Food processors might just be one of the handiest tools in your kitchen. This small piece of kitchen equipment is crazy versatile, and can do everything from purées to making waffle-cut French fries. Used by bakers, prep cooks, chefs and more, a food processor will never be just a one-trick pony in your kitchen. But want to know the best part about food processors? The amount of time you'll save. These tiny powerhouses pack a punch when it comes to shredding, dicing and chopping on the fly, saving you countless hours that you can spend working on something else. You won't find this extra pair of hands to come cheap, so be sure to do your homework and check out our buying guide on food processors before you purchase.
You might think that because you have a blender you don't need a food processor, right? Wrong. Blenders are great for emulsifying liquids, but we'd never recommend using a blender for dry ingredients.
Enter the food processor, which is faster and powerful enough to break down solid and dry ingredients with little to no liquid. The main reason being is the shape of the container. Blenders have a vertical container whereas food processors are wider, creating a larger surface area which enables the blade to do more of the work. Many bakers also find that using a food processor to make pie or pastry dough is ideal because it doesn't incorporate much air into the dough (keeping your dough light and fluffy).
It may seem like common sense, but before purchasing a food processor consider its primary use. Does your kitchen do a lot of prep work, like dicing vegetables for salsa or making house-made potato chips? Or are you a baker and hoping to use your food processor for mixing pie dough or creating crumbles on the fly? No matter your specialty, a food processor can tackle a variety of tasks--however, some food processors are better for certain jobs than others. Food processors are broken out into the following 3 main categories:
Batch bowl food processors are the most common type of food processor and found both in residential homes and commercial kitchens. The bowl is designed to collect the food as it's processed, which makes it worthwhile to opt for a larger sized bowl if you intend on doing large batches at a time. Most batch bowl food processors come with a variety of attachments designed to fit within the bowl to slice, dice, shred, chop and knead as product is pushed through the top feed tube. While most bowls are made of plastic, some do come in stainless steel for added strength and durability. Most manufacturers sell parts individually, making it ideal to stock up on several bowls to save time during prep.
Continuous feed food processors work similar to batch bowl processors with one exception: continuous feed food processors dispense food into a separate container. This helps considerably when processing large batches of food, like salsa, where your prep cook is dicing several pounds of tomatoes, onions and peppers each day. The strength in continuous feed food processors is their ability to handle slicing, dicing and shredding in bulk (think hash browns during a busy morning service), but you'll soon realize they may not be quite as versatile as their batch bowl counterparts, which make it easy to puree, emulsify, and knead dough as well.
For those that want the best of both worlds without having to sacrifice efficiency, we recommend opting for a combination food processor. As if the food processor itself wasn't the most versatile piece of equipment in your kitchen, some manufacturers make a combination food processor; these food processors feature both a bowl unit and an external dispenser that you can easily switch between the two depending on the task at hand.
Once you've determined which type of food processor is best for your kitchen, it's time to get into the nitty, gritty components that differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, model to model.
Quite simply, the motor is what makes your machine "go." Food processor motors are rated in terms of horsepower or hp; the higher the hp, the stronger the motor. If you intend on using your food processor for long periods of time and consistently tackling tougher jobs, look for a model with higher hp to ensure a longer lifespan. By the same logic, if you don't anticipate a lot of heavy use, then you can save quite a bit of money by looking for models featuring less hp.
For batch bowl food processors, the size of the bowl itself is very important in your day-to-day use. Choosing a bowl too small will hamper your timesaving efforts if you're constantly emptying it. Be sure to thoroughly consider the capacity of your food processor before purchasing.
Wider Feeding Tube
Depending on what kind of food you intend to process, a wider feeding tube might make the difference when it comes to higher efficiency and power. While most units come with the same size feeding tube, some manufacturers have more industrial units with wide tubes.
Commercial food processors are designed to withstand the daily wear and tear of a restaurant kitchen. Food processors are really put through their paces, which is why manufacturers often include a warranty on their equipment; some include longer warranties than others, so check out the warranty on your model before purchasing.
