Food guru Mark Bittman, writing for The New York Times, has declared the blender "an endangered species." A good food processor, he argues, can do everything a blender can do, and lots more besides. His own blender, in fact, has been shut unused in the closet for over a year, while his food processor has earned a permanent place on his "itsy-bitsy counter."
There's no denying that a food processor can do many jobs a blender can't. It can slice vegetables, shred cabbage, knead bread dough and make flaky piecrust. But what about the foods that both a blender and a food processor can handle, like smoothies or hummus? Which appliance does a better job with these? Based on professional test results and user feedback, here's how these machines would fare in a small-appliance boxing match:
Round 1: Grating
Winner: Food processor
Consumer Reports grates Parmesan cheese with both blenders and food processors. More than half of all appliances in both categories were better than average at this task, but several blenders earned failing grades, while no food processor did.
Round 2: Puréeing veggies
The blender is a knockout in this round nearly every time according to two expert testers. About half of all food processors in one test showed subpar performance at puréeing peas and carrots. When another group of testers used blenders to make hummus, five out of eight blenders did an above-average job.
Round 3: Making soups
The weak spot for most food processors is how they handle large volumes of liquid. Although Bittman claims "some new food processors have water-tight seals on the top and bottom, so you can purée liquids for soups and drinks," our food processor report did not uncover any that excelled at this task. Blenders win this round thanks to their build and capacity. However a hand blender can be especially handy for soups, as it can do the puréeing right in the pot with no need to pour the soup into another container.
Round 4: Making cold drinks
Some owners say their food processors are great for making smoothies. However, in a Chowhound discussion thread at Chow.com, users who own both say the blender is better for smoothies and shakes. It's also deemed "far superior" at crushing ice--although it's worth noting that some cheaper blenders don't handle this task well.
Round 5: Salad dressing
When it comes to whipping up creamy mayonnaise, all eight food processors tested by Cook's Illustrated--including those that fail at other key tasks--can handle the job competently. For more delicate vinaigrettes, on the other hand, even Bittman admits he still uses an immersion blender.
The Decision: Blender Wins!
The blender is the undisputed winner when it comes to tasks that both machines can handle. On the other hand, the food processor wins hands-down on versatility, with a greater variety of functions. The general consensus among owners is that these two machines have very different strengths and weaknesses, and it's worth making room in your kitchen for both. Several users find an immersion-style blender the best complement to a food processor, as it can easily handle the blending and puréeing tasks for which the larger machine isn't ideal.