The Vita-Mix blender is the darling of late-night infomercials, and for good reason: you really need a demonstration to understand that this is no basic blender. Years ago, I was at a trade show and the company's spokesperson, Michael Symon (now of Iron Chef fame) showed me how the Vita-Mix made a smoothie in seconds; he even left the strawberry hulls intact ("For fiber," he said).
I was intrigued, as most people are when they see how the Vita-Mix can grind flour, or cook a soup from the friction of the motor. But would I pony up $500 for it? After spending a couple of weeks playing with the Vita-Mix, I'm tempted.
Vita-Mix 5200 – Features
The Vita-Mix controls include an on-off switch, a dial to control variable speed and a toggle for switching to High speed. The variable-speed dial is intended for starting thick or hot mixtures, or to chop foods or grind meat, and it's a good way to maintain control over the blending process. Plus, turning the dial made me feel a little like an airplane pilot.
The basic Vita-Mix 5200 package also comes with a DVD that gives you a crash course on how to use the machine, a recipe binder with a selection of whole foods recipes, the owner's manual, and a tamper that can be used to push thick or frozen ingredients into the blade even as the machine is running. The co-polyester (plastic) blending jar is generously sized at 64 ounces, and it has a redesigned lid that has a twist-out plug that doubles as a measuring cup. The Vita-Mix 5200 comes in black, white and red.
Vita-Mix 5200 – Pros
The biggest advantage to the Vita-Mix is its powerful motor (approximately 2 peak horsepower); it grinds and processes food quickly and smoothly. The variable speed helps adjust the power, particularly helpful when you're just beginning to blend a mixture or when you're working with very thick mixtures. And sure enough, just like in the commercials, if you process a mixture at the high speed for long enough, it "cooks."
The jug is larger than many others on the market, which makes it easy to process large quantities of mixtures, such as soup, without having to work in batches. And the blades are attached to the blender base, so there are no pieces to take apart. In fact, cleaning is quite easy; just fill the blender with soapy water and run it for a few moments before rinsing it out.
Vita-Mix 5200 - Cons
Thicker mixtures develop an air bubble as you're processing them, and using the included tamper can take some getting used to. Even one of the company's own recipes, pumpkin soup, was too thick to process without using the tamper.
The height of the Vita-Mix's blender jar, too, means that it might not fit on a counter under a cabinet, which could pose a problem in a smaller kitchen.
Vita-Mix 5200 - Do you need one?
The basic Vita-Mix will run you around $450, but be warned that this package only comes with the basic blending jar. If you intend to grind nuts or grains for flour, you'll want to invest in the Vita-Mix Super 5200, which includes a separate blender jar for dry blending of grains, rice and beans into flour. The Deluxe package, meanwhile, includes the 64-ounce wet blending jar, the dry blending jar, and a 32-ounce wet blending jar for smaller quantities as well as some extras like cutting boards, spatulas and another cookbook.
If you have the money to spend on it, the Vita-Mix is a great investment and is powerful and sturdy enough that it will likely be the last blender you buy.