Trying to decide which is the best food processor? Need to know when to pulse and when to grind? What kind of food can be made with a food processor? Here’s the shopping and food prepping lowdown with this handy kitchen appliance.
Ask anyone who spends enough time in a kitchen what their favorite appliance is, and chances are it’s a food processor. Often prepping a meal can be labor-intensive, but a food processor breaks things down in seconds to reduce the time it takes to get meals on the table.
A good one is indispensable–small, easy to clean, and powerful, it can make a variety of soups, dips, sauces, and more with just a few flicks of a button. Let’s dive into the best food processors and how to use, clean, purchase, and maintain them.
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My personal favorite: Cuisinart Elemental 8-Cup
I’ve tested this in my kitchen and prefer it for its versatility and size. The Elemental 8 Cup Food Processor from Cuisinart is engineered to handle all sorts of food preparation tasks as required by your recipe. Its large capacity allows for chopping ingredients for a crowd-pleasing serving of salsa. At the same time, its robust motor can effortlessly transform a full work bowl of vegetables into nutritious pureed soups in just a matter of seconds.
The food processor is well-liked among chefs due to its user-friendly rubberized touchpad controls that can be easily cleaned, as well as its reversible shredding and slicing discs.
Best design: KitchenAid 13-Cup Food Processor
This storage caddy is an all-in-one solution for keeping all blades and discs organized and stored directly in the in-bowl storage unit. Adjusting the slicing thickness is easy with the externally adjustable Exact Slice disc, allowing you to switch between thick and thin slices effortlessly. The Snap and Go work bowl is easy to set up with its twist-free, one-click assembly and latched lid, making for a hassle-free cleaning experience.
Add warm water and a few drops of dish soap to the leak-resistant bowl to quickly clean the bowl and blades. With the 3-in-1 Feed Tube, you can process a variety of ingredient shapes and sizes, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, and more, reducing your prep time. The food processor is versatile enough to chop, shred, precision slice, knead, and mix anything from fresh veggies to cheeses, doughs, sauces, salsa, and much more.
Best overall: Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor
Cuisinart’s 14-cup large-capacity food processor has a powerful 720-watt motor, making it capable of handling almost any food preparation task. Whether you want to make a dip, puree soup, or create a sauce like hummus, salsa, or guacamole, the possibilities are endless with this food processor. The 14-cup food processor features an “on” and “off/pulse” button, a Lexan bowl, an extra-large feed tube with small and large pusher bowl sleeves, and a detachable disc stem for easy use and cleanup. The cord length is 36 inches.
The food processor includes a stainless steel standard slicing disc (4mm), a medium shredding disc, a stainless steel chopping/mixing blade, a spatula, an instruction manual, and a recipe booklet. All of the parts are dishwasher-safe for convenient cleaning.
Most bells and whistles: Breville Sous Chef 12-Cup Food Processor
From grating cheese and chopping herbs or nuts to mixing batters and pureeing soups, Breville’s Sous Chef food processor can handle various food preparation tasks. The food processor features a 12-cup capacity BPA-free plastic work bowl and a safety braking system. This prevents the motor from operating unless the bowl and lid are correctly locked in position and the large feed pusher is inserted.
The large 5″ wide feed chute eliminates the need to pre-cut most ingredients, making food preparation more efficient. With the momentary pulse button, you have maximum control and even processing. The food processor includes a micro-serrated S-blade, an adjustable slicer with 24 settings ranging from paper-thin to thick-cut, a reversible shredder, a dough blade, and more.
Best gadget: Vitamix 12-Cup Food Processor Attachment
This food processor attachment from Vitamix is an excellent solution for those who don’t want to store another stand-alone appliance in their kitchen. With a capacity of 12 cups dry and 9 cups wet and made from durable plastic material, this attachment is built to last. The clear bowl, lid, and food pushers allow you to easily monitor the food processing progress. The food processor is easy to assemble and disassemble and features an intuitive storage solution with minimal parts.
The package includes a self-detect base, a 12-cup work bowl, a work bowl lid, two food pushers (one large, one small), an “S” multi-purpose blade, two reversible slice/shred discs and a disc storage case. Note that the motor base is not included. This attachment is compatible with Ascent and Venturist motor bases purchased in the U.S. and Canada but not with Explorian or Legacy bases.
Food Processor vs. Blender
Many people think a blender and a food processor are one and the same. They are, in fact, different appliances with different uses, though some people prefer to own just one or the other. A good rule of thumb to remember is that blenders are better for wet ingredients like soups, smoothies, and salad dressing, while food processors are for dry or tough items, like vegetables, protein, cheese, and other dry goods.
