Food processor, mixer or blender?by Yvette Fletcher
Should you buy a food processor, stand mixer or something else? Find the best kitchen gadget for you using our guide.
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If you're tired of doing everything by hand in the kitchen, there are plenty of handy gadgets available to take the labour out of cooking and baking jobs.
You can spend anything from £10 to more than £500, and you'll find some products that are great all-rounders, while others excel at a particular task. But what's right for you?
Our video guide above talks you through your options, and below we explain the pros and cons of different kitchen prep gadgets to help you choose.
Food processors and mini choppers
These are more suited to tasks that involve chopping or otherwise breaking down food. If you are more of a savoury cook, and are likely to be chopping, slicing, grinding and puréeing, then a gadget that focuses more on food processing than food mixing may be the right one for you.
Food processors: pros and cons
Food processors chop, slice and grate food, using interchangeable spinning blades in a plastic bowl. They are very versatile and tend to be first on any aspiring cook’s wishlist. In addition to shredding, puréeing and grinding food, they can also mix, whisk, whip and even knead dough if they have the appropriate attachments, but we've found the results can't usually compare to a dedicated mixer.
Food processors are best if you want one solid all-rounder for your kitchen.
Food processors can be quite large, but generally take up less worktop space than stand mixers. Prices range from around £30 for a basic model up to nearly £500. More expensive models come with a vast array of attachments that allow you to tackle all manner of kitchen tasks.
A good food processor...
Will blitz a variety of foods in seconds, taking the hassle out of preparing meals. Blades and attachments should be easy to swap and clean. Controls should be simple and include a pulse option. These are by nature noisy machines, but we've found that some are considerably quieter than others. As food preparation is often a messy task, food processors that are easy to clean are a godsend.
A bad food processor…
May struggle to chop food evenly, or be tricky to keep clean. They can also be very noisy.
Who should buy a food processor? A food processor is ideal if you want one solid all-rounder for your kitchen, rather than specialised gadgets for different tasks, and you are only an occasional baker. If you like preparing lots of fresh veg, or sides and dips such as salsa, houmous or home-made slaw, it can whiz through these jobs for you in seconds.
Mini choppers: pros and cons
Mini choppers do exactly what they say on the tin - they are mini food processors, designed for chopping small amounts of food, such as a handful of nuts, breadcrumbs, herbs or an onion.
Mini choppers tend to be very basic, with just one blade attachment and one button that you press to chop. Prices range from £10 to £60. Cheaper models are usually white plastic affairs, while the pricier choppers are made of premium materials and have slightly larger capacities. For such a small gadget, mini choppers can be seriously noisy, but they are handy for quick, simple chopping tasks and for kitchens where there is limited space.
A good mini chopper…
Will be simple to set up and operate, and will chop food quickly and evenly. Models that look similar to a normal food processor, (eg they have a motor housed in the base and the chopping bowl alongside or above), tend to be easier to use and clean. Instructions should clearly state maximum quantities (eg quarter onions and chop one quarter at a time).
Mini choppers are are compact and affordable, but less versatile than other kitchen gadgets.
A bad mini chopper…
May be complicated to put together, and will chop food into uneven chunks, or get food trapped under the blade. Instructions may not provide details on the maximum amounts that can be chopped. Some mini choppers house the motor in the lid, which you have to press down to operate. We’ve found that these tend to be trickier to use and clean.
Who should buy a mini chopper? If you want to chop or purée small amounts of food, little and often. Mini choppers are compact and affordable, but aren’t as versatile as other kitchen gadgets. They can be a useful secondary gadget, too, for small tasks where you don’t want to unpack your main food processor.
If you're a keen baker, a hand mixer or stand mixer is probably the gadget for you - these two machines are specifically designed for baking tasks. But which one you get depends on your budget, kitchen space and how seriously you take your baking.
Hand mixers: pros and cons
This is a small handheld electric mixer with metal beaters that counter-rotate to mix, whip and whisk. Some models also include dough hooks for kneading, and a wire balloon whisk for easier whipping and whisking.
Hand mixers are great for light, everyday baking tasks such as whipping cream, whisking egg whites or mixing up cake batter. They aren’t too expensive, ranging from £5 to £60, and don't take up much space in the kitchen, as they are easily packed away into a cupboard or deep drawer.
Hand mixers will suit fans of baking who don't want to invest in a pricey stand mixer.
