The idea behind the Cuisinart Soup Maker is an all-in-one cooking and blending machine for making soups and sauces.
When Cuisinart offered me one to review, I asked my mum, Mamta, to put it through its paces, as she regularly makes soups at home.
It looks like a regular jug blender, but has a number of extra features including a heating element with low, medium and high settings, a non stick cooking plate, a thermal glass jar with 1.4 litre capacity for hot liquids, stainless steel blades with 4 speeds settings and pulse and a stir button for mixing ingredients during cooking. The RRP is £139 but you should be able to find it for under £100 if you shop around.
Of the design, mum judged it a “sturdy, attractive” item but mentioned that it’s large, and would “need a fair bit of space” on your work surface or in the cupboard. (It’s footprint is 20 x 22 centimetres).
First, mum read through the instructions and recipe booklet. The instructions are “fairly well written” but do not make it clear that the jug has to be lifted, not unscrewed, off the base. She points out that as many jug blenders require a twist and lift action to remove the jug, it might be worth making this clearer so there are no unfortunate accidents with hot liquid.
For her first trial, mum used the sweet potato and red pepper soup recipe provided, though she used yellow pepper instead of red.
She found the instructions “easy to follow” and “the result was tasty“.
“But I was expecting to put everything in it and go away, not stand doing things step by step. You have to heat the plate of the bowl first with oil, then add and fry onion garlic etc. stirring from time to time (there is a stir button for this), then add vegetables and stock, then bring it to boil, then simmer and then blend. So you have to be watching it most of the time and have to be around. I can do this when making a soup in a pan. The only difference with pan method is that it has to be blended by a hand blender or poured into a blender, so a tad more washing up to do.”
She also found that the simmer button didn’t make things simmer, and she had to use the medium and high settings to achieve this.
For her second trial, she made prawns in tomato sauce, a pasta sauce recipe also from the recipe booklet.
She found it “easy to make, partly because I already had chopped onions.”
Again, her main comment was that “you have to be standing there to add onion garlic, stir, add tomato puree, stir, add tomato, cook, stirring off and on, and then finally add prawns. It isn’t much harder to cook in a pan.”
Over the next couple of weeks she made a number of different soups.
“Too much faffing about for a simple soup!“, she said. “The only time it has an advantage, may be, is when you are making a blended/smooth soup.”
Her last experiment was to use it to make dal-palak (chana dal with spinach).
“The dal got stuck to the bottom hot plate, which was a hell of a job to clean, I had to use a toothbrush to get under the blades. It is possible that the glass bowl screws off from the base of the jar, but my old hands could not unscrew it. It is too heavy anyway.”
After over a month of extended use, here are her final comments:
Easy to use.
Makes good soup.
“It might be useful for people living in bedsits or studio flats“, with limited or no kitchen facilities; “they could cook a lot of things in it, once they got the hang of it.”
Large. Takes up “precious space in my kitchen“, whether “on the table top or inside the cupboard“.
“You have to be around to go through the steps of the dish you are making (stirring, blending etc.). You can’t put the ingredients in and forget about it. So there is very little advantage over a pan. Even for a blended soup, you can cook it in a pan and use a stick blender” to make it smooth.
When food gets stuck to the cooking plate, it’s very difficult to clean.
“At the low and simmer settings, things just sit in the bowl, nothing seems to happen, no simmering at all. Only the medium and hot settings seem to work.”
“The timer keeps running out before before things are ready and when you come back to the kitchen, you find that it has switched itself off. You then have to start again, never knowing how much time to put in.”
“The glass bowl is very heavy for a person like me to lift in and out of the base socket.”
It’s “more difficult to keep an eye on it and adjust for taste” than when using a regular pan on the hob.
In summary, mum feels that, whilst it sounds like a good idea on paper, if you have a stove top, a large pan and a stick or jug blender, it’s simply not necessary and delivers no advantage. Rather, it’s one of those “white elephants that you get carried away into buying.”
Kavey Eats was sent a complimentary soup maker for review by Cuisinart.