Food Processor Comparison
Food Processor Buying Guide
What is a Food Processor?
Food processors have a specific job in the kitchen that a blender can’t do even though they are often looked at as the same item. Food processors break down solid foods that have very little if any liquid and are great for making smoothies and other types of food and drink that call for finely chopped or pureed items.
The blades in a food processor don’t move as fast as the blades in a blender. In fact most food processors have one speed but there are two speed models available that chop even more finely. A good food processor with interchangeable blades can do many things in the kitchen.
They are probably the most versatile item one can have in their kitchen which is why they have become so popular with those who do a lot of cooking. When you start shopping for a food processor, it is important to choose a model that meets the needs and wants of the person buying it or that they are buying it for. Size is important as well. If you purchase a food processor that is too small, and you do a lot of cooking, you will have to do a lot of batches to create the amount you need.
On the other hand, if you don’t need a large volume of food, a large processor becomes wasteful and impractical. There are many different models on the market today and they have a host of features that can add a lot of value to them. What you want to do with your food processor will determine whether you need one with all the bells and whistles or whether you can choose a simpler, more basic model.
This food processor buyer’s guide will help you learn about this popular product and what types of features they have available so you can choose the one that will fit into your cooking duties perfectly and be a great enhancement to your food preparation.
Types of Food Processors
There are two types of food processors available, each with their own variety of subtypes: Manual and Electric.
Manual Food Processors
When one hears the words food processor, they may immediately think of the larger, electric models, but there are many types of manual food processors that will give you the same outcome. They are usually one dimensional in the aspect that they serve a single purpose but there is still a place for the manual models in a kitchen, especially if the cook doesn’t always need large batches of food.
One of the things some cooks like about manual food processors is that they reduce the carbon footprint that meal preparation can involve because they take up less space than an electric model, use less power and work great for small batches of food. Using a larger, electric model for just two people can be on the impractical side, whereas a manual processor would be perfect.
Graters – One type of manual food processor is the grater. There are a few different types of graters that we will describe for you below. The job of the grater is to shred the food quickly into uniform ribbons and can be used for foods like hash browns, macaroni and cheese and other similar foods. The size of the food ribbon will depend on the size of the grater blade. The finer the holes in the grater, the finer the food is grated, for example, like getting the flavorful top layer off of citrus fruits…this would take the finest size of grater.
- Box grater – The box grater is probably the least expensive of all the graters and offers a lot of choices in terms of grating size. They have four different surfaces that do four different grating jobs from slicing thin layers of a food item, to grating rinds. Most box graters are made of tinned steel and cooks will find that if they are not dried properly after washing, they tend to rust fairly quickly. They can also be made of stainless steel and even hard plastic that is available in a variety of colors.
- Rotary grater – These efficient manual food processors make easier work of grating items and are often seen at popular Italian restaurants to grate the fresh blocks of parmesan cheese. The user’s hands will not touch the food at all to shred it which is another reason they are popular in restaurants. Most graters can be used equally by left and right handed users. They are easy to use and clean as well.
- Micro-graters – These stainless steel graters were once designed as woodworking rasps and have ultra fine, super sharp cutting grooves that can create tiny fine ribbons of cheese, citrus zest, ginger and anything else that needs that super fine grating such as nutmeg or cloves. Users may find that micro graters can be a bit more challenging to get clean due to the food particles that get stuck in the tiny crevices. Soaking them immediately after use tends to take care of this.
Choppers – Choppers can save cooks a lot of time and energy. They work by having to food in a covered jar that has a plunger style lid attached to sharp blades. The food is put into the jar or bowl, the lid is fitted onto it and then the cook can thrust the plunger up and down with the palm of their hand and it chops the food. As the blades come up with each push of the plunger, they turn which makes the blades land in a different place each time it cuts into the food. The more the plunger is pushed up and down, the finer the food is chopped.
