A food processor is designed to make light work of labour-intensive kitchen tasks. From chopping, grating and slicing to mixing, whisking and kneading, a good model should prove itself invaluable as an everyday kitchen gadget. They usually have a large bowl and numerous attachments that allow it to chop, slice, grate, juice and mix. They're ideal for anyone who likes to make a lot of labour-intensive dishes, such as pesto, falafel
Processors normally have a feed tube that allows you to add ingredients as you mix..
Typically, the food processor bowl sits on a large motor unit: as well as taking up a lot of space, this can be particularly heavy in some models so check before you buy. Food processors vary widely in price, from as little as £30 for very basic models to several hundred pounds. Knowing what features and accessories are essential can help you make a wise investment in a food processor that will prove a faithful kitchen companion for many years.
This guide explains the key features you should consider when choosing the perfect food processor.
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Best food processor features to look for
A powerful motor will speed through chopping and slicing tasks. Power is measured in wattage and you should look for a model with at least 600 watts.
Another indicator of a quality is the warranty that a food processor manufacturer gives their motor, with several premium models offering a reassuring 20-year guarantee.
Opt too for a model with a wide, heavy base to stop the food processor from moving around while in use. Typically, you’ll find just On/Off power buttons on your processor, along with a pulse mode that’s useful for roughly chopping items or for light mixing.
Size and weight
Food processors are large, hefty appliances so think about where you’ll place it in your kitchen. There needs to be enough room for it on your worktop and enough space above so you can use the feeding tube and lid.
If it will be stored in a cupboard, choose a lightweight model than can be lifted easily into position when you need it.
This depends on how many people you regularly cook for and how much cooking you do. Large 4-litre models with wide feed tubes let you process big batches of food, while a 1.3 to 2-litre processor is sufficient for small families or couples. It’s worth noting that capacity refers to dry ingredients – liquids can only be processed at about half the stated capacity to avoid leaks.
Look for a food processor with multiple bowls for versatility. Along with the main bowl, you’ll get a midi bowl and a handy mini bowl that’s perfect for chopping small amount of food such as nuts or herbs.
Wide feeding tube
A wide feeding tube saves on prep work as it can handle whole items such as potatoes and onions or large pieces of food.
Keeping blades and attachments safely stored together in one place means you can find items quickly when you need them.
Cleaning bowls and attachments can be a hassle, so look for a model with dishwasher-safe parts and attachments.
Your food processor will come with a number of attachments and tools so you can use it for wide range of tasks. How many you want your processor to have will depend on your budget and what other gadgets you already have or don't see yourself using.
Expect one or two S-shaped blades along with metal shredding, slicing and grating discs. Cheaper models may have a plastic disc with a metal insert that can swapped around for different function. Some premium food processors have adjustable blades so you can vary the thickness of your slices, even mid-slice.
A dough blade is good for bread or other yeast recipes.
Whisks are useful for cream and egg whites. This will be either an emulsifying disk, or single or twin paddles/beaters.
Some processors will have a citrus press for juicing oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes.
Some processors have a jug blender that sits in a slot on the base or replaces the bowl itself. Others have a blend tool or canopy that fits in the main bowl to perform the functions of a blender. While non-essential, this saves buying and storing another kitchen gadget if you’re short of space.
Other considerations when choosing a food processor
Size is one of the most important attributes, both in terms of the capacity of the bowl and how much storage or worktop space the processor takes up. Weight is also a factor: some models can be very heavy and hard to manoeuvre around the kitchen.
Is it dishwasher safe? Check whether the bowl and any attachments need to be washed by hand or not.
Has it got the right accessories? Some, but not all, processors will allow you to juice fruit and vegetables, for example – so check what features are available before you buy.
Other food processing gadgets
There are a number of different kitchen gadgets that sit under the umbrella term “food processor” these days, from mini-choppers to stand mixers. If you need a device to help you with food preparation, you should decide what tasks you are most likely to use it for before you buy.
So what are the differences between the various types of food processor?
These are small food processors with bowls that can chop relatively small amounts of herbs or breadcrumbs. They can be useful for making limited volumes of sauces, such as pesto, but a mini chopper is unlikely to be able to grate or slice food.
Bear in mind that the size of the bowl can vary considerably between models, so make sure the one you choose is big enough. A mini chopper may also come with a stick blender attachment that can help you liquidise soups, for example, while they are still in the pan. Expect to pay at least £20.
Also known as food mixers, these heavy-duty machines consist of a bowl with an overhead mixer attachment. You can swap between a whisk, a beater and perhaps also a hook for mixing dough. As such, these machines are ideal for people who do a lot of baking, and they also allow ingredients to be added while they are in operation. Kenwood and Kitchen Aid are two of the most familiar brands.
Stand mixers tend to be expensive, starting at around £60 for a budget model, but running into hundreds of pounds for established premium brands such as KitchenAid and Kenwood. There are also a range of attachments for them that can use the mixer's motor, clipping on to the top or front of the mixer. These include ice cream makers, blenders, mincers, juicers and more the more standard processors for chopping. They're a good option for enthusiastic chefs who like to try a range of more complex dishes.
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