Buying Guide - Food Processors

Types of food processor

No one can deny the usefulness of a food processor in the kitchen if you're big on cooking. Watch any Jaime Oliver cooking show, and you'll soon discover that he uses one almost half the time to cut down his prep time. Bottom line is, if you like to cook and cook a LOT, a food processor is a god send. There are many models out there, so which one should you pick?

A hugely popular creator of food processors is Kenwood who have a wide range of options and a reliable background. The same could be said of Cuisinart, Bosch, Phillips and more, with Magimix a particularly reputable brand. Chefs like Anthony Worrall Thompson and Gordon Ramsay have also put their name to food processors, and it is unlikely they would risk tarnishing their individual brands by associating themselves with unreliable equipment.

In essence, there is a huge amount of choice not only between brands, but also within the range of an individual company's products, and it makes no sense to leave which one you purchase down to chance. So with that in mind, this guide will help you decide which food processor best suits you.

The basics

Kenwood food processorA typical food processor - Cuisinart, Magimix or anything else - will normally consist of a motor and blade underneath a clear plastic container. You put food in the container, and using the motor and blade, process it. The main function of a food processor is to change the consistency of a food. This can mean chopping, dicing, slicing, grating, juicing, kneading, mincing, blending or pureeing. A good food processor should be able to do most, if not all of these things. There will be a range of blades, which allow you to utilise the different functions.

Food processors are designed to take a lot of the time and effort out of preparing food before cooking, and are just as adept when used to make sauces, salsas, dips and chutneys. Using a food processor it is incredibly easy to make food like hummus, soups and mayonnaise, as well as readying ingredients like onions and carrots for use in other dishes. They allow you to put more time in deciding what you want to cook and how you want it to taste, rather than being preoccupied with seemingly endless chopping and preparing.

Because food processors have such a wide range of uses, it is difficult to say one group of people would find them more useful than another group. People with children will find them invaluable when preparing milkshakes, smoothies, fruit salads and other kid-friendly grub. Older people will relish their useful chopping functions, meaning they can continue to make their favourite meals with the minimum of effort. And the rest of us? Whether we want to make peanut butter or pizza, pesto or pie crust, you can bet using a food processor makes it a much quicker task. In this modern age where time is at a premium, being able to speed up your cooking is invaluable.

Logistics, size and power

Multi-tool food processorAs we have already seen, there are a huge range of food processors to choose from, so it is no surprise that they come in a variety of sizes. When deciding which size to go for, you have to consider what you will most likely be using the food processor to do. If it involves making big dinners for a large family, you will probably want one of the bigger ones on the market. On the other hand, if you are just looking for something to speed up your everyday cooking for one or two people, then you should be fine with a smaller one. However, the best food processors will last many years, and if you have the space for it, one of the bigger ones could be the wiser purchase, as you don't know if one day you will need to make large quantities of food with it.

Higher end food processors are often seen as a life investment; you know you will not need to purchase another one for many, many years, if at all, while some of the cheaper models have much shorter life spans. The power of a food processor can vary. Typical food processor powers tend to range between 400 watts to 1100 watts. Generally, choosing a food processor with wattage over 700 is advised, as that will be powerful enough to plough through most foods you put in it. The food processors with more powerful wattages tend to last longer too.

Something which people always wonder about food processors is how easy they are to clean. This varies depending on the model you buy, but for the most part they are simple to clean. The plastic container is easily washed in the dishwasher or by hand, and if the base of the unit gets dirty a quick wipe-down will leave it looking as shiny as the day it was purchased. However, it is best if you give the blades a hand rinse, because putting them in the dishwasher could eventually result in being dulled. Although they can be replaced easily, it is not worth the money when washing them under the tap is so easy.

Advanced functions

The pulse function is an important aspect to consider. They are a regular feature on food processors, and extremely useful. Before the pulse function was added to food processors, it was incredibly easy to over-blend or over-process certain types of food. This often led to people with finer ground food than they wanted, when something they wanted sliced could end up becoming a paste. The pulse function is a way of processing something in very short bursts, allowing you to judge how processed the food is, in between each burst. This means you can get the consistency of your food just right.

There are various additions you can make to your food processor, to give it an even greater level of functionality. You can purchase attachments, such as a dough blade. This makes creating delicious homemade bread very easy, saving you cash at the supermarket each week, and giving you a tastier end product. Other attachments include egg whisks, citrus and non-citrus juicers, and even a julienne disc, which is used to cut food into long, match-stick style strips. Some of these functions won't be necessary for the casual food processor user, but are always an optional addition if at any point you decide you could use one.

Food processors are an extremely useful kitchen tool, and whether you want to create masterpiece feasts or just cook a quick and tasty dinner, you will find that even the simplest machines have plenty of useful functions. But because good machines from Cuisinart, Magimix and Kenwood last such a long time, most people like to consider food processors an investment, so buying a machine with lots of features is a good idea as you will be able to take advantage of them in the future.