Food processor reviews: Features explained
Food preparation appliances: the basics
Food preparation kitchen appliances are a great choice for keen cooks making meals from scratch, anyone who likes to batch cook meals and freeze them, or for anyone who wants to eat home-cooked food without spending hours in the kitchen preparing it, or having lots to clean up afterwards.
These kitchen appliances are designed to make life in the kitchen easier for you.
You'll still have to weigh and prepare food, but you'll save precious time by letting the food processor or mixer tackle the trickier tasks, often in seconds.
Plus, the results are a lot more consistent than can be achieved by hand.
Food processor, stand mixer or mini chopper?
A food processor's main tasks are chopping, slicing, mixing and grating. They're smaller in size than stand mixers (also known as a stand mixers or food mixers).
Most models will come with a knife blade and a dough blade (or dough hook) as well as shredding and slicing discs. Some food processors come with extra accessories, such as a blender, mill or mini chopper, and some can even do additional tasks such as chipping or making mayonnaise.
Most food processors include attachments for mixing cake batter, whipping and whisking, but if this is the main reason for buying a food preparation appliance then a stand mixer (otherwise known as a kitchen machine) may be a better choice, as these appliances really excel at these tasks.
Stand mixers are much larger than food processors, and usually come supplied with a big balloon whisk, a dough hook and a beater. They can also come with extras attachments such as a blender or a food processor, which make the appliance much more useful, but will also push the cost up.
A stand mixer's main tasks are mixing cakes, kneading dough, whipping and whisking.
Stand mixers excel at these tasks – much more so than food processors, due to their large capacities and big, metal balloon whisks – and are ideal for taking the hard work out of making large batches of cakes, dough or batter.
If you just want to chop the odd onion, or blend a small portion of baby food, then a mini chopper may be the answer. A mini chopper is a much smaller version of a food processor, and some can cost as little as £20.
Mini choppers are specifically designed to chop or purée small quantities of food quickly. They aren't designed for mixing, whisking, whipping, for chopping really hard items or for liquids, though.
Check out our mini chopper video to see how quickly you can make fresh tomato salsa.
What food preparation appliance do I need?
A food processor is a good investment if you prepare lots of homemade food, as it will help you save valuable time in the kitchen, taking the hard work out of many tasks, especially if you chop, slice or grate large amounts of vegetables.
If you make lots of cakes, dough or batters and need to whisk egg whites or whip cream, a stand mixer will suit better.
Even if you have a food processor or stand mixer, there may be times when you need to quickly purée a small amount of food, chop an onion or even make a quick dip.
In these instances, using a mini chopper will save you messing up your regular-sized appliance, and will be a good addition to your kitchen.
Food processor attachments and accessories
To get the best out of your food preparation appliance, think about what you'll want your food processor to do - then make sure it comes with the tools you need.
Common food processor attachments and their functions:
- Knife blade Standard blade included with all appliances. It’s used for mixing, mincing, mashing and puréeing, as well as chopping. Sometimes called a multi-purpose blade.
- Dough hook or blade For kneading yeasted recipes, such as sweet and savoury breads. Most food processors will come with a dough blade.
- Shredding and slicing blade Blades come in different sizes, so you can shred and slice to a fine, medium, coarse or thick finish. Some models come with a chipping blade to make homemade chips or french fries. Blades will either be separate or on a single metal reversible disc, with one side used for shredding and one for slicing.
- Grating blade Similar to the slicing and shredding blades, the grating blade can be used for cheese or vegetables.
- Jug blender A jug blender attachment makes the main appliance more versatile, as you can purée food, make mayonnaise, blend milkshakes or sometimes crush ice (check the instructions first). Most manufacturers recommend you blend only cooled liquids. Sometimes the blades can get stuck, though – be very careful when freeing them.
- Potato rasp Can be used for grating hard parmesan cheese, potatoes, vegetables, coconut and nutmeg.
- Maxi-blend canopy This large disk, found only on Kenwood models, can be used in conjunction with the knife blade to blend soups more effectively. It works by changing the way the processor blends, which Kenwood claims makes the food processor more efficient
- Citrus press or juicer A cone and sieve for juicing oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes. If you want to juice hard fruits or vegetables, you'll need a centrifugal juicer attachment, though you may be better off with a juicer.
- Mill For making small quantities of puree, grinding coffee beans and spices, and chopping nuts and herbs.
- Whisk This can come in various guises – you might get an emulsifying disc or whisk paddle or beaters. On food processors, twin beaters are the most effective and metal twin beaters give the best results.
- Mini bowl A small bowl with its own blade that fits inside the main bowl. Chopping is slower because the blade is shorter and therefore less effective at circulating the food, but for small quantities it can be more effective and saves on washing up the main bowl.
- Spatula This is to help you scrape food away from the sides of the bowl.
See our stand mixers section for information on stand mixer attachments and accessories.
A mini chopper is a mini version of a food processor. Mini choppers rose to fame after Delia Smith used one as a ‘cheat’ gadget on her TV programme in 2008.
They take up hardly any counter space, can quickly chop or purée, and are great for blitzing a paste or dip in seconds. However, mini choppers can't process large batches of food, and shouldn't be used for processing hot food or liquids.
Most mini choppers aren't suitable for chopping hard foods such as coffee beans, ice or nutmeg, but some of the most recent models we’ve seen are capable of performing some of these tasks.
A mini chopper is ideal for making dips, chopping onions or herbs or puréeing baby food.
Most won’t come with any accessories, and aren’t suitable for making dough or cake mixtures.
There are some exceptions to this, such as the Magimix Le Micro, which comes with an emulsifying attachment for making mayonnaise.