Vitamix 5200 Standard review:
Can a Smoothie Machine Cut It in the Kitchen?
This blender’s got tons of power and quality construction, and the industrial look is kind of cool.
It’s really loud. The plastic jar feels flimsy and doesn’t seem entirely secure on the base. You need to flip two switches and turn a dial just to get it up to High, and then you have to remember to turn everything back down each time you stop the motor. Shockingly, for all its power, this is a $450 machine that doesn’t perform with the ease of a cheap blender. You have to use the tamper much of the time just to get the blades to engage with the food. And you can’t even clean the parts in the dishwasher.
The Vitamix 5200 Standard is not worth the price. It only does a limited number of things well. For a machine that costs $450, that’s not good enough.
Vitamix is the BMW of blenders. For anyone who loves smoothies and Jamba-style juices (and that’s pretty much every moderately affluent U.S. adult under the age of 45) an industrial-looking Vitamix is part kitchen tool, part status-y counter accessory. The company has an impressive product line, including the Healthy Lifestyle blender (you can bet that one sees a lot of kale smoothie action) and a model cobranded with the Culinary Institute of America, in part to instill brand loyalty in the next generation of restaurant chefs. The 5200 Standard is considered a base model—no dry grinder accessory jar, no separate smoothie jar, just the basics, ma’am, though at a price that’s anything but. And to ease the sticker shock—and perhaps suggest how confident Vitamix is in the durability of its machines—it has a seven-year warranty.
The 5200 Standard has a massive two-horsepower motor with a cooling fan and a thermal protection system that’ll shut the motor down when it starts to get too hot. The single jar this model comes with holds 64 ounces, and it’s made of copolyester (BPA-free), a plastic engineered to be both clear and rugged. Vitamix sells an accessory blade for grinding grain, but the all-purpose 5200 Standard comes with a single set of stainless-steel blades designed for wet blending, i.e., puréeing soups and smoothies (to switch blades, you need to buy a special Vitamix wrench). The lid has vents to minimize the risk of something like hot soup exploding out the top if you fill the jar too much or accidentally start the thing on High. There’s a tamper that looks a bit like a riot-squad truncheon: It fits into a hole in the heavy, flexible lid, and has a collar at the top to keep it from reaching all the way to the bottom of the jar and getting nicked by the blades. The power controls feature a variable dial calibrated from 1 to 10, allowing you to gradually ramp up the power (once you’re at 10, you can switch from Variable to High). It has a six-foot cord, which is nice if you have a large kitchen. You can’t put the jar or lid in the dishwasher—Vitamix recommends you fill the jar with warm water and dish soap and give it another blast.
To take this beast on a rigorous test drive, we put it through four tasks: crushing ice; making a frozen strawberry and banana smoothie; whipping up a vegan kale shake; and—since Vitamix says its blenders are so powerful the friction will actually heat liquid in the jar if you run the motor long enough (several minutes at high speed)—a cream of asparagus soup.
Crushed ice: We dumped in cubes, turned the machine on, and turned the Variable speed up to 10. After 10 seconds, only the bottom inch of cubes were crushed—the ones above that were still whole. We did the same thing again, but this time inserted the tamper to see if we could push all the cubes into the blades. Meanwhile, the machine was loud and it rocked a bit, which was a little scary in something with this much power. After another 20 seconds, the test was a fail: Only the bottom layer of ice was crushed, and that was fused together along the bottom and lower sides of the jar—we had to fill the jar with water to flush the crushed ice out! For failing a task this basic, the 5200 Standard gets an F.
Strawberry-banana smoothie: We threw a cup of frozen strawberries, two bananas, and some milk into the pitcher. We started out on Variable 1, ramped it up to 10, and switched to High. The strawberries got stuck in the blades—we had to use the tamper and some muscle to get everything going. The end results were smooth, but it would have been nicer without having to employ the elbow grease. We would have preferred to turn the machine on and walk away for a minute or two. Score: C.
Vegan kale shake: We added a 1/2 cup of water to the jar, a 1/2 cup of raw cashews, vanilla, 1/3 cup of whole pitted dates, two bananas, 2 cups of ice cubes, and three stalks of curly kale, stems and all. We started out on Variable 1, increased to 10, then switched to High. After 25 seconds (the time required to make this recipe in our conventional blender), only about a quarter of the jar’s contents had been puréed. We continued blending on High, this time using the tamper to push the ingredients into the blades. The results were good: nicely aerated, with a mousselike texture and a lovely smoothness. Score: B.
Cream of asparagus soup: We followed a recipe from the Vitamix website for simultaneously blending and heating asparagus soup. To the pitcher we added 1 1/4 pounds of cooked asparagus and 1 1/2 cups of cold chicken broth. The temperature in the pitcher was about 78 degrees Fahrenheit when we started. Six minutes later on High, we added a 1/2 cup of cold half-and-half and blended for another 10 seconds. The temperature of the final soup was a steamy 154 degrees Fahrenheit. The heating feature was cool, but we endured a loud six minutes to get there. We could have quickly blended the same ingredients in a standard blender, then transferred the mixture to a pot and heated it up in the same six minutes—plus we could have carried on a conversation without shouting! Score: B.
Photos by Chris Rochelle