What the best food processors have
performance. All food processors can chop, slice, shred and purée foods, but they don't all
perform equally well. It's easy to be seduced by features like multiple speeds
and fancy attachments, but these are no substitute for performance. It's much
easier to buy extra blades later to do specific jobs than it is to replace a
machine that can't handle the basics.
- Versatility. Any food processor larger than about 6 cups
should have a wide variety of discs and blades for chopping, grating, pureeing,
mixing and shredding. Smaller food processors are designed just to chop, mix
- A wide feed tube. The narrower the feed tube, the more
pre-chopping you'll have to do to ensure food will fit into the machine.
- Solid construction. Look for sturdy bowls and blades that are securely
seated in their plastic housing. A heavier base contributes to stability. Some
problems aren't obvious on visual inspection, so make sure the machine you
choose receives good ratings from users for long-term durability as well.
- Easy assembly. Watch out for persnickety machines that
won't start unless every piece is perfectly aligned. Ideally, the parts should
snap securely into place with an audible click. Also, be aware that some
machines won't run unless the pusher is in the feed tube. This feature can be
frustrating to some because it makes it harder to add more material, but it's a
helpful safety feature as it prevents hurried cooks from using their fingers or
another item, such as a knife or spatula, to push items into the food processor
instead, preventing injury or damage to the appliance.
- Quiet operation. A full-sized food
processor should get very good or excellent ratings for quietness. Mini
choppers are louder by nature, but shouldn't be deafening.
- A decent warranty. We found food processor warranties ranging
from one to three years, with the motor covered for as long as 30 years.
Equally important to the length of the warranty is how easy it is to get
service. Some companies will send new parts free of charge, while others
require you to mail the machine in for service at your own expense.
Know before you go
How will you use it? If you want a food processor mostly for
small jobs like mincing garlic and herbs, you might be better off with a mini food
processor or food chopper. If you plan to do a lot of cooking for a big crowd,
by contrast, you may need a bigger machine that holds up to 14 cups. (For most
home users, experts say a 7- to 9-cup capacity is usually sufficient.) If you
need to prepare both small and large batches, then a full-sized food processor
that comes with a mini bowl for smaller jobs is a good choice. You should also
focus on how the food processor performs at the jobs you intend to do most
often, such as puréeing baby food or kneading dough.
Do you need a blender instead? One of the biggest complaints we see when looking at food
processor reviews is that they leak. That's because most food processors are
not designed to process large batches of liquid. Most food processor guidelines
say you should not fill the bowl fuller than about half if you're making
liquids, so if you need a machine primarily for soups, a good blender might be
a better investment. We have a great selection of blenders in our blender report.
Where will you store it? Larger machines tend to be heavier,
making it difficult to retrieve from a cabinet; they are more suited to storing
on a countertop -- and they also require more counter space. Don't forget that
attachments, such as spare blades, need to be stored too. Some models include
cases for this purpose, but many don't. Keeping sharp blades securely stowed is
especially important for those with young children.
How will you clean it? Many food processors
have dishwasher-safe parts -- bowls, blades and other attachments -- that can
make cleanup much easier. If you don't have a dishwasher, however, it's more
important to find a model that can easily be washed by hand.