Food processor technology has come a long way over the years - as has the affordability of the latest devices. At its core, a food processer is simply an electric appliance fitted with sharp blades designed to dice (see the best food processors for dicing), puree and process various types of ingredients. From fruits to vegetables to bread to cheese to meat to ice and so much more, a food processor can work wonders with a long list of wet and dry ingredients.
Using a food processor is all about simplifying all manner of prep tasks in the kitchen. After picking up a food processor for the first time, you typically never go back to the manual way of preparing ingredients for your favorite recipes.
But what’s important to be aware of is the main differences between a food processor and a blender (see 'food processor vs blender' post). Both of which are exceptionally versatile appliances, though they have very different functions and capabilities. Which tool best suits your requirements are up to you to decide, but the best approach of all is to arm yourself (and your kitchen) with both! In addition, check out our 'Stand Mixer vs Food Processor' and 'Food Processor Vs. Mixer' comparisons.
Food Processors: The Basics
As the name suggests, a food processor is designed to ‘process’ ingredients in a wide variety of ways. Even the most basic food processing appliance will usually ship with a variety of different attachments, designed for chopping (see 'Food Processor Vs. Chopper') , slicing, mixing, grating, crushing, and so on.
Negotiating the initial learning curve with a new food processor takes a while, but there really is no going back once you get the hang of it. They’re quick and easy to use for an endless list of purposes (see 'Food Processor Uses'), making it easier to cook up your favorite recipes in no time at all.
Far easier than using things like a potato masher, a traditional cheese grater (see the best food processor for grating cheese), and a set of kitchen knives to prep your ingredients.
Food Processor Blades and Accessories
Attachments and accessories should be carefully considered when shopping for food processors. Most come with a variety of blades and attachments and for chopping things in different ways (see 'Food Processor Blades'). You’ll typically find a series of basic attachments included in every kit, which can be used to perform most of the basic tasks you need.
For example, there will be a grating disc you can swap out the blades for, which is great for shredding cheese and grating all different types of fruits and vegetables in general. Most food processors also ship with a slicing disc, which, as the name suggests, enables a wide variety of fruits and veggies to be sliced to the desired thickness.
Depending on the food processor you buy, you could also find any number of additional gadgets and attachments available as optional extras. Some of which bring genuinely useful additional features into the mix, though others are purely optional and of limited practical value.
The standard blades included in a processor are perfect for pureeing, making smooth sauce, blending the soup, and so on.
How to Use a Food Processor
Using a food processor the right way means understanding its capabilities and limitations. There are some things that food processors can process to perfection (like hummus), resulting in the dreamiest consistency in a matter of seconds. Conversely, there are other things (like mashed potato) that aren’t particularly well suited to most devices.
Hence, it’s important to know when and where to use a food processor and when it’s best to perform tasks the old-fashioned way. Not to mention what kinds of ingredients are compatible with a food processor and which functions to use accordingly.
1. If you are looking to chop dry ingredients - anything from nuts to carrots to onions - you can start out by using the pulse setting (best food processors for pie crust all have the feature) to chop them down into smaller pieces. At which point, you can continue and make them as small as you want them to be, rather than grinding them down to a puree.
2. When pureeing wet ingredients - or a combination of wet and dry ingredients - you can switch on the food processor to a higher setting and let it do its thing. Some processors feature a special puree setting, which can be fantastic for making smooth sauces, creamy soups, and delicious smoothies.
3. Some appliances come with additional attachments that can be used for prepping the dough, which can subsequently be used for all types of home baking projects. From bread to cookies to cakes to pizza dough, it’s often a case of simply tossing in the ingredients and letting the special attachment do its thing.
4. Depending on the function you intend to perform with your machine, the best results could be achieved by processing your ingredients in batches. This is often a better approach than filling the container to its maximum capacity, which can lead to issues with consistency.
5. Keep your machine and all of its attachments in the best possible condition at all times in order to preserve their sharpness and cutting capabilities. Check carefully whether each tool, blade, and accessory can be safely cleaned in the dishwasher or washed by hand if unsure.
What’s The Difference Between A Food Processor And A Blender?
The difference is actually self-explanatory, as indicated in the name. The most sophisticated blenders on the market these days are worlds apart from those of years gone by. They’re exceptionally powerful, fantastically versatile, and capable of performing a variety of functions.
However, the main function of a blender is to do just that - to blend ingredients finely and consistently. A blender can be the perfect tool for making soup, blitzing together a smoothie, or combining all manner of liquids together (see also 'Food Processor Vs. Juicer'). They can even be used to blend nuts to such a fine extent as to make your own nut milk or nut butter.
Fantastic devices, but typically lacking the precision and control you get with a food processor. You can easily make fantastic pesto in a blender, but attempting to shred cheese or slice vegetables in the same machine really isn’t a good idea.
The preferred approach to many is to have both a food processor and a blender on hand in the kitchen. If simply looking to blitz a bunch of ingredients into a paste or liquid, a blender is comprehensively easy to use. You just toss in your ingredients, press the button, old-fashioned and let it do its thing. After which, most of the components can be tossed in the dishwasher.
But when it comes to the more precise and advanced functions of quality food processors, no blender can perform on the same level. And nor are they designed to, as these are two very different cooking aids with different purposes in mind.
How Much Do I Need To Spend On A Food Processor?
Last but not least, it’s entirely up to you to determine how much you want or need to spend on your next electronic appliance. At one end of the market, you have the entry-level machines you can pick up for no more than around $50. Despite not bringing the longest list of features and functionalities to the table, these basic food processors can still make life in the kitchen a lot easier.
In fact, there’s no specific relation between the price of food processors and how helpful any given appliance is. It depends entirely on how you plan to use it - the occasional spin to blend some veggies won’t call for a $1,000+ machine.
That said, the highest-quality food processors on the market really can transform the way you approach all manner of everyday cooking tasks. They can reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen and ensure more consistent results with everything you cook. Once you’ve negotiated that initial learning curve, you genuinely wonder how you ever got by without your trusty food processor.