Love cooking, but wish you had an assistant to do all the boring stuff like chopping veggies and mashing potatoes? If this is you, then a food processor may be just what you need. It makes chopping, dicing and slicing tasks a breeze.
It can do just about anything related to food preparation. They slice, dice, chop, shred, grate, zest, mash, puree, mix, knead, grind and emulsify. Add a blender and you can chop nuts and spices, crush ice and blend cooled soups.
A stand-alone food processor is a good choice if you have limited bench space or you already have a blender. Otherwise you might want to consider a combination food processor and blender, but they can be bulkier and hard to store.
You should also have a think about what you'll be using your food processor for. If you're an avid "master chef" and generally prepare larger quantities of food, then one of the larger processors with all the bells and whistles will be up your alley. To get the most use out of it, these stylish and often bulky models can become a permanent fixture on your kitchen bench; however, storage for all the attachments is a must.
Our quick tips for buying a food processor.
If you'd only use a processor occasionally or for smaller quantities like curries, chopped nuts, breadcrumbs and pesto, then a mini food processor that can be quickly pulled out of the cupboard is all you need. They are usually up to 1 litre in capacity. Many stick blenders can be used with a processing bowl.
Being compact and lightweight makes them easy to store and clean. Unlike traditional full-sized food processors, mini processors don't generally have a large chute or selection of blades for tasks such as shredding and slicing, which means they're unable to slice and grate.
Storage for all the extra bits and pieces
An internal storage drawer or separate storage box keeps all the attachments together – a good way to protect the blades, and your fingers. We found it strange that some models aren't big enough to store all the blades and attachments included with the appliance while other containers are quite large and bulky and can take up a considerable amount of space in your cupboard.
The size of the food processor bowl varies from model to model, so think about what you'll be using it for and the amount of food you'll need to process. A mini-processor bowl that sits inside the main food processor bowl is great for working with small quantities, making pesto and mayonnaise and grinding nuts. A separate grinder unit can do much the same thing.
A pulse function gives short bursts of power, which helps to distribute the load more evenly and create an even consistency, especially when blending smaller amounts.
A reversible blade has a grating blade on one side and a slicing blade on the other — it's useful as it cuts down the number of separate blades you need to store.
Depending on the versatility of the food processor, many can come with a range of attachments (sometimes optional extras) that can slice or grate to various thicknesses from fine or julienne slicing blades to thick slices of cheese.
Double feed chute
This is a standard chute with a smaller chute insert that allows for smaller or thinner foods to be guided into the food processor for better control when slicing or shredding.
Rubber feet on the motor unit can help keep it stable while the machine is in use.
You'll need this if you want to make chips or vegetable strips.
Beater and whisk disc attachments
You'll need these if you want to whip cream or beat egg whites.
Usually plastic, handy if you want to whip up some dough.
A number of models come with a citrus juicer. Some come with a press juice extractor for juicing other types of fruit and vegetables.
Maximum capacity disc
Not many food processors come with this attachment, but if you're planning to use your food processor to make liquids like almond milk, then this attachment is essential. It changes the force in the processor bowl to push any liquid that rises to the top back into the bowl. With this attachment you can make the most of the maximum liquid capacity while avoiding liquid being splattered out of the processor.
Some food processors come with a blender attachment, but if you already have a separate blender, it's not a must-have.
Nice to have when adding ingredients. It's advisable to leave the food processor in one spot on the bench and minimise movement to prevent damaging the scales.
Mixing bowls and patisserie bowls
Can be larger than the food processor bowl and difficult to find storage for, but they are useful for mixing cake batters, doughs and pastries.
There's no denying that a food processor is a noisy appliance. If you're looking for one that's quiet it's unlikely you'll find one you're completely happy with. We've taken noise measurements of the models we've tested and found that they range from 68dB to 90dB. By comparison, a typical conversation is carried out at roughly 60dB, while city traffic is measured at around 80dB.
The quietest models we tested will still require you to raise your voice if you're having a conversation. Listening to the loudest models would be like hearing a motorcycle only eight metres away.