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Food processors & choppers

Food processor & chopper buying guide

Last updated: February 2013
Getting started

Getting started

Plugs by celebrity chefs have helped to make food processors the fastest-growing small kitchen appliance. But celebrity cachet doesn't guarantee a meal ticket to the top of our tests. Nor is more power or higher price a sure bet. Some fancy models we tested actually made more work than they saved.

Which food processor best suits your style and the foods you prepare? Food processors are versatile machines that can chop, slice, shred, and purée many different foods. Mini-choppers are good for small jobs such as mincing garlic and chopping nuts.

Consider capacity

Food-processor capacity typically ranges from about 7 to 14 cups of dry ingredients. (Those are manufacturers' figures; we've found that processors typically hold a cup or two more or less than claimed.) Liquid capacity is much less. Choppers, which are designed expressly for small jobs, hold about 3 to 5 cups.

If you regularly cook for a crowd or like to whip up multiple batches of a recipe, you might appreciate the bigger, 11-to-14-cup units. But they tend to be more expensive and heavier than smaller versions and take up more counter space. Models that hold about 7 cups or so are fine for most tasks.

Note that even big food processors can handle small jobs such as chopping half an onion. But using a chopper makes cleanup easier.

Note feed-tube size

Some processors have wider feed tubes than others, which can save you the effort of having to cut potatoes, cucumbers, and other big items into smaller pieces.

Expect to pay more for kneading prowess and quiet operation

Lower-priced models we've tested have strained and jumped while kneading dough. They also made quite a racket, where most of the higher-end models we tested were quiet.

Types

Each type of food processor has specific strong points. Full-sized processors typically are more versatile and able to chop and slice foods and knead dough. Mini-choppers look like little food processors, but they're for small jobs such as chopping small quantities of nuts or half an onion. Here are the types of food processors to consider.

Food processors

Most food processors easily chop vegetables for soup or stew, slice salad fixings, and shred cheese for tacos. Some models (generally the more expensive ones) can knead bread dough or mix ingredients for baking. Claimed capacities typically range from about 7 to 14 cups, although actual capacities often vary by one or two cups. The biggest processors tend to be heavy and take up lots of counter space. A model that holds about 7 cups should suffice for most tasks.

Food choppers

The main differences between food processors and choppers are power and capacity. Smaller, lighter, and less expensive than processors, choppers make quick work of cutting small batches of nuts and herbs that would get lost in a food processor's large bowl. Choppers hold only about 3 to 5 cups. They can be noisy, but you probably won't be using them for long periods.

Features


Standard equipment includes a clear plastic mixing bowl and lid, an S-shaped metal chopping blade (and sometimes a blunt blade for kneading dough), a plastic food pusher to safely prod food through the feed tube, and a safety lock. Here are the food processor and chopper features to consider.

Capacity

Bowl capacities range from about 7 to 14 cups (dry); mini-choppers hold about 3 to 5 cups. For processing smaller quantities, some food processors come with a mini-bowl that fits inside the main container.

Speeds

Food processors typically have two settings: On/Off and Pulse. The latter setting runs the machine in brief bursts for more precise control. Choppers typically have one or two pulse settings (high and low). Those are all the speeds you really need. Some machines have a few extra speeds (a dough setting on some high-end processors, for example), but they don't necessarily work any better.

Feed tube

A wide feed tube saves you the trouble of cutting up potatoes, cucumbers, and other large items.

Multifunction accessories

A shredding and slicing disk is standard on full-sized processors. Some models come with a juicer attachment or interchangeable blades to handle a variety of jobs.

Dough blade

A blunt blade that improves performance in kneading dough.

Touchpad controls

Now a common feature, touchpads are easy to wipe clean.

Liquid "max" line

A line or marking on the mixing bowl that shows how much liquid the processor can hold. This helps prevent overfilling, which can cause leaks.

Storage case

Some food processors include a storage case, though many do not, even at $200 or more.

Brands


Plugs by celebrity chefs have helped to make food processors the fastest-growing small kitchen appliance. But celebrity cachet doesn't guarantee a place at the top of our tests. Nor is more power or higher price a sure bet. Some fancy models we tested actually made more work than they saved.

Black & Decker

 

This is a major brand that offers low-to-mid-range price products, and models with capacity ranging from 2 to 10 cups. Products are available at department stores, big-box retailers, and online. Prices range from about $20 to $100.

Cuisinart

 

This is a mid-range to premium brand that offers models with capacity ranging from 4 to 20 cups. Some models also function as blenders. The brand is sold in department, specialty, and appliance stores, and online. Prices range from about $30 to $800.

DeLonghi

 

This is a premium brand. The product is sold through department and specialty stores, and online retailers. Price is about $400.

Hamilton Beach

 

This brand offers low-to-mid-priced units, and models with capacity ranging from 6 and 14 cups. Products are available through department, appliance, and  big box stores, and online retailers. Prices range from $35 to $100.
 

Kenmore

 

This brand offers mid-to-high-priced products. Products are sold in Sears and Kmart stores and on websites. Price range is $100 to $200.

KitchenAid

 

This is a major brand within the category that offers premium products and models with various capacities. Some models come in various colors. Products are sold in department, specialty, appliance, and big-box stores  and online. Prices range from $100 to $270.

Oster

 

This brand offers low-to-mid-priced units, and models with various capacities. Products are available through department and appliances stores and big-box and online retailers. Prices range from $25 to $100.
   

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