When processing liquids like hot soups or beverages, the hole in the center of the food processor bowl can be a little messier and harder to pour. However, the food processor’s larger base size and surface area may yield more consistent pieces of food.
How To Use A Food Processor
Most food processors generally have only one motor speed, and many have a feed tube at the top that allows you to add ingredients while chopping safely. When working with a food processor, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind:
- Grind in stages to ensure each ingredient grinds or chops properly when considering different textures.
- Start with the ingredients that need to be the most finely chopped, and then add them once the desired texture is achieved.
- Liquids help, so if the recipe calls for oil or anything else, add them as you go along.
- The “pulse” button–is best for kneading dough or quick chopping, and it will allow you to control the speed for short bursts. Pulsing helps clumped food to resettle and drip down to ensure everything gets processed.
- The “low” and “high” settings help to maintain a more consistent grind of the ingredients and usually can be set on continuous mode. This is helpful for making smooth nut butter or adding oils to sauces.
- Scraping down the sides when needed helps to reincorporate large chunks of food stuck to the sides or below the blade.
Food Processor Uses
So, what can you use a food processor for? The versatility of the processor allows for endless prepping and recipe options. Here are some ideas:
- Grinding Meat: Make ground chicken, pork, or beef for meatballs and meatloaf, stir-fries, or even salmon burgers.
- Produce: Chopping, shredding, and slicing fruits and vegetables.
- Cheese: Shredding cheese if you have the attachment.
- Dairy: Ice cream and whipped cream can be made in the food processor.
- Frozen: Large pieces of frozen fruit and ice to make desserts work well.
- Sauces, Dips, and Dressings: Mayonnaise, pesto, hummus, curry paste, salsas, spreads, vinaigrettes.
- Doughs and Crusts: Pasta, bread dough, pizza dough, and pie crusts can be made in a large unit that has high power for working through gluten development. It makes breaking the pieces of butter into tiny pieces in the flour so fast and easy!
- Purees: Baby food and smooth soups.
- Nuts: Grinding nuts into smaller pieces or making homemade almond butter or peanut butter.
- Grains and Cereals: Make your own oat flour or other grains. Breadcrumbs are made in an instant!
- Sugar: Powdered sugar can be made in the food processor.
Cleaning and Maintenance
- To clean, first dismantle the food processor by taking apart each piece, including the blade, cup from the base, and lid from the cup.
- Wash all the removable pieces by hand with warm water and dish soap, taking care not to use any abrasive pads or scrubbers.
- Blades should be wiped down immediately and never soaked.
- Removable parts can also be washed in the dishwasher on the top rack.
- Take a damp cloth and wipe down the base.
- After drying each part completely, put the food processor back together and store it until the next use.
Benefits of Using a Food Processor
- Speed: Unless you find it therapeutic to chop like me, it’s nice to have a little help. When you are in a hurry or working with multiple ingredients for a recipe, a food processor can help with prep, tremendously cutting downtime.
- Versatility: From savory sauces and pie doughs to desserts, this tool can help create various recipes using a quick and powerful blade.
- Healthy: I really like how I have the ability to make healthy meals by taking bulky items like spinach, kale, whole fillets of fish, or chicken breasts and making different recipes in one tool.
The Best Food Processor To Buy
It can be a difficult decision to select the best food processor to buy for your needs. Here are some key things to consider:
- Parts: A food processor should generally come with a work bowl (3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 20 cup size), work bowl cover, chopping blade, and a pusher that helps feed in large, voluminous, or tougher pieces of food through the feed tube.
- Size and Power: If you’re using a food processor as an all-purpose appliance, I suggest getting a full-size processor (8 cups or larger) with at least 600 watts of power. Anything less than that, and you risk it not chopping correctly or running down the motor. A family of four will do well with 11 cups and up. Cooking for one or two or taking on smaller jobs, a mini chopper may be your pick. Look for around a 3-cup processor size for prep work like chopping herbs and nuts or making small quantities of sauce like pesto.
- Speed: Most food processors have speed option buttons for low, high, and pulse. It also helps if there is continuous processing so that you do not have to manually hold down the button for a longer period of time, especially when you’re trying to simultaneously add ingredients to the feed tube.
- Cleaning: It can also be convenient to get one with many dishwasher-safe features, though it’s generally a good idea to hand wash the blades–it keeps them from dulling too quickly.
- Extra Features: Keep an eye out for bells and whistles, too–some fancier food processors come with different-sized bowls and blades, discs for grating cheese and other foods, citrus juicers, and other things. While exciting, consider whether they’ll be used before forking over the extra cash.