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.
Elsewhere in this report
Best food processors
There's a full-sized food processor for every job and every budget, any of these will make your kitchen prep tasks a breeze.
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.