Kitchen appliances have come a long way from the simple blenders and toasters of yesterday. One of the most versatile and useful gadgets to emerge is the multi-function food processor. But what exactly is a food processor, and how do you determine which model is right for your needs? This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know – from key features and top recommendations to usage tips and valuable insights. After reading, you’ll be fully equipped to choose your new favorite kitchen prep tool.
First, let’s cover the basics – what is a food processor and what does it do? At its core, a food processor is an electric appliance that can perform a wide variety of chopping, slicing, shredding, mixing and kneading tasks quickly and efficiently. It typically consists of a plastic or metal bowl with a locking lid, various blades and discs that attach to the shaft, and an external body that houses the motor and control buttons.
The main benefits of a food processor include:
- Saving significant time on food prep compared to chopping, slicing, and mixing by hand
- Ability to evenly and quickly chop, mince, grate or puree large batches of ingredients
- Versatility to knead dough, shred vegetables, slice fruits, and more with included attachments
- Uniform cutting for consistent sizes and textures
- Keeping your hands safely away from sharp blades
- Ease of use with little technique or learning curve
- Compact storage that takes up minimal counter space
In short, a good food processor can be an invaluable multitasker in your kitchen. But not all models are created equal. When shopping for a food processor, here are the main factors to consider:
Motor Strength – This determines the power and efficiency of the appliance. More watts (typically 500-1000 watts) equates to more torque to handle tougher jobs. Some can even knead stiff bread dough.
Size/Capacity – Bowl capacity typically ranges from 3 cups on mini models up to 16 cups on full-sized processors. Consider your needs – larger is better for bigger batches but takes up more storage space.
Feed Tube Size – Wider feed tubes (at least 2 inches wide) allow you to insert large items like whole fruits/vegetables without pre-cutting. Convenient but not essential.
Controls – Look for simple, intuitive buttons and knobs, ideally with various speed and pulsing settings. Some have handy pre-programmed functions too.
Attachments Included – Most come with a metal chopping blade, dough blade, shredding and slicing discs. More discs mean more abilities.
Safety Features – Locking lids, non-slip feet, built-in cord storage, and pulse buttons enhance safe use.
Noise Level – Food processors can get quite loud. Check reviews if noise is an issue.
Brand Reputation – Stick with well-known, reliable appliance brands for best quality and durability.
Ease of Cleaning – Dishwasher-safe bowls and parts make cleanup a breeze. Some have special self-cleaning functions too.
Warranty – A longer warranty (1 year minimum) provides peace of mind.
After comparing features and reviews, I’ve compiled the top 5 highest-rated multi-function food processors on the market today:
1. Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor
- Motor: 750 watts
- Capacity: 14 cups
- Dimensions: 7.9 x 11.4 x 15.3 inches
- Weight: 19 pounds
- Extra-large capacity perfect for large batches
- Powerful 750 watt motor handles tough tasks
- Convenient options like dough blade, shredding disc
- Simple touchpad controls with LED display
- BPA free bowl and accessories
Pros: Excellent performance, high capacity, very versatile, 10-year warranty
Cons: Heavy, noise can be an issue
Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars (8,000+ reviews)
Price Range: $150 – $300
2. Breville Sous Chef 16 Pro Food Processor
- Motor: 1,200 watts
- Capacity: 16 cups
- Dimensions: 10.5 x 11.2 x 18.5 inches
- Weight: 25.35 pounds
- Super powerful 1,200 watt motor for efficiency
- Unique adjustable slicing disc with 24 settings
- Large feed chute fits whole vegetables
- Precision controls and LCD display
Pros: Professional performance, versatile adjustable slicer, quality construction
Cons: Expensive, heavy and bulky, only 1-year warranty
Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars (1,500+ reviews)
Price Range: $350 – $500
