Food processors are great for bulk food preparation. You need to chop an onion? Chop a few more and freeze in portions for later use. When you’re making pastry, make a double batch and freeze half for another time.
The best food processors are compact (for easy storage), have a heavy motor unit that stays stable during processing, and come with a storage compartment or box for the extra blades and attachments.
If you're thinking of buying a food processor, here's what to consider:
- Bowl capacity: Will you use your food processor to shred cabbage for a crowd? Or to chop up small amounts of nuts and herbs? Most food processors come with a bowl approximately 1L-3L in capacity. The maximum capacity given is for solid foods. (The maximum capacity for liquids tends to be less as it can leak through the shaft and lid.) Extra bowls in a range of sizes make for a more versatile appliance.
- Size: Consider how much bench or storage space you have and how frequently you will use the processor. Heavier models are best left on the bench, particularly if used often. A lighter compact unit is easier to handle (and takes up less cupboard space) if you need to put it away after each use.
- Rubber feet on the motor unit provide stability during operation.
- Heavy motor unit helps keep the unit stable on the bench during processing.
- Double feed-chute allows you to guide smaller/thinner foods into the food processor – so it provides better control in slicing/shredding.
- Reversible blades (such as a grating blade on one side and a slicing blade on the other) reduce the amount of storage space required.
- A range of blades give you more options for slicing and grating.
- Storage box/on board storage help keep all the attachments together and safely stored away.
- Dishwasher safe attachments and bowls make cleaning easy.
A processor should be equipped to deal with a variety of tasks, without breaking down or vibrating excessively.
Processors should be able to grate a range of foodstuffs well, without leaving ungrated lumps. You should be able to feed vegetables into the blender one by one.
Most machines have an S-shaped steel blade for chopping. Chopped food should be even in texture with no large lumps.
You should be able to make cake mixes, milkshakes and premix dough, without leaving lumps or unprocessed ingredients.
A pulse function gives a short burst of power. It’s useful for distributing the load of a mixture and improving uniformity.
Processors should come with a range of accessories such as a stainless steel chopping/mixing blade, slicing and shredding discs and a pusher for forcing food down the feed chute. The following features are also useful:
- Beater/whisk attachment: for whipping cream and beating egg whites.
- Citrus juicer: for oranges, grapefruit and so on.
- Juice extractor: for other (non-citrus) fruits.
- Chipping disc blade: for making chips and vegetable strips.
- Mini processor bowl: for processing small quantities such as nuts, and for making pesto and mayonnaise. A grinder attachment will do a similar job on coffee, spices, and dried herbs.
Think about how many extras will you actually use. Consider the other appliances already in your kitchen – if you already have a standalone blender there's little point in getting a food processor with a blender attachment.
Most manufacturers recommend washing the processing bowl and attachments in warm, soapy water. Some models have dishwasher safe components though most manufacturers state these should be placed on the top shelf only and washed on a short, low temperature cycle, without a drying cycle.
While many processing bowls and attachments can withstand a wash in the dishwasher, plastic parts can become discoloured and brittle with time.
We suggest you follow the manufacturer's washing instructions – replacing a processing bowl or lid that's deteriorated from being washed in the dishwasher too often can be expensive.
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