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.
The great thing about food processors is that you can buy one to fit your kitchen size, family size and cooking needs. These are the main types that are available.
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, they just don't hold as much. These are often lumped-in with food choppers (see below), but they do more than just chop. A mini food processor costs a lot less than a full-sized processor -- in fact, most are less than $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.
Baby food makers are all-in-one appliances that steam and grind or puree baby food, thus saving your from having to use more than one appliance or piece of cookware. They tend to be very easy to use and virtually fool-proof. New parents seem to particularly like them, as they remove the learning curve inherent in learning how to make your own baby food. Many owners also like having one, single dedicated appliance for making their baby's food, rather than using the family food processor, which may be needed for other tasks.
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 had to discount those complaints 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 hand 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 several professional tests, some expert roundups, and hundreds of user reviews. Experts at ConsumerReports.org, Cook's Illustrated, Good Housekeeping and TheSweetHome.com 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 consulted roundups from sites that have an eye on the home cook, like About.com and Parents.com. While many of these don't conduct hands-on testing, those choosing the products to highlight are generally very knowledgeable in their field.
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 the trivial or nonsensical complaints, and focusing on trends -- both complimentary and critical. This gave us a consensus of opinion by thoughtful, knowledgeable reviewers 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 processors -- 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. It can even perform really tough jobs like mixing meat for loaves or meatballs. Even if you just need it 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. If you just need something for the occasional chopping of nuts, or dicing small quantities of vegetables, we think you'll love having a food chopper. Just need to make baby food? A baby food maker is a great, all-in-one appliance that makes it simple.
Here's the good news about food processors: They have come down in price. Our Best Reviewed pick, the Cuisinart DLC-2011CHB Prep 11 Plus (Est. $170) is $30 less than it was two years ago, but it's still a great machine so it stays in our top spot. It's 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 this machine, the Cuisinart DLC-10S Pro Classic 7-Cup Food Processor (Est. $100) and the Cuisinart DLC-2009CHB Prep 9 9-Cup Food Processor (Est. $115) get similarly positive reviews. On the larger end of the spectrum, the 14-cup Cuisinart DFP-14BCN (Est. $140) is an equally good machine, but with a higher capacity bowl, which is great if you have a bigger family or simply cook or bake in larger quantities.
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. 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. $390). This Breville food processor almost made our Best Reviewed list. It's a top pick by more experts 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, its price is substantially higher. 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 and earns good recommendations from users and professional reviewers: the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Deluxe 14-Cup Food Processor (Est. $55). 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 you 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 makes them 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 it from happening and are thrilled with the value this machine 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; many food processor bowls have a mark indicating liquid capacity. If you need to process a lot of liquids, you're using the wrong tool: get a blender instead.
We didn't see any professional reviews of the Hamilton Beach 70730 Bowl Scraper Food Processor (Est. $45), 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, which is perfectly sufficient for most people, but what we 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 and scrape the bowl; 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. Some users say these 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, but if all you need is a bigger capacity, the Big Mouth is a great choice.
Elsewhere in this report
Mini food processors and food choppers
These small-but-mighty machines are a great choice if you're short on space, or only need a food processor for one or two. Food choppers are great for small jobs, like mincing one onion or chopping nuts.
Baby food makers
It's important to keep it simple when you're the busy parent of a small child. Baby food makers steam and puree in one easy to use appliance.
How do you choose the right food processor from among the hundreds on the market? Our Buying Guide explains what to look for the best food processors.
Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top food processors, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.