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Do you need a blender, a food processor or both?

Consumer Reports News: June 20, 2012 05:38 PM

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Countertop space is valuable real estate so do you really need both a blender and a food processor? In Consumer Reports tests, we found they excel at different tasks. A blender is better at mixing drinks and whipping up smoothies, while a food processor is ideal for chopping, slicing and shredding.

You can puree foods in either appliance but crushing ice in a food processor can damage the plastic container. "Crushing ice is the blender's job, but the blender can't slice or shred, and can only chop a few foods, like Parmesan cheese, and vegetables for soup if they're already cut up," says Cindy Fisher, who has tested blenders and food processors for Consumer Reports for more than 10 years.

Blenders have a tall, often tapered, pitcher with a tight-fitting lid and one blade. Most have a number of speeds from slow to fast. In our blender tests, the $450 Vita-Mix 5200 was the only model that was superb at serving up smooth icy drinks, crushing ice, and pureeing soup and grating cheese. The manufacturer claims this blender does more than most but even so those claims do not include all of the tasks a food processor performs. If $450 is too pricey, check out the Ninja, a CR Best Buy that's $60 and performs nearly as well as the top-rated Vita-Mix.

Food processors have a big bowl with a feeding tube, an S-shaped blade and a top that locks into place. Most come with other blade options for shredding and slicing. Typically, a food processor has one speed and a pulse option so you can better control the texture of the food you're chopping. In our food processor tests the top-rated Breville Sous Chef BFP800XL, $400, was excellent at chopping, slicing, shredding and grating. Pureeing vegetables was so-so. The owner's manual suggests using this food processor to chop nuts and dried fruits, shred and slice veggies, make peanut butter and dips, puree soups, and mix bread dough, among other tasks. If you're shopping for a food processor, our Ratings include seven standouts, including a $100 CR Best Buy.

Kimberly Janeway

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