What makes food processors so versatile are the amount of interchangeable attachments. The attachments are commonly referred to as "discs," and feature a variety of blade configurations to help you achieve everything from an even slice, to a brunoise or even gaufrette. Most food processor manufacturers package a few basic attachments with the unit, and give you the option to purchase additional ones depending on your specific need. Be sure to take into account what attachments are included in the purchase, because getting the right unit for you could save you some additional money.Shop Food Processor Accessories
Most food processors come with a sharp blade ideal for purees and fine mincing. Also check if the model you're eyeing is outfitted with a dough blade, a blade with a blunt edge that makes it perfect for kneading dough. Some food processors also feature a "locking" mechanism that allows you to turn over the bowl without losing the blade in the mix.
Food processors come in a variety of bowl sizes to accommodate both large and small tasks. Before purchasing, take note on the size of the bowl. A bowl too small will become cumbersome for churning out large batches of product, while a bowl too large might be too much for your needs and cost more on your bottom line. Tip: Consider picking up an extra bowl or two to make longer preparations easier (with minimal cleaning throughout).
Pushers are small, cylindrical tubes that help you safely push product through the feed tube. Take note if the pusher on your unit locks or not--these little pieces are easy to lose in a busy kitchen, and a locking pusher ensures it's less likely to go missing.
Slicing discs are a quick, easy way to cut product into equally sliced portions. Perfect for au gratins, save yourself some valuable minutes and skip the mandoline next time.
If presentation is important to you, consider adding the Julienne Disc to your inventory. This attachment helps you create fine, matchstick-style cuts in literally seconds. Perfect for garnishes, crudités, salads and more.
If you've ever found yourself grating pounds of cheese and vegetables and thought, There must be a better way, there is! A grating disc helps you finely cut your product so quickly that in less than a minute you'll have pounds of freshly grated cheese to top on casseroles, pizzas, pastas and more.
Hash browns are made easier with a shredding disc. This accessory quickly cuts your vegetables into long, thin strands in seconds. Some shredding discs are even reversible, featuring a medium or fine shred on either side. Ideal for baked zucchini bread, latkes, and so much more.
Get even, consistently diced vegetables with a dicing disc. Try using your dicing disc for making salsas, prepping stocks and stews and more. Not only will you save time, but you'll spare your knives from the additional wear and tear as well.
Keep in mind though, that not all food processors come with a dicing kit. Check to see if the model of food processor you're reviewing has a 'dice' style base unit. If it doesn't you won't be able to utilize a dice kit. If you anticipate the need for dicing capabilities in your kitchen, consider upgrading now and spend a few more dollars on a 'dice' unit which is still compatible with other attachments.
French fries are popular. You know what's even more popular? Homemade French fries in your restaurant. It's true, you can't go wrong with this menu staple, but going homemade doesn't have to be that much harder than opening a bag from the freezer. Let your French Fry disc do the work, and sell more of this delicious treat!
A discharge plate helps you easily collect and remove food from the cutter bowl. Designed with continuous feed units in mind, the discharge plate permits food to be easily inserted into the output chute for more effective removal.
Make a big impact with little effort. Use a pulping disc to extract pulp from your favorite fruits and vegetables to create freshly made compote, preserves, coulis and more.
Few things taste better than freshly whipped butter, cream and more. Instead of taking out the blender for a quick whip, hook up your whipping disc to your food processor and in minutes you'll have exactly what you need.
Some manufacturers create a specific Brunoise disc in addition to the existing dicing discs. Brunoise refers to a very specific dice that produces a 1/8-inch cube. Not only is a brunoise used to garnish several dishes, but you often use a brunoise for even cooking and flavor profiles in soups, stews and more. Achieving a true brunoise can take years of practice and, depending on how much product you're looking at, countless hours of your time.
Before your food processor came along, the only way to achieve a gaufrette or waffle cut was manually, with your mandolin. If you're hoping to serve house-made waffle cut French fries, or dress up your plated presentation, you're probably looking at hours of time slicing these up on a daily basis. Achieve perfect French fries, potato chips and more with this handy disc in your kitchen.