Food Processor Features To Look For
Capacity and Size
One of the first things to look for in a good food processor is one that has the capacity to meet your needs. With capacity comes size, it is a good idea to determine how much counter space you can devote, or storage space you can afford for one. The average food processor tends to have between 6 to 11 cups dry capacity, which means that its wet capacity will be about half of that. The average size is around 9 cups dry capacity. If you have a particular need to frequently use one, or enjoy making large batches of a recipe, then you should look for a model that will meet both your available space and level of usage. Keep in mind that the higher the capacity, the larger the size and price tag.
Every food processor is going to produce some level of noise, be it from the motor turning the blades, to the simple sound of the food getting broken apart and bounced around the bowl/compartment. Standard models will sometimes be rated as quieter than others, but to get the quietest available food processor, look for professional quality models. The added level of craftsmanship and quality put into commercial and professional grade food processors can make all the difference in the world where noise levels are concerned.
Sturdy, Weighted Base
One of the most basic features to look for in a good food processor is a sturdy, weighted base. Like any other machine that has a quickly spinning mechanic, a balanced and sturdy base will help ensure it does not get wobbly, or “walk away” while being used. Lower quality, or poorly designed models, will often have an issue with both noise and weight, making them rather unpleasant to use and potentially messy. Be sure to look for a food processor that has a stable design and an even heft that you can still manage to move around as needed, but that will keep the machine where it’s placed when in use.
While in theory any model sold on the market has been tested for safety, it is important to note that not all companies include a lot of features in this respect. Be sure to look for features such as secure locking lids, firm seating and locks for the base and processing compartment, and most ideally, a safety feature to prevent accidental starts, or starts when some element is not locked into place. Other simple features that fall into the ideal safe design include a system for keeping the feed tube covered during operation.
Feed Tube Size
The feed tube, guide tube, or load tube as it can be referred to is the chute through which you can drop things into the processor. On some models this is the main way in which you will load them. If you use a lot of recipes that require complex combinations of ingredients, or if you like to refine down larger foods, like meats and potatoes, then be sure to look for a model that has a large enough chute to accommodate your needs.
Food processors should come with a basic set of accessories. These are and S-shaped blade to do the majority of its tasks (chopping/pureeing/mincing), discs for slicing or grating, and a plastic blade for mixing and kneading dough. Lower end models may only come with the S-shaped blade and perhaps a plastic dough blade. If you merely need a food processor for the basic mincing and whatnot, then there is no need to worry about what extras a model comes with, as that is one feature all food processors need to have to be a food processor.
Best Food Processor Brands
Food processors were first introduced into the mainstream world of the culinary arts in 1973 by Cuisinart, and since that time, they have remained a name that is synonymous with quality food processors. Their current lineup includes nineteen different models that are designed for both at home and professional level usage. The Cuisinart Mini-Prep series and the Cuisinart Elite are two prime examples of how versatile their collection is. The former is a very basic and reliable food processor, while the latter is a professional quality model that is priced well below what one might expect. As a trademark of the company, they pack innovation into long lasting and reasonably priced packages, which is a large part of why they continue to be so popular.
One of the few brands that can give Cuisinart some close competition in terms of popularity, Hamilton Beach has a selection of sixteen different food processors. They specialize in keeping their models within very reasonable price ranges, while still offering the features people want most. One of their top selling models, the Hamilton Beach 70730 Processor with Bowl Scraper, features a large capacity bowl, wide-mouthed feed tube, and helpful attachments. Another hallmark for the Hamilton Beach processors is their tendency to make as much of the parts as possible dishwasher safe.
Black and Decker
While Black and Decker has been a name around many in the garage, their line of products includes power tools, cleaning tools, and small home appliances. Despite being a very diverse company, their wide assortment of food processing appliances is well received and reasonably priced. They make everything from very basic electronic chopping cups, to professional quality food processors. The Black and Decker FP 10600 is one of their most popular and best selling models, which boasts an 8 cup capacity and wide-mouthed feed tube. Some of the telltale signs to expect from Black and Decker food processors are very simple and sturdy designs that last a long time.
From small appliances and kitchenware to larger appliances and fixtures, KitchenAid has been a source of quality home goods for the last few decades. While not as popular as other brands, they are fairly well known for providing a large selection of available accessories to their flagship Pro Line series. Their focus is more towards making a high quality model, and providing a means for it to be adjustable to meet your at home, or even professional level needs.
There are many other brands of food processor available on the market today, with some that specialize in the most basic designs (Proctor Silex), or others (Breville) that focus on nothing but professional quality machines. Industrial culinary brands, such as Robot Coupe, are purely for restaurant or production line operations, where they would be used to process vast quantities of ingredients quickly, and all day long. However, since all food processing involves the same basic operations, it is advised to consider what your processing needs are and then look more for a brand that is known to specialize in the level of processing you need, than a specific model.
Features of Professional & Commercial Food Processors
Industrial food processors are capable of handling hundreds of pounds of mixed foods a day. They are also generally set up to hold larger than normal quantities or to continuous process foods that fed into them. When looking for a quality home model, consider that anything beyond 11 cups is usually professional quality, or bordering on industrial, and excessive for most home cooks. Look for models that do not exceed your usage, or you will more than likely end up paying more than you need to.
