Life goes full circle. When we begin, we are unable to digest, or even chew, solid foods. Then, we go through a period of time when all we want is solid foods in vast quantities, preferably meat charred over an open flame or slow smoked. Then, bored with that, we go back to straight liquids for a time; mostly bourbon and soda or water. Then, tired of drinking day in and day out, and going through interventions, and exhausted with the nonsense of chewing, we reach back into our babyhood for the pure joy of pureed foods. It is then that we buy a food processor.
Though the term “processed food” has become synonymous with the unhealthy, pre-packaged, nutritionally-deficient garbage sold to us in bright boxes and bags at the supermarket, when you process food at home, you’re often improving your diet by incorporating foods you would never eat alone. Spinach or kale don’t get many people’s motor running, but with a food processor they can quickly become part of a delightful dip, salsa, slaw, or other concoction. Like a blender for your solids, food processors mix and match the unthinkable to create culinary ecstasies that are easy to eat, spread, and compound. From guacamole to hummus, the best food processors will change how you think about your next meal.
What Makes a Good Food Processor
The bladed chopping, stirring, mixing machines have to be able to do a lot to be considered truly worthy of your kitchen. Good ones should give you enough space to do small batches, as well as mix up bread dough without laboring or leaving you with pockets of dry flour. Cutting hard foods into usable slurry is paramount, but the ability to effectively stir and blend are also highly prized. Mayo and mustard mixes should come out completely emulsified, slaw should be grated and ground but not turned to mush, and even heavy dough should be handled by a good food processor. Anything less is just a mixer that is little better than you own two hands.
Pampered Chef Cutting Edge Food Chopper
Those who aren’t looking for a massive machine, but want a small, simple appliance to handle snappy chopping tasks. This will go through small quantities of nuts, vegetables, fruits, and herbs far faster and more safely than dicing by hand, and can go right into the dishwasher when you’re done. It’s the adult Slap Chop. Purchase: $34
Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus
If you aren’t looking for a big food processor, but still need something that will do small chopping tasks like a whiz, then you must have this. It manages to overcome the small bowls of larger machines by being dedicated to its diminutive craft. It operates smoothly and evenly giving you a consistently dicey chop that is excellent for fine cutting tasks. It’s too small for dough, but handles thick creams, frostings, pastes, and blends without ever straining itself. Purchase: $40
Hamilton Beach 70760
Full-sized with a 10-cup capacity, the 70760 is quite a lot for very little. It’s intended for the more occasional user, as it goes through vegetables quickly, with a respectable level of consistency that prevents too many large, unprocessed chunks from cropping up. It barely occupies any counter space, and thanks to an intuitive design that flips the lid into the bowl for storage, it can be stashed easily. It does skimp a little on power, so don’t expect thick dough to get a real workout, but it can step to some more basic breads. It’s also incredibly loud, making lots of use tough on the ears, and the neighbors. Purchase: $50
Black + Decker Performance FP6010
Bearing a striking number of options and a respectable price tag, the FP6010 serves up a dual set of bowls that allow you to go big or small, depending on your needs, and lets you choose from analog or digital operation. The lazy among us will go for the digital choice, where all we do is press a button and then wait to get our stuff cut up, but with the analog you can customize the work the FP6010 does. Where it does falter is in consistency, as it will leave you with bits of food uncut, tends to jam up a little with softer cheeses, and can be tough to clean thoroughly. Purchase: $120
Braun K650 Multiquick
Using only a 9-cup bowl, the capacity of the Multiquick can be an issue if you’re looking to do big batches, and at 600-watts, the motor isn’t strong enough to tackle most major doughs. Where the Multiquick does shine is in loads of blades and accessories that allow you to more aptly grate and churn cheeses, or get the exact grind you’re seeking. It also provides you with the ability to pick the blade speed, going from 300 to 2000 RPMs, providing much more precision than models that can do little more than run and pulse. Cleaning and storage are both a bit annoying, so there’s a little oil in the otherwise quality water. Purchase: $125
Cuisinart Custom DFP-14BCNY
Perfectly balanced with all the utility you need without a price that’s been inflated by needless extras, the Custom swings for the fences and can be relied on to hack and chop, even though it comes with nothing more than than an “On” setting and a pulse option. The specs aren’t impressive, as the motor is a scant 750-watts, but in actual operation this beast handles bread and pizza doughs without showing signs of strain, cuts carrots and taters as fine as you please, and shreds up dense cheese like a pro. Best of all, it has a small footprint and a single bowl that fits all the attachments, making storage far easier than more complex machines. You’ll pay more, but it’s unlikely you’ll get much more elsewhere. Purchase: $199
Breville Sous Chef
The professional grade choice, the Sous Chef bears a big, burly bowl and a deadly powerful motor that goes through jicama like it’s about to be banned. Changing speeds doesn’t alter the effectiveness, nor swapping out bowls, with each one giving you the same even grating, hacking, or mincing properties at a speed that’s truly impressive. Clearly designed with perfection in mind, the easy options, polished feel, and quiet running are all welcome changes from most food processors. It’s even quick and easy to clean. If you truly want the best and don’t mind the price – or the storage space required – then you’ll find nothing that can do half as much half as well. Purchase: $400