Food Mills – This type of kitchen item using a rotating crank that is tension based that will force both cooked and soft foods through different disks. These disks are usually interchangeable and have different hole sizes that will affect the texture of the food. These holes mash up the foods and the seeds and skins are separate from the finished mashed item. These items are often used by parents who want to make their own baby food for their children.
Mandolines – This is a popular item used often by chefs for thinly slicing vegetables or fruits. This enables them to cut pieces that are uniform in size much easier than it is to do by hand. The mandolin has a single blade that cuts foods that are slid along the surface of the blade. It sits on adjustable feet and also features a safety guard that will hold the food in place as it crosses the sharp blade. There are many different blade types available with the Mandoline that can include waffle cuts as well as others.
Presses – Presses are similar to food mills in how they work. The food gets pressed through tiny holes. They are often used for cooking with garlic and can also be used for larger items such as with a potato ricer (or press) you will have large pieces of food left behind when you use a press which means the foods that get pressed through the holes are very fine and creamy in consistency. They are smaller and less expensive than food mills.
Electric Food Processors
There are many differences between manual food processors and electric ones, most notably that an electric food processor combines the individual functions that manual processors do, into one item. Because it can do so many functions it makes it very efficient and convenient, especially when cooking recipes that involve a lot of food prep. Electric food processors have a lot of features, some even may be able to knead dough or double as a blender too.
Many come with bowls or pitchers (or both) and have S blades for chopping as well as a few disks for performing other tasks such as slicing or grating food. Some food processors have additional blade types and other disks too. There are several things you want to look for when shopping for a good processor in addition to basic safety measures that most food processors have.
Capacity – Capacity of a food processor will usually be anywhere from 4 cups to 20 cups. For the most part, 10 cup capacity works for most family sizes but you can get a smaller model for small jobs if you don’t want to use manual processors. Unless there are a lot of events going on, a catering business or a super large family, most people will find that the 20 cup models are just a bit too large for everyday use.
Power/Wattage – How often you intend to use your food processor will determine the amount of power or watts you will need. Most 10 quart processors have about 400 watts of power or more. The larger models may have up to 750 watts of power which make them able to handle any food prep job that needs to be done.
Feed Tubes – While this may sound odd, feed tubes are how the foods get dropped or fed into the food processor. You shouldn’t have to cut up the food before you put it into your food processor. That defeats the purpose of having one. You want to find a food processor that has a large feed tube that will allow for large chunks and even whole pieces of fruit and veggies while it’s running. In addition to a large feed tube; look for processors that have plungers that force the food down into the processor blade area safely so the cook doesn’t have to use their fingers.
Electric Choppers and Graters – Just like with the manual varieties, electric food processors also have separate choppers and graters that can be purchased. Choppers usually are smaller than food processors that “do it all” and have limited extra features. Electric choppers are noisy but they save a lot of time in the kitchen at a much smaller price.
Processor Controls – Pretty much all electric food processors will have on/off/pulse buttons. They will either be in a digital format like a touch pad, or be push button or even by switch. There are new models that get pretty fancy when it comes to power controls and offer many more options if the cooks is looking for that capability.
Warranties – most food processors are going to have anywhere from 1-3 year warranties which is always a good thing. Make sure that whatever unit you decide to buy, it comes with as good a warranty as you can find. This is especially important if you plan on using your food processor often.
Cutting Capabilities – Most food processors can chop smaller foods, puree things and shred small items. If you want to make fresh breads or have a lot of tough jobs to do, look for a more powerful model that can handle the workload. This will prevent you from burning up the smaller models by overusing them. If you do a lot of slicing, look for the continuous feed chute which means you can keep adding food even while the food processor is running rather than having to turn it off when the bowl is full.
