Beyond coleslaw: 10 unexpected uses for a food processor

Consumer Reports News: February 17, 2011 01:20 PM

Consumer Reports is wrapping up its latest review of food processors. We've put more than 30 models through their paces, chopping garlic and nuts, slicing ginger and mushrooms, shredding cheese and potatoes, pureeing peas and carrots, and kneading dough. The best models handle these common food-prep tasks with ease, while also offering a roomy container, a quiet motor, and convenient controls. But a food processor can be used to create more than just slaws and stir-fries. Here are 10 of our favorite unexpected applications:

Bread crumbs. Stale bread needn't go to the birds. A few pulses in the processor will yield uniform crumbs for breaded cutlets, mac 'n cheese, and more. Play around with spices, such as Italian seasonings or onion and garlic powder. Crumbs can be frozen in an air-tight container for several months. 

Ground flour. You wouldn't want to do five pounds of all-purpose flour this way, but if you need a cup or so of specialty flour (say rice flour for gluten-free bread) a food processor can be as good as a grain mill.

Ground meat. Whether you're making burgers, meatloaf, or meatballs out of beef, chicken, or pork, grinding your own meat is simple (just don't overprocess it). The technique also has safety benefits, since whole cuts of meat are less likely to be contaminated than mass-produced, pre-ground packages.

Mayonnaise. With most recipes, you simply pulse together the egg (use a pasteurized egg product to prevent the risk of salmonella poisoning), vinegar, mustard, plus salt and pepper. Then slowly pour in about a cup of oil. The best processors have small holes in their pushers to facilitate drizzling.

Nut butters. Pecans, cashews, and almonds can all be finely-ground in a processor and used as the base for a heart-healthy nut butter. Most recipes use honey as the binder, along with a bit of oil, salt, or spices. Butter garnishes, say a garlic-and-herb blend, are also easy to whip up in a processor.

Pesto sauce. Basil, garlic, pine nuts, oil, and parmesan cheese, plus a dash of salt and pepper are all you need to create a classic pesto, perfect for pasta, chicken, vegetables, and more. Freeze additional batches to enjoy beyond the summer harvest.

Pie crust. If you don't do homemade pies and tarts because the crust seems too difficult, you haven't tried a food processor. Simply cut in the chilled butter, pulse with flour and salt, and process in the ice water. Rolling out the dough takes some practice, but after a few pies you'll get the hang of it.  

Pizza dough. Flour, yeast, and a few other basic ingredients can be turned into a delicious dough. Also use the food processor for the tomato sauce and shredded cheese, for a pizza that costs a few dollars.

Salad dressing. Whether it's a basic vinaigrette or a more complex carrot, miso, and ginger blend, a food processor can whip up nearly any dressing in minutes. The results will be cheaper and better-for-you than most bottled, supermarket products.

Salsa. Chop and combine a few vine-ripe tomatoes, an onion, some fresh cilantro leaves and lime juice, and maybe a couple serrano peppers for added kick.

Got your own "aha" uses for a food processor? Post them in the comment box below. 

—Daniel DiClerico

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