What Is a Food Processor?
A food processor is a tool designed to make repetitive kitchen activities go very quickly. Chopping, mincing, grinding, pureeing, slicing and shredding are all repetitive chores that are made much easier with a food processor, especially when done in quantity.
While there are some non-electric food processors on the market (mandolins), most of us think of an electric appliance that has interchangeable blades housed in a work bowl generally made of clear plastic.
A Brief History of the Food Processor
In the history of kitchen equipment, food processors are relative new-comers to the scene. They made their appearance in commercial kitchens in 1960. These very reliable commercial workhorse machines were introduced by Robot Coupe (say Ro-Bo-Koo) and are still in production today.
Home cooks in Great Britain could purchase a Magimix (produced by Robot Coupe) back in 1972, and North American home cooks were introduced to the Cuisinart food processor in 1973.
Do I Really Need a Food Processor?
Even less expensive food processors of good quality can set you back a bit, so before buying, ask yourself these questions.
- Do you do a lot of chopping, mincing, slicing and/or shredding?
- Do you make a lot of homemade dips and salsas?
- Would you use a food processor at least once a month?
- Do you have enough storage room in your kitchen/on your counter? (You’ll need 1 to 1 ½ cubic feet of space)
- Do you have a dish washer? (Food processors have lots of pieces that need cleaning. All I’ve seen are dishwasher safe, and it’s safer to clean the sharp blade in a dishwasher than by hand).
If you answered “yes” to at least three of these five questions, you probably need (and probably more importantly, would use on a regular basis) a food processor.
Can’t I Just Use My Blender, Instead?
The short answer is “no.”
Blenders are designed with a conical bottom and require at least some liquid to keep food moving around through the blades. A food processor, with its broad, flat bottom and its wide sweeping blade does not require any added liquid.
In fact, putting very “liquidy” ingredients in a food processor can result in a bit of a mess. If you already own a blender or an immersion blender and you answered “yes” to at least three of the above question, you probably could benefit from owning a food processor, too.
What Should I Look for in a Food Processor?
Since all food processors basically do the same tasks, you will want to find a powerful food processor that can process food quickly and consistently.A heavy chassis will keep the food processor from “walking” during heavy-duty processing tasks.
- A large capacity—at least 9 cups. Keep in mind, if you are processing liquid ingredients, the effective bowl capacity is just about cut in half.
- A wide feed tube. A wider tube lets you push larger pieces of food through.
- Safety features. You want to make sure that the bowl locks onto the base and that the top locks onto the bowl and that the processor will not start unless the unit is locked together securely.
- Simple controls. Many models offer a wide array of speeds, but since processing takes place very quickly, you really only need On/Off/Pulse.
Optional Features That are Nice but not Essential
Extra attachments. Most food processors come with a stainless steel S-shaped chopping/mincing/pureeing blade, a plastic dough blade and slicer/grater discs.
Any other attachments are nice but not essential.A mini chopping attachment. Some models come with a smaller 2-4 cup mini bowl and blade, perfect for processing small amounts of food, such as herbs for a garnish.
Touch pad controls. These models have buttons that are behind a sheet of plastic. Nice for keeping food out of cracks, this feature makes a food processor easier to clean.
Instructional DVD. All food processors come with an instructional booklet with recipes. For visual learners, the DVD makes a nice addition to the instructional packet.
Continuous feed slicer/shredder. This is an extra attachment that allows you to slice or shred as many vegetables or as much cheese as you want without having to stop and empty the bowl. A chute directs the processed food into another bowl instead of depositing it in the integrated work bowl.
onlinesources: Food Processors
Food Processor models change so quickly that I could recommend one today and tomorrow it might be obsolete. So I suggest you go by brand names. There are several very good manufacturers of food processors and I suggest you take a look at Cuisinart, KitchenAid and Viking.
Check out a few of my favorite picks below and find a model that fits your needs. Remember, you don't have to have the biggest, baddest processor if you don't do a lot of cooking, but they sure look good and are fun to own.
There are lots of sources for purchasing quality small kitchen appliances including blenders, toaster and mixers. I suggest you check out your local department stores and kitchen supply shops.