3. KitchenAid 7-Cup Food Chopper
- Motor: 240 watts
- Capacity: 7 cups
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 8.7 x 14.6 inches
- Weight: 10 pounds
- Compact 7-cup capacity great for small kitchens
- Sleek, lightweight design in trendy colors
- Unique 3-in-1 lid serves as storage, spatula, scraper
- Built-in cord management for clutter-free counters
Pros: Perfect starter size, very affordable, handy 3-in-1 lid
Cons: Motor is less powerful than larger models
Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars (2,500+ reviews)
Price Range: $40 – $80
4. Hamilton Beach 10-Cup Food Processor
- Motor: 450 watts
- Capacity: 10 cups
- Dimensions: 16.5 x 9.1 x 8.8 inches
- Weight: 9 pounds
- 10 cup capacity for most family meals
- Reversible shredding and slicing discs
- Built-in scraper attachment on feed tube
- Dishwasher-safe parts for easy cleanup
Pros: Good mid-size capacity, affordable price, scraper attachment
Cons: Lid can be tricky to properly lock
Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (12,000+ reviews)
Price Range: $50 – $100
5. Ninja Mega Kitchen System
- Motor: 2 horsepower (about 1500 watts)
- Capacity: 8 cups bowl, 2 cups mini bowl, and 72 oz blender
- Dimensions: 13.9 x 12.2 x 15.5 inches
- Weight: 24.9 pounds
- Extensive system with bowls and powerful blender
- Huge capacity for processing large batches
- Auto-iQ programs for intelligent settings
- Dishwasher safe and BPA free parts
Pros: Unmatched versatility as complete system, great for big batches
Cons: Bulky and heavy, more expensive
Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars (5,000+ reviews)
Price Range: $200 – $300
This covers a wide range of excellent options from compact choppers to high-performance models perfect for avid cooks. Keep reading for more advice on narrowing down the ideal size food processor for your needs.
When trying to choose the right size food processor, consider:
- How much prep work you typically do in large batches – big batches of soups, sauces, dips etc. benefit from larger bowls.
- Your available storage space – mini and mid-sized processors take up less room.
- Get a size that meets your day-to-day, usual needs but with room to grow. Don’t size down too small.
- Mini processors with 3-5 cup bowls are great for small-portion ingredients, dips, dressings, etc.
- Standard models with 7-9 cup bowls are suitable for most typical home cooks.
- Full-size food processors with 11-14+ cup bowls are best for large families, batch cooking, bread making.
The bowl size charts on packaging are your friend – consult them to visualize portion sizes. You want a size you’ll use often without overburdening your space.
Once you’ve selected the perfect food processor for your kitchen, here are some helpful tips for using it:
- Thoroughly read the instruction manual before first use. Check for any specific user guidelines.
- Wash and completely dry all of the pieces before assembling – this prevents slippery surfaces.
- Cut softer foods like fruits/veggies into even, bite-size (1-2 inch) pieces before placing in bowl.
- Don’t overfill processor bowl past the maximum fill line – this can strain the motor.
- Use the right attachment for the task, like the slicer/shredder discs or dough blade.
- Always use food pusher to apply even pressure and keep hands safely away from the feed tube.
- Don’t force foods down feed tube with fingers – let the food processor do the work.
- Turn machine off and unplug before removing lid. Wait for blades to fully stop spinning.
- Be very careful handling processor blades, as they are extremely sharp!
- Try not to overprocess foods into a puree – use short pulsing bursts instead for texture.
- Disassemble and properly clean machine parts after each use to prevent stains and odors.
Owning a food processor not only saves you time, but allows you to prepare foods in new, exciting ways. Here are the top 10 uses to get the most value from your appliance:
1. Chopping/Mincing: Quickly mince vegetables, herbs, nuts, bacon, and more to uniform sizes for recipes.
2. Purees and Sauces: Blend soups, tomato sauce, fruit purees, and baby food to silky smooth consistencies.
3. Kneading Dough: With a dough blade attachment, easily knead yeast doughs for breads, pizza, and buns without overworking by hand.
