A food processor is a kitchen must-have -- no matter what size your kitchen
Food processors have long been a favorite kitchen appliance for chopping and dicing veggies, whipping up dips and puréeing sauces. They also excel at emulsions and, with the right blade attachments, they can save cooks time on tasks like mixing and kneading dough, shredding potatoes, grating cheese, or grinding meat. Some even have specialty discs for making French fries or for ultra-fine veggie slices. Regardless of what you do in the kitchen, we can guarantee that a food processor will save you some time.
Types of food processors
A full-size food processor will more than earn its keep if you cook a lot, bake, or have a larger family. These typically have a capacity of 7 to 20 cups, and most come with a variety of blades and discs to handle just about any food prep task. This includes shredding discs for grating carrots or shredding potatoes, cutting discs for slicing, hooks for mixing dough, and, of course, several different blades for chopping, mincing, mixing and pureeing. These food processors can range in price from less than $100 to $400 or more. What you want to spend depends upon how often you will use the machine and what kind of demands you will place on it.
Mini food processors are just that: food processors that are small in size, but not in performance. Some of these little guys -- usually about a 2- to 4-cup capacity -- can outperform their big brothers when it comes to chopping and mincing. However, they just don't hold as much, and the smallest of them won't accommodate slicing or shredding discs. Mini food processors are often lumped-in with food choppers (see below), but they do more than just chop. A mini food processor also costs less than a full-sized processor -- most are under $50 -- so you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Food choppers are handy little tools to have around the kitchen. Sometimes they're small electric appliances -- not very powerful, just enough to dice up an onion or grind some nuts. However, many of the most popular are manual devices that you turn a crank to grind, or "slap" with your hand to chop up your ingredients on a cutting board. They make short work of small quantities of nuts, herbs, peppers and other foods when you just need a cup or less to toss into a recipe or salad. Casual cooks and those with poor knife skills love them for quickly and evenly dicing and mincing. They're particularly popular with people who don't like the tears that come from dealing with onions.
Do you need a food processor, or are you looking for a blender?
Most of the complaints we found across the board about food processors are that they don't perform well in processing recipes that require a lot of liquids, like soups, salad dressings, milkshakes, drinks, etc. They splatter and leak, users say. We largely discount these types of user complaints when evaluating food processor feedback because they're not a fair criticism -- food processors aren't really made for those types of jobs. If you want an appliance that can puree soups and make milkshakes or thin sauces, you want a good blender, and we cover those in our blender report. If you just need to process fairly small amounts of liquids, say, individual cups of soup or a single shake, see our report on immersion blenders. And, if you want to make smoothies or juice drinks, you'll love our report on juicers.
How we found the best food processors
To make our top picks in food processors, we analyzed the results of professional tests from experts at ConsumerReports.org, Cook's Illustrated, Good Housekeeping and TheSweetHome.com. They thoroughly test food processors, seeing how evenly and quickly they chop, mince, puree, grate and mix. They also give feedback on noise and the stability of the unit while it's working. In addition, we give quite a bit of weight to owner reviews because they are the best resource for learning about real-world performance and long-term durability. We pored over hundreds of owner reviews for each of the food processors we chose, weeding out feedback that was clearly less helpful, and focused on trends -- both complimentary and critical. This gave us a consensus of the opinions offered by thoughtful, knowledgeable users that was extremely helpful in finalizing our selections. The results of our research is our picks for the best food processors for every type of cook and every size kitchen.
Best Food Processors
A good food processor can perform a variety of food prep tasks
A well-built, full-size food processor -- usually 7 to 20 cups -- is a great tool to have around for the serious or frequent cook or baker. It can do everything from quickly chopping an onion to kneading dough, even performing really tough jobs like mixing meat for loaves or meatballs. Even if you just need a food processor for occasional use, it can save a lot of time cutting, chopping and grating -- perfect for people who may not have the best knife skills. If you don't need a food processor very often, or are just using it to chop and mince, we have suggestions for budget food processors further down this page. If you're just cooking for one or two people, or don't have a lot of storage space, see our recommendations for small food processors; we include food choppers there as well, which are handy tools if you just need something for dicing small quantities.
If you're like most people, you'll probably only use a few basic attachments with your food processor, which is why the Cuisinart DFP-14BCN 14-Cup (Est. $180) is our top pick. Simple but versatile enough for most kitchens, the DFP-14BCN includes a chopping blade and discs for slicing and grating. Although it does not include a smaller bowl, in professional tests its well-designed blades were able to handle even small quantities without splattering or pulverizing them. If you need more tools, additional attachments are available for this Cuisinart so you can customize it to your needs. In fact, it's also often referred to as the Cuisinart Custom.