Ease of Cleaning – One of the things most people don’t like about any kitchen job is cleaning up. Make sure that the food processor you choose is easy to clean. Most have parts that are dishwasher safe and this is preferable. It’s easy to find out what is involved in cleaning your food processor, but on average you will be able to put any bowls, pitchers, cutting blades, or accessories right into the dish washer to wash and just use a damp rag on the outside of the housing to clean the rest of it. Keep your food processor clean and you will have it around for a long time.
Food Processor Safety Tips
As with any electrical appliance, especially one that has sharp blades, safety and being careful is a must. These are not toys and should not be used by children. Following these safety tips can ensure that using your food processor stays an enjoyable endeavor.
- The first thing you should do when you purchase your food processor is to read the instruction and user manuals. A lot of important information is in these manuals and you can learn how to operate your food processor correctly.
- Keep your hands away from the blades and moving parts when the food processor is running. NEVER reach into the processor with it on. Also be sure not to stick wooden spoons, knives, or other utensils into the processor while it is running. When the machine is off and unplugged, then you can reach into it as needed.
- The blades can cut you even when they are not on the processor. Be careful when removing them for washing or to replace them with other types on the food processor. Make a practice of laying them flat on the surface when not using them to avoid inadvertently cutting yourself if you go to reach for one. Keep them out of reach of children at all times. They can still get cut even if they are just lying in a drawer.
- Ensure that the work bowl you are using is securely locked onto the processor according to manufacturer’s rules before placing the disks on the motor shaft. This will prevent the bowl from being thrown off or broken while you are using it.
- No food or other ingredients should be added to the bowl until the blades and disks have been installed and secured.
- If you are feeding food into the processor unit with a pusher or plunger, never, never, never use your fingers to push the food down. That is what the plunger and pusher is for. This will prevent a nasty accident from the blades making contact with your fingers.
- Before taking the cover off the work bowl, make sure that the blades have stopped moving completely.
- Before you take out any food or take it apart to clean it, be sure that the food processor is unplugged and turned off.
- You need to remove the work bowl from the base of the processor before you remove any disks or the blades.
- Make sure your hands are dry before plugging the food processor in. The same applies when you are unplugging it.
- Never let children operate the food processor or even be around it when an adult isn’t right there. If a parent is supervising (standing right there watching) an older child could possibly drop food into the feed tube as long as the adult is right there with them making sure they don’t use their fingers but the pusher/plunger. It can be very dangerous so use discretion when allowing the child to do anything with it. A better idea is to have them hand YOU the food to feed into the tube…much safer.
- Don’t submerge the motor unit into water of any kind. Only use a damp rage to wipe the outside of the casing.
- Make sure that there is nothing wrong with the power cord before plugging it in. Any frayed spots, broken wires or cut places means don’t turn it on at all! Replace cords can be purchased if something happens to the first one.
- Don’t overuse the food processor you have. If you need a lot of capacity or use, make sure to buy one that is designed for it.
- Don’t let the cord hang over the counter or where a child can get a hold of it and pull it down onto them.
- Make sure that the work bowl cover is securely attached to the bowl before the processor is turned on.
- Do not leave the kitchen when the food processor is on.
- Only use the food processor for what it is intended for.
- If food blocks the feed tube and the pusher can’t dislodge it, turn off the food processor and unplug it before taking it apart to get it clear. Care still needs to be taken around the blades.
Food processors make food prep and cooking much more enjoyable as well as time saving. There are many great models on the market today that can do all kinds of things from making shaved ice to kneading bread. (this takes a special blade) with the information in this buyer’s guide, you will know what types of food processors there are out there and what they each can do for you.
You will also know what types of features you can expect to see and decide just how much or how little you need in the way of these extra features. There are all sizes of food processors as well and in this guide you’ve learned how to decide what size will work for the size jobs you have. Food processors make a great addition to any kitchen and if you’re like most people who buy one, you won’t be able to imagine being without it.
- Cuisinart – http://www.cuisinart.com/
- Hamilton Beach – http://www.hamiltonbeach.com/
- Ninja – http://www.ninjakitchen.com/