There are a number of highly useful small appliances that belong in any kitchen, but a good food processor can be hard to beat. What does it take to be a good food processor? The answer is that there are a number of features you should look for. But no matter what brand you buy, it should be able to take on these tasks:
- Create a rough puree of veggies: Pureeing them to the perfect consistency for dips, marinades, and soups. Consider power, blade design, and bowl shape.
- Chop dry ingredients: This includes things such as nuts and dry bread crumbs. Look for a pulse control and a motor that will start and stop in a single turn.
- Create emulsions: This includes mayonnaise, sauces, and certain vinaigrettes. Here again bowl design is a very important factor.
- Knead bread dough: While you can use a mixer for this, a good heavy duty processor can also handle the task quite easily.
- Grind meat: If you do not have a meat grinder or the right attachment for your stand mixer, look for a processor with a powerful motor, and very sharp blades.
Buying an underpowered food processor is akin to buying a four cylinder truck to haul a trailer, why waste your money. Some like the belt driven Hamilton Beach 6 Cup are more closely related to the four cylinder truck, a waste of money. On the other hand the KitchenAid 12 Cup model features a solid state motor direct drive system which helps the blades churn through practically anything with ease.
The size of the bowl you choose is dependent upon what you plan to use your processor for. A 9 cup model such as the one from Cuisinart can handle most smaller tasks. However, if you plan on doing some serious work in your kitchen a 10 or 12 cup model will make a better choice. It is easier to put fewer ingredients in a larger bowl than it is to find yourself making double batches because you ran out of room.
There are several things to consider here, first is the shape of the bowl itself. The KitchenAid model has sides that slope in towards the center, the Cuisinart model has perfectly perpendicular sides. What difference does this make? Sloping sides make it harder to get a perfect chop, whereas straight sides allow everything to fall straight back down into the mix to be attacked by the blades. This makes for a more even chop or puree and better overall results.
Where would your processor be without the perfect set of blades? Rumor has it you can actually sharpen food processor blades, but you may have a hard time finding anyone who can or is willing to take on this task. Look for a processor with blades that feature micro serrations, these will help the blade hold its edge for far longer. You may even find some models come with sharp blades for cutting and dull blades for kneading.
Every food processor has at least four feet that are intended to keep it from sliding around on the countertop. The only problem is that hard rubber feet do little to really hold the processor in place. The Cuisinart models all have suction cup feet that really keep your processor firmly stuck in place. In fact most of the top brands now feature suction cup feet to help keep everything in place while you create a world of gastronomic delights.
These are among the most important features to look for, you may also want to take a good look at how many speeds each brand offers. While more speeds might seem to indicate a better machine, the best name brands typically only have one or two speeds and a pulse control. The reality is most people learn to get what they need, using a minimal variety of speeds and the pulse control. Buy for quality and usability rather than name brand and you should end up with the perfect food processor for your needs.