In professional tests the Cuisinart DFP-14BCN performs very well in every job it's given, getting particular kudos for handling pie crust and cookie dough -- two very tough tasks for a food processor. However, it also gets top marks for chopping vegetables, pureeing, shredding, slicing and grinding. It's worth noting though, that to process larger, bulkier items, you will need to chop them into manageable pieces so that they fit into the feed tube. Also, as with the vast majority of food processors, all pieces must be fit together properly for the processor to turn on -- this is necessary to ensure safe operation.
In spite of its large capacity, the Cuisinart DFP-14BCN has a smaller footprint that comparably-sized food processors. Despite that, the Cuisinart is described as extremely sturdy and durable; this food processor has been around for years, and we saw very few complaints of breakage or other durability issues, even over the long term. Many users who have owned the DFP-14BCN for many years say it has held up well over heavy use and is still going strong. Experts agree that, for less than $200, this Cuisinart is a great value that will go the distance.
If you don't need a 14-cup food processor, the Cuisinart DLC-2011CHB Prep 11 Plus (Est. $170) is also an excellent performer in professional tests, and users back up those results, saying it performs very well in every task you set for it, including grating, slicing and shredding. Bakers say it easily mixes even thick dough. Two smaller versions of the 11-cup food processor, the Cuisinart DLC-10S Pro Classic 7-Cup Food Processor (Est. $100) and the Cuisinart DLC-2009CHBM Prep 9-Cup Food Processor (Est. $135) get similarly positive reviews.
All of these Cuisinart food processors are easy to use, come with a good variety of discs, blades, pushers and covers, and all parts are dishwasher safe. Like the Cuisinart DFP-14BCN , they are also highly durable machines, which is a good thing because the one complaint we see over and over with Cuisinart is that dealing with customer service can be a real pain -- the biggest blot on an otherwise excellent overall record.
If money is no object, you may want to check out the 14-cup Breville BFP800XL Sous Chef Food Processor (Est. $400). The BFP800XL is a top pick by more experts than the Cuisinart, and gets equally good reviews by users. It also comes with more accessories, like a second, smaller processing bowl, which is a great extra so you don't have to dirty the large one when you just have a small job. Reviewers also say it slices with much more precision than the Cuisinart. However, since most people really don't need to be able to precisely slice a zucchini to a 0.3 mm thickness, the Cuisinart is simply a better value and will more than meet the needs of most cooks.
In this price class, there is nothing that even comes close in reviews to Cuisinart or Breville. If you want a good food processor that will last for years, buy either brand and you'll be happy. However, Breville makes only one food processor and it only comes in one size -- 14 cups -- whereas Cuisinart makes food processors in sizes ranging from 21 ounces to 20 cups. That makes it more likely that you'll find a Cuisinart food processor that will closely match your needs.
A good food processor can cost less than dinner for two
Although most top-rated, full-sized food processors cost at least $100, we discovered one model that's very inexpensive yet still earns good recommendations from users and professional reviewers: the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Deluxe 14-Cup Food Processor (Est. $75). Owners say it's easy to use and clean, and they love its large capacity. It's not as efficient or fast as a Cuisinart or Breville food processor, but most owners don't seem to mind at all.
Unlike most food processors, which require you to cut food into smaller, evenly-sized pieces before processing, the Big Mouth really does have a big mouth, so you can put larger-sized pieces in and process them, thus saving you a step. It's not as powerful as a more expensive food processor, but if you only use a food processor occasionally, or just for chopping veggies or nuts, or making salsa -- jobs that don't require a lot of power anyway -- this will do fine. One thing that many reviewers simply love about this food processor is that it includes a special disc for making French fries, and they report that it works very well.
We saw some complaints of spillage, due to a not-very-intuitive feed tube design, but the vast majority of users have figured out how to keep overflows from happening and are thrilled with the value the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth represents. It's also important to remember that bowl capacity does not mean liquid capacity, it means solid capacity. You really are only supposed to use about half the bowl if you're processing liquids. Don't forget, as noted in the introduction to this report, a food processor is most likely the wrong tool if you regularly need to process a lot of liquids; get a blender instead.
In the one professional review we saw of the Hamilton Beach 70730 Bowl Scraper Food Processor (Est. $45) it falls in the middle of the pack, but it's so highly rated by owners and has such an interesting design that we just had to include it in this category. It has a 10-cup capacity, but what owners really love is its unique, bowl-scraping design. Everyone who's ever used a food processor knows one of the biggest hassles is that you have to occasionally turn it off, open it up, scrape the bowl, and restart it. With this, that is no longer necessary. Reviewers say this feature works great and they think it's simply brilliant. Aside from that, it also gets high praise for its overall performance. It's particularly popular with those who make a lot of foods that do need scraping, such as hummus and nut butters. However, some users say these two Hamilton Beach food processors don't do well with heavy jobs, like mixing dough, so, if you're a dedicated baker, we'd say go with a Cuisinart.
Elsewhere in this report:
Mini food processors and food choppers | Buying Guide | Our Sources