4. Slicing/Shredding Veggies: For salads and slaws, slice, shred or grate hard vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beets in seconds.
5. Grinding Meat: Use metal chopping blade to grind raw meat for burgers, meatballs, and stuffing with perfect texture.
6. Dips and Spreads: Whip up large batches of hummus, salsa, guacamole, nut butters, and more for parties/potlucks.
7. Dressings and Sauces: Quickly chop ingredients for vinaigrettes, chimichurri, pesto, or emulsify mayo-based spreads.
8. Grating Hard Cheese: Grate parmesan, cheddar, or nuts with the grater attachment for salads, pasta, and baking needs.
9. Breadcrumbs/Nut Flour: Make fresh breadcrumbs from leftover bread. Grind nuts into nut flours for gluten free recipes.
10. Baby Food: Steam and puree veggies, fruits, and meats into healthy homemade baby food your infant will love.
Let those creative juices flow! Try substituting your food processor to prep recipes you’d normally make by hand. Play with exact textures and flavors to make each dish your own.
If you’re new to using food processors, some common frequently asked questions often come up:
What’s the difference between a food processor and a blender?
- Blenders use fast spinning blades at the bottom to liquefy ingredients into smooth drinks and purees. Food processors use multi-purpose blades and discs to chop, slice, shred, knead, and mix thicker ingredients.
How do you know what size/capacity to get?
- Consider your everyday needs and typical batch sizes. Mini 3-5 cup processors work for small portions. Mid-size 7-9 cup models suit most home cooks. Larger 11+ cup processors are great for large families and big batches.
Are food processors really worth buying?
- Yes, they can save home cooks tons of time on repetitive chopping tasks! Few other appliances offer such versatility across multiple functions. They’re a smart investment if you cook often.
What are some key safety tips when using a processor?
- Read the manual, be cautious of sharp blades, turn off/unplug before removing lid, use food pusher, don’t overfill bowl, and store blades safely.
How should you clean a food processor?
- Remove blades and accessories, then wash removable parts by hand or dishwasher. Avoid submerging the motor base in water.
How can you prevent food from getting stuck?
- Cut pieces to even sizes, don’t overfill bowl, pause to scrape down sides if needed. Mist bowl with nonstick spray for sticky batters.
What are some things food processors can’t really do?
- They aren’t ideal for incorporating air into recipes like whipping cream. They also can’t cook ingredients like a slow cooker can.
What types of food or recipes are processors NOT optimal for?
- Food processors aren’t great at emulsifying and whipping like a stand mixer, or blending smooth liquids like a blender.
How long should a quality food processor realistically last?
- With proper maintenance and care, a good processor should provide 5 years minimum of service, with some lasting for 10+ years.
What brand makes the best food processors?
- Leading brands like Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Breville, and Hamilton Beach make excellent models. Consider size, features, and budget to choose what fits your needs.
I hope this guide gives you the essential information you need to decide if a multi-function food processor deserves a permanent spot on your kitchen countertop!
To recap, here are the key benefits of owning a food processor:
- Major time savings chopping, blending, kneading, and processing ingredients
- Ability to quickly prep large batches for batch cooking and meal prepping
- Versatility to shred, slice, chop, puree, and more with included blades/discs
- Consistent cutting results and even textures
- Safety features to protect hands and fingers
- Compact size that tidies up prep work areas
When shopping, carefully compare the motor power, capacity, special features, brand reputation, ease of use, accessories, and warranty. Think about your typical cooking needs and choose the size that fits your workload. Rule of thumb is buy larger than you think you need.
Be diligent about using the processor safely by reviewing the manual, unplugging when not in use, properly assembling, and storing sharp blades out of reach. Clean all parts thoroughly after each use.
With so many invaluable uses across a range of recipes – from chopped veggies to pizza dough, shredded slaws to baby food purees – a multi-function food processor is one of the most useful appliances busy home cooks can own. Stop chopping and mixing the hard way. Let a good food processor free up your time and energy for more important kitchen tasks!