A noticeable difference between standard food processors and professional quality models is the level of noise that they produce when in operation. Food processors that are designed for a lot of use in a professional setting tend to have powerful and better built motors than basic, everyday models. The improved craftsmanship results in quieter blades and often less issues with instability, which can add to the noisiness. If noise is an issue, or if you will be using a food processor frequently, look for models that rate themselves as being quieter (Cuisinart for one has gotten awards for being quiet) than other models or brands.
In addition to having a quieter motor, higher, professional quality food processors tend to work more expediently than lower grade models. While quicker is not always better, for a chef running a busy kitchen, a crying baby in want of fresh food, or a surprise family diner you’ve been elected to host, a reliable and quick-working food processor can be your best friend. Look for models that relate how expedient they can produce results, just keep in mind, like most above standard features, it will often cost more.
One popular use for a food processor is preparing dough. Both standard and commercial quality models are available with this capacity, which means the level of investment you should make will depend on how much you plan to use it. Some models come with the settings and accessories for kneading, while others are merely set up to have the accessories added after the fact. If you do a lot of dough preparation, look for models that have more versatility in regards to styles of kneading, or speeds, to help find the one that will best fit your needs.
Most food processors have standard controls, such as buttons and knobs that are clearly labeled. With more advanced models, the controls can get quite sophisticated. Digital displays and LCD screens with menus are common features for professional and commercial food processors. Look for precise controls that are easy to read and use, which can often be found on professional models, especially those with digital displays.
Far from standard, the inclusion of an herb bowl accessory is more common with professional food processors. An herb bowl is basically just a smaller, more compact container for processing herbs and spices. These can be quite useful for people who prepare a lot of fresh or dried spices and sauces. If your food processing needs involve a lot of finer or smaller quantity projects, look for models that either come with an herb bowl, or that have it as an available accessory to purchase.
Continuous Feed Accessory
In addition to professional additions, such as a smaller bowl for processing, another option more common with commercial grade food processors is an attachment that allows for continuous processing. These adapters typically have a wide-mouthed feed tube, a round chamber, and another chute for food to leave from. They come in a wide range of styles and options, but like food processors themselves, all serve the same basic purpose; to keep productivity moving as quickly as possible. If you tend to find yourself processing a lot of foods, to the point that stopping between each batch is becoming tedious for you, look for a professional grade adapter or model that has a continuous feed adapter.
Distinguishing a Food Chopper From A Processor
One of the most common mistakes made when shopping for a food processor, is selecting a chopper instead of an actual processor. The major differences include the style of blade used and the level of fineness the food can get diced into. Choppers are also not capable of being used for dough’s, are often smaller, and are a great deal noisier than even a standard food processor. Look for a list of functions (dice/mince/puree) and capabilities (dough kneading) when browsing through compact food processors, it is fairly common to find simple choppers often listed along with compact processors.
Blenders Are Not Processors
A common assumption that people have is that you can just use a blender when a recipe calls for something to be processed. While in one aspect, yes, a blender will break food down into smaller bits, the results are not going to be the same, which can alter the outcome of a recipe. Blenders typically use a set of cross-facing blades that rotate, and roughly chop bits up, but are more designed for blending things together. A processor uses a curved S-shaped blade and even rotation to finely and more evenly slice up food. If want something to handle both tasks, look for combination appliances that come with both blenders food processor attachments. Both Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach sell models with interchangeable blender/processor tops.
Sizing Is Not Always Accurate
Standard, full sized, food processors can range between 6 to 9 cups, with some models listing as high as 14 to 20. A common misconception is that the capacity listed is completely accurate. For most models, even professional or commercial food processors, the actual capacity tends to be plus or minus 1 to 2 cups. Keep this in mind when considering what size of food processor to purchase. Look for models that have bowls/containers large enough to hold the processed volumes you need, and also remember that as a lot of food processes down, the volume can relatively change, since it is being broken down into a more compact form.
Proper Upkeep Is Important
Food processors need to be broken down and cleaned properly after each use. Food particulates and oils can get caked up into the joints on blades and not only lead to a decrease in performance, but also a weakening of the blade. Opting for models that are easy to clean is one way busy chefs can help keep up with everything else that goes on with the meal. Look for models that break down easily, and are versatile in how they can be cleaned (dishwasher safe is not always a given, especially for the blades).
For people who intend to make a lot of use out of their food processor, it is important to consider how it will fit in with the other appliances. Just about all major brands carry the basic color scheme (black, white, stainless), but some carry quite a few more. KitchenAid for example, has standard and professional grade models that come in a veritable rainbow of colors. While it may seem like an afterthought compared to the functional features, larger models that tend to end up left on the counter will be seen quite a bit. Options for finding one that fits with the rest of the kitchen’s décor falls to either color coordinating when possible, or simply getting the sleekest and closest fitting model in the standard colors. Look around your kitchen and try to visualize what the ideal food processor for you would look like, and how you want it to fit with the rest of the appliances and décor.