A couple of weeks ago, I realized that the old Black&Decker ShortCut food processor was ready for retirement: a crack along the blade housing meant that it tended to get stuck on the shaft, requiring some bad words and a pair of pliers to get it apart. To be fair, it has served me well for 15+ years. At almost the same time, the KitchenAid blender also started having a problem with the blade disengaging whenever it encountered something too tough to blend; we ordered a replacement blade component, but it still happens occasionally and the blending quality is inconsistent. Because we don’t have a lot of kitchen space, I started looking at the combo blender/food processor units, and found one that I could get with my Air Miles: the T-Fal Vitacompact Food Processor.
I have to say, this is one kick-butt device. On the down side, it comes with 24 separate parts, one of which I managed to lose within the first hour (not essential, only a bowl scraper, probably went out with the packing material), but it does pretty much everything. Not just a blender and food processor, also a citrus juicer and a fruit/vegetable juicer, all using the same base motor with different attachments.
- The blender works extremely well, and hasn’t choked on anything that I’ve given it yet. I put bananas, soy milk and a tray full of ice in it, and it yields a perfectly smooth banana smoothie, all of the ice completely crushed. Although it looks smaller than the old KitchenAid, the capacity is actually more: the T-Fal has a plastic blender container, whereas the KitchenAid’s is glass, making it look bigger. The only flaw that I’ve found so far is that it leaked a bit out of the bottom when I left it in the fridge for a few hours with liquid in it; in the future, I’ll blend and move the contents to another container if they’re going to wait for a while before consuming. The blender does not come apart at the bottom, so I was surprised by the leak — it must leak around the blade shaft somewhere. Even though it’s all one piece, the blender is easy to clean, since the inside of the bottom is rounded so that food doesn’t get stuck beneath the blade.
- The food processor is huge compared to the old ShortCut: easily twice the capacity, which is nice because I often overfilled the ShortCut and ended up with the contents leaking over the top as it processed. You have to watch the order of loading the container when you’re using the chopping blade, however, since there’s a significant gap between the blade and the bottom of the bowl, and dry food can get stuck there if it’s added first. Adding wet first, then dry, seems to solve the problem. I’ve used the shredding disk on carrots, celery and onions and it does a good job, although like all other food processors that I’ve used, it does leave some larger chunks between the blade and the lid. I haven’t yet used the emulsifying disk (and I’m not even sure what to use it for) or the dough hook.
- The citrus juicer is a bonus; I’ve never had one of these before, and it makes two glasses of fresh OJ from 3-4 oranges in a couple of minutes, with only a couple parts to rinse for cleanup. This will definitely prevent scurvy around our household this winter.
- I haven’t yet tried the fruit and veggie juicer. I used to have an industrial strength juicer that worked well but was a huge pain to clean up afterwards; I rarely used it so it moved from the counter to a cupboard before I eventually gave it away. I’ll try this one out when I get the urge for some carrot juice.
I’m using the Vitacompact almost every day; in fact, yesterday, I used it four times: banana smoothie in the blender for breakfast, hummus in the food processor, orange juice from the citrus juicer, then blended the ingredients for a cranberry sorbet in the blender (that’s what leaked when I left it in the fridge for too long). I love the little suction cup feet on the bottom, which keep it from dancing around on the counter while running.
I’m still looking for the right place for it, however: since I’m using it so much, I prefer to leave it out on the counter even though the base takes up quite a bit of space, but there are so many attachments that I need to pack them away somewhere to keep them out of the way and keep them clean.
The usual price is about $C160, but I just found it on the Sears Canada site for $130. Or go ahead and use up those Air Miles that you’ve been saving.