Food processors have been a mandatory kitchen appliance for professional chefs and serious cooks since their introduction in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Originally, their cost and size made them unappealing to most people, but today’s food processors are affordable, relatively compact and available in a host of colors and sizes. Not only that, but modern food processors have evolved from a single-function appliance to a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ kitchen necessity. Whether you want to stop the tears when chopping onions or your carpal tunnel won’t let you knead bread dough, there’s a food processor out there that can get the job done (see also Hand Mixer Buying Guide, Blender Buying Guide).
Seven-cup bowls offer the most versatility, but if you’ll use the food processor only occasionally or for small batches, 3-4 cup models are better for individuals and smaller families. If you cook for large groups or make meals ahead to freeze, look at 12-20 cup models. The larger the bowl, the larger the processor, so factor counter and storage space into your decision.
Food processors range from 400-1200 watts, but for general, all-purpose use, 600 watts is a good number to shoot for.
Pulse speed is a must have feature for maximum control over your ingredients. If you want your food processors to grow with your culinary skills, look for models that offer specialty blades or attachments like beaters or citrus juicers for separate purchase.
Appliances, boring? Not anymore. Food processors have come a long way in their design and range of styles. Once you find the model that gives you what you want, you’ll be able to match its looks to your décor or other appliances.
The weight of your food processor is a plus, not a minus. Heavier units are more stable during use and are safer to operation. Look too, for food processors with non-skid lids and no-start safety mechanisms that prevent operation until all parts and pieces are securely in place.
The food processor bowl is where all of the action happens. It’s made of durable transparent plastic and comes in a variety of sizes ranging from 4 cup capacity to up to 12 cups.
This features allows the cook to deliver controlled bursts of speed for the most control over the ingredients in the food processor bowl.
The base houses the food processor’s “motor”. Once all of the parts are attached correctly, the base is plugged in, turned on and causes the blades to rotate although the base itself does not move.
There are a variety of blades that attach to a food processor including blades for slicing & chopping, grating and kneading. You choose a particular blade depending on your desired food processing outcome.
The feed tube is made of the same material as the bowl and its purpose is for adding ingredients while you are already in the process of pureeing, chopping or grinding. An example of this would be pouring olive oil through the feed tube to add to the mixture.
A pusher is made of the same material as the feed tube and it is used along with the feed tube, to push solid food through. The pusher does the work so that your fingers don’t ever come into contact with the blade.
Food processors come in variety of shapes and sizes. From three-cup bowls that make short work of dicing carrots, onions and celery for soup stock to 20-cup bowls that turn this summer’s crop of tomatoes into marinara, there’s a food processor size to suit your cooking lifestyle. So one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is whether you’re buying the food processor for everyday or occasional use. Food processors aren’t a monetary investment so much as they’re a space investment, so be honest about how often you’re going to use it and base your decision on bowl size accordingly. Seven-cup food processors are the average, but if you’re short on counter or storage space or cook for three or less people, you may do better with 3-4 cup bowl. Smaller models are a good choice if you’ll regularly be returning your food process to the cabinet rather than leaving it on the countertop. If you regularly cook in large batches to freeze ahead or do lot of entertaining for groups, a 20-cup food processor will save you time. Larger-capacity models often come with an accompanying smaller bowl (up to 4 cups) which helps with multi-tasking.
All food processors perform the same functions, but they do vary in power in wattage. High power, fast speed and low noise have long been the standout qualities of the best food processors and nearly all food processors on the market offer 400-1200 watts. If you’re looking for a good, one-wattage-fits-all your cooking needs model, shoot for a power rating of 600 watts. Machines with this wattage have sufficient power and speed to handle most everyday jobs like slicing, dicing, chopping and pulverizing.
Most food processors come standard with three operational settings: low, high, and “pulse.” If you’ve watched any cooking shows on the Food Network, you’ve heard tell of the control the pulse feature provides you over the ingredients you’re working with. If you do encounter a model that doesn’t offer the pulse feature, skip it and find one that does.
You might also consider a food processor that features multiple feed tubes to handle a variety of different sized items. Larger feed tubes can accommodate carrots, celery or cucumbers without having to cut them into smaller pieces first. No matter how many feed tubes your food processor offers, they should be positioned well to guide the food easily to the blades without backing up. If you have concerns, save your receipt and know the return policies before using it.
Next, you want to evaluate the blades or discs that come with the food processor. After all, blades are what give the food processor its multi-functionality. Food processors come with a variety of interchangeable disc blades, the most common being the “S” which is used for chopping without risk of pureeing and another for shredding or grating. If creativity and versatility are driving your purchase, look for brands like Cuisinart that offer specialty blades, purchased separately, to slice at different thickness, turn out square julienne cuts or shred ingredients super finely. When reviewing standard or specialty blades, choose those made from long-lasting stainless steel.
As for other attachments, the general rule is the larger the model, the more you get. Attachments available today include whisks, beaters and citrus juicers and a host of others. Some may be included with higher end models, so make sure to read ‘what’s included’ before you hit the ‘buy’ button. If the specialty attachment does not come with the model you’re interested in, it’s probably available for separate purchase. Finally, if you’re planning on using your food processor to whip out pizza and other dough-based products, most high-end models come with the kneader attachment. Some slightly more expensive models feature specific dough-making speeds, but we found that many online reviewers think they don’t add much benefit—dough can still be kneaded using the basic pulse speed.
It used to be that any kitchen appliances what you saw—usually white, gold or avocado green—was what you got and it was usually clunky. Today, you can find food processors in sleek designs that blend in with your rest of your kitchen décor. With bases that come in stainless steel and a rainbow of colors, you’re sure to find one that matches your chosen color scheme or the coffeemaker and toaster you already have.
There’s a lot of talk about how much food processors weigh and how awkward some people think they are to take in and out of the cabinet, but the truth is that the heavier the food processor’s base unit is, the more stable it is. Stability is a key component when it comes to food processor safety. Your food processor is going to pack some weight and that weight is a benefit, not a detriment. Choose a food processor with a variety of built-in safety features like non-skid legs. Nearly all food processors have a mechanism in place that prevents operation if the bowl, blades or lid aren’t attached or secured properly. Some users find this inconvenient, but so is a trip to the emergency room.
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