Anyone who cooks at home knows how time-consuming and repetitive it can be to cut up ingredients by hand, especially if there is a large amount of food to prepare. The fastest and easiest way to overcome this challenge is with a food processor. The food processor was invented in 1971 by Frenchman Pierre Verdon and later refined by the founder of Cuisinart in 1973. Since then, hundreds of thousands of food processors have been sold worldwide because people everywhere realize the value of having such an efficient tool in their home kitchen.
There are several factors to keep in mind when you’re shopping for a food processor. First of all, is it better to have a food processor or a blender? Apart from price, which can range from $40 to more than $300, there are considerations of size, power, and available features in different models. Read on to see some of the best food processors for home cooks, whether that cook is you or someone else.
- BEST OVERALL: Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Stack & Snap Food Processor
- BEST SMALL: Cuisinart DLC-2ABC Mini-Prep Plus Food Processor
- MOST VERSATILE: Ninja Mega Kitchen System (BL770) Blender/Processor
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Food Processor
Some of the major factors to consider when choosing the best food processor for your home cooking needs include bowl capacity, motor power, types and numbers of blades, and more.
A bigger bowl capacity means you can make large batches of whatever you’re preparing. It also means the appliance will take up more room in your kitchen. A very large bowl might also be an issue for washing; it might be clumsy washing by hand or take up too much room in your dishwasher. Some models feature an additional mini-bowl (or two) with their own blade sizes, which comes in handy for small batches.
Standard-size food processors have about an 8-cup capacity. Small or mini food processors have a 3-cup to 5-cup capacity, and commercial processors can have up to a 32-cup capacity. Of course, even if you create a lot of leftovers, you can always save them for another day with the right storage containers.
There may be nothing more frustrating than having a tool that just isn’t powerful enough to get the job done. Perhaps worse would be burning out the motor when you’re only midway through the job. If your food processor needs to perform challenging tasks like chopping nuts, kneading dough, or pureeing stubborn ingredients, you’ll benefit from a more powerful motor.
For a larger food processor, make sure the motor has at least 450 watts of power behind it for basic vegetable preparation and at least 1,000 watts for tougher jobs like kneading dough. Crushing ice will require a motor that is much more powerful, closer to 1,500 watts. If it’s a small or mini food processor, a 250-watt to 300-watt motor should do the trick. An induction motor—which provides torque via electromagnetic induction fields—can provide stronger, more reliable power and is less likely to burn out compared to other motors.
The most common blade in a food processor is known as an “S” blade due to its shape. An “S” blade can be a straight edge or a finely serrated blade that is ideal for quicker, more even cuts.
Food processors also have specially designed disk blades that attach near the feeding tube/chute, which are excellent for thinly slicing vegetables or meats. Other blades include shredding disks for foods like cheeses or potatoes and hard, plastic blades for kneading doughs for pizza or cookies.
The most important function of any food processor is to chop ingredients with high efficiency and speed. A single curved blade spinning at high speed is the core method to achieve this goal. If the food processor’s motor is strong enough, a continuously spinning “S” blade will eventually puree your ingredients.
Larger, more sophisticated food processors offer a wider variety of functions. In addition to the standard chopping feature, these models can perform functions like blending smoothies and crushing ice. Overall, more power behind the blade means more functions that will be available to you.
The most basic food processors have a simple one-touch, single-button operation that causes the internal blade to spin until deactivated. A second button allows for pulse activation that enables you to have more immediate control over the amount of processing required since the pulse button only works when you’re applying pressure to it. The best food processors for home cooks feature controls that make them easy and comfortable to use.
Lid and Feeding Tube
A feeding tube—also called a chute—with the capacity to handle various shapes and sizes of ingredients can prove very useful. Consider a large vegetable like a carrot as an example. Because carrots come in all different sizes, it saves time and effort to not have to cut them up before putting them in the food processor. Many models also feature adjustable sizes for the feeding tube, so you don’t have to cut pieces to roughly the same size before processing. Still, remember to always use the plunger to push the ingredients down toward the spinning blades; never use your fingers.
The lid should fit tightly with a strong enough seal to avoid leaks yet not so strong as to be difficult to open and close frequently. Look for lids with a safety feature that prevents the food processor from operating if the lid isn’t locked.
In addition to different types of blades, the most common attachments or accessories for food processors include:
- storage boxes for safely stowing away unused blades
- mini bowls for smaller batches of ingredients
- blender bowls for more liquid ingredients
Some food processors offer mixing glasses that use their own specially designed blending caps for making smoothies.
Our Top Picks
Every home cook has different standards, ambitions, and needs for what he or she would like to accomplish in the kitchen. Meeting the criteria listed above, these recommendations for some of the best food processors can help you find a model that suits your meal preparation plans.
Not only is this 12-cup-capacity food processor versatile and easy-to-operate, but it can prep food for a family meal. The 450-watt, two-speed Hamilton Beach model has an extra-wide feeding tube that can fit larger foods, like a whole avocado, for easy, quick processing and less prep time.
The “Stack & Snap” in the product name refers to a unique assembly system that doesn’t require twisting and locking the bowl to the base like other food processors. This patent-pending system allows for a faster and easier setup. The bowl seamlessly snaps into the base without concern about whether it’s correctly secured and functional.
This food processor is also one of the lightest of all models in its class at only 6.57 pounds, making it much easier to move and store. A more powerful motor would be an improvement for a food processor of this size, but if your culinary ambitions are modest, then it is a solid buy for not much money.
One of the biggest complaints about food processors is how much room they take up on your kitchen counter. If you want a machine that saves time and effort processing a few simple ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you don’t need a juggernaut to do it.
This 250-watt model from Cuisinart is a 3-cup-capacity food processor measuring only 5 by 7 inches and weighing a little over 2 pounds. With this compact size, it’s easy to find space for it even in the most crowded kitchen, and you’ll still have the convenience of owning a food processor. However, if power is what you need for the task at hand—such as grinding coffee beans—any food processor this small will likely come up short. The bowl is dishwasher-safe and includes a specially designed spatula.
Few food processors on the market can crush ice, but this model from Ninja is one of them. This 2-horsepower machine boasts a whopping 1,500 watts of electrical might behind it to pulverize ice into snow for your frozen drinks or snow cones. It also includes a variety of bowls and blades to handle almost any kind of food preparation.
While you can use the attachments however they work best for your needs, the 72-ounce crushing pitcher is intended for crushing ice, the 8-cup-capacity bowl makes ingredient processing a breeze, and the two 16-ounce cups are ideal for creating smoothies. All the bowls, pitchers, and cups are BPA-free and dishwasher-safe. The base features four variable speeds for blending or chopping, lending to its versatility. While this particular food processor does not include a vegetable slicer, the specialized dough blade can mix 2 pounds of dough in only 30 seconds.
FAQs About Your New Food Processor
If you’re new to food processors, read on for a few frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers about these handy appliances. As always, refer to the instructions that come with your food processor very carefully and follow them to ensure safe and efficient operation. Many manufacturers often include a toll-free number or Twitter handle for further questions if you still have any after reading this guide.
Q. What is the difference between a food processor and a blender?
A blender is more suited to liquid contents like smoothies or shakes, whereas a food processor is better equipped to handle solid foods that require labor-intensive prepping, such as slicing or dicing.
Q. What should I look for when buying a food processor?
Features to look for include power, versatility, blade types, bowl sizes, and control options.
Q. What size food processor do I need?
The size of food processor you need depends on the amount and types of food you wish to prepare.
Q. Can I put ice in a food processor?
Only put ice in a food processor if it is specifically designed for it; otherwise, you’ll dull the blades and possibly damage the bowl.