, the makers of the Bellini. They are a smaller company who is truly concerned about the customers and they're happy to step in if anything goes wrong. I feel very comfortable using their equipment and recommending it to people, knowing they'll do anything in their power to make sure their customers are happy.
Learning to use the Bellini and follow recipes goes very quickly. However, learning to create your own recipes does take some time. I've found it is easiest if you follow existing recipes first, or use them as a reference for what speed and temperature settings are best for certain tasks.
If you do decide to spend the $600 on the machine, then spending a few hours learning how it works is definitely worth the investment. There are several places you can turn for recipes. Including the online recipes and recipe book from Bellini. Cedarlane Culinary also has many recipes online and the Bellini Addicts' free recipe book also contains many great recipes. I will also be adding recipes I developed using the Bellini, including my beef stew, black bean dip, chile pepper salsa, butternut squash bisque, and steamed asparagus.
The Bellini Kitchen Master doesn't do anything that you can't do by yourself with traditional cooking methods, but it does make many of those tasks easier. It's a great set-and-forget type of machine that definitely can help out in the kitchen. If you're interested in these new types of all-in-one cookers, then the Bellini is a great place to start due to the lower cost and ease of use it provides.
If you are looking for a great all-in-one cooker then I definitely recommend the Bellini. You can purchase it online at Cedarlane Culinary or Amazon.com, or find all locations it is sold from their website.