Face-Off: Blender vs. Food Processor

For making smoothies, a blender is your first choice

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Blender versus food processor iStock-135899953

Given how much we value each square inch of counter space, do you really need a blender and a food processor? Blenders are one of the most popular countertop appliances—and they're used more frequently than food processors, according to the market-research company Mintel.

You can purée foods in either appliance, but blenders are usually better at this task. Crushing ice? "That's the blender's job, as the ice can damage the food processor's chopping blade and plastic container,” says Cindy Fisher, who has tested both appliances for Consumer Reports for more than 20 years.

And when it comes to making smoothies, you want an appliance that does well in our tests involving icy drinks and puréeing vegetables, which means you want a blender.

“But the blender can’t slice or shred, and can chop just a few foods, such as Parmesan cheese and vegetables if they’re already cut up,” Fisher says.

When to Use a Blender

Blenders are ideal for making icy drinks, whipping up smoothies, and crushing ice. And when it comes to puréeing, blenders are typically better than food processors.

More on Food Prep

The best blenders ace our icy drink, ice crush, and puréeing tests. For icy drinks, we make nonalcoholic piña coladas. (When a blender rates Excellent in this test, you can expect a smoothie with a smooth, consistent texture. A Very Good rating means there are tiny bits in the mix.) In our ice crush test, we toss in seven ice cubes and give it a go. For puréeing, we turn veggies into soup.

There are more than 60 full-sized models in the blender ratings, including ones from Blendtec, Ninja, and Vitamix. Many have a lightweight plastic container, which is less prone to breaking than glass. The plastic can absorb stains and odors, however, so clean it right after using it.

Need to know. Blenders have a tall, often tapered pitcher with a tight-fitting lid and one blade. Most have a number of speeds, varying from one to 17, but three speed options usually do the trick. More than a dozen and it starts to become difficult to distinguish one speed from another.

The height of a full-sized blender in our current ratings varies from 8 to 22 inches. Take note of this spec if the blender needs to fit under your cabinets. Planning to store it? Some blenders weigh just 4 pounds, but the heaviest weigh in at 19 pounds. You’ll find all of this information in the features & specs section of the blender ratings. Below, a glimpse at the full-sized blenders in our ratings. (We also test personal blenders and immersion blenders.)

Prices: $20 to $650
Overall scores: 26 to 90
Capacities: 4 to 9 cups

For more information, check out our blender buying guide. Here are three great blenders to consider. They appear in alphabetical order.

When to Use a Food Processor

These multitasking machines have sharp blades or discs that chop, slice, shred, grate, and purée. Some also come with a blunt blade for kneading dough, or one that turns out julienne vegetables.

We use lots of vegetables in our food processor tests. We chop onions and almonds, slice celery and mushrooms, shred carrots and cheese, purée carrots and peas, and grate cheese. The top processors prove their mettle in the kitchen.

Need to know. 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. There are usually two settings: On/Off and Pulse, for running the processor in short bursts for more precise control. The weight of a food processor ranges from 5 to 22 pounds. You’ll find this information and more in the features & specs section of the food processor ratings.

There are more than 20 models in our ratings. Here’s a quick overview of the models that have gone through our tests.

Prices: $40 to $600
Overall scores: 36 to 81
Capacities: 3 to 16 cups

Our food processor buying guide offers details that will help you choose the best one for your cooking style and budget. Here's a look at three impressive food processors, listed alphabetically.

Kimberly Janeway