Cheaper models are likely to be fairly basic white plastic affairs. Premium models will usually have a stylish design, metal finish and different colour options. They may have specialist attachments, more speed controls or extra features, such as a retractable cord for neat storage.
Some hand mixers now come with a blending foot that means they can convert into a hand blende, so you can also tackle food prep tasks like blending and puréeing.
A good hand mixer…
Won’t be too heavy and will have a comfortable handle with good grip. It should be weighty enough to balance on its base between mixes. Attachments should be stainless steel and dishwasher safe. Controls should be simple and easy to adjust with your thumb during use, ideally with a broad range of speed options.
A bad hand mixer…
May be heavy or uncomfortable to hold while mixing. If it is too light or unbalanced, it may topple over when you set it down. Poorly designed controls that are difficult to adjust whilst mixing can be frustrating.
Who should buy a hand mixer? Hand mixers are best for lighter baking tasks. If you like to make the occasional cake, hate the chore of whipping cream or whisking egg whites by hand, or don’t have much kitchen space or a big budget, then this is a handy kitchen aid.
Find out more about choosing a hand mixer.
Stand mixers (also known as kitchen machines): pros and cons
A stand mixer has a fixed stand and mixing bowl, with a lever-operated arm to which you can fit various mixing attachments. Standard attachments are the balloon whisk (for whipping cream/whisking egg whites), beater (for mixing cake batter), and dough hook (for kneading dough). Some models also include a beater with flexible silicone edge, which scrapes any unmixed ingredients off the side of the bowl during mixing for a more even batter.
Some stand mixers fit a variety of additional accessories, such as blenders, meat mincers, pasta makers, food processors - and even ice-cream-making bowls - making them more versatile than hand mixers. Many come with a blender jug as standard, but other attachments may need to be bought separately.
Stand mixers are a worthwhile investment for really keen bakers - they do the best job of key baking tasks.
Stand mixers can be rather large and cumbersome, and tend to be quite pricey too, with costs ranging from £80 to £800. But they take all the effort out of baking tasks - you can just turn them on and walk away, whereas with a hand mixer you have to actively hold the mixer while using it, which can be tiring - especially with heavy mixes like dough.
Another advantage is that they come with a deep, large-capacity mixing bowl and often a splashguard lid, which helps to keep ingredients in the bowl rather than splashing over the kitchen surfaces - something that can be troublesome with a hand mixer.
A good stand mixer...
Will swiftly, effectively and evenly mix ingredients, without too much left unmixed around the side of the bowl. It should also be sturdy and stable, but not too heavy. A splashguard is a very useful feature, particularly if you make lots of icing (it prevents clouds of icing sugar).
A bad stand mixer...
May leave lots of unmixed ingredients around the side of the bowl, or struggle with heavy-duty tasks such as creaming butter and sugar or kneading dough. Fitting and swapping attachments should be simple, but can be fiddly on poor models.
Who should buy a stand mixer? Stand mixers are a worthwhile investment for keen bakers, as they are specialised for key baking tasks. If you get a model with a jug blender or food processor attachment, they can also be very versatile and cheaper than buying several separate appliances. If you like making dough or mixing icing, or just like making larger batches in one go, a stand mixer with its added muscle power and deep bowl will be more suitable than a hand mixer.
We've tested all the major models, including big hitters from Kenwood and KitchenAid. Read our stand mixer reviews to find out which is best, or head to our list of Best Buy mixers to see the top-scoring mixers we've found for under £200.
Blenders are becoming increasingly popular, and there are now three key types: hand blenders, traditional jug blenders and smaller personal blenders, such as the Nutribullet. If you're less interested in slicing and grating or whisking and kneading, but are keen on making soup or smoothies, then a blender may be the best choice for you.
Blenders: pros and cons
Blenders can quickly blitz smoothies, milkshakes or soup to a smooth consistency - and you won't have to worry about any splatter. Like hand blenders, they have a small chopping blade, but this is located at the base of their jug or cup.
Traditional jug blenders (so called as they mix inside a jug shaped container) tend to cost between £30 and £150, but pricey premium models from big brands such as Vitamix, Sage and Blendtec can cost more than £500. Mini blenders (smaller models that are also known as personal blenders, such as Nutribullet) are the new kids on the block - these models have a smaller blending cup, designed for one or two portions, rather than a large jug. The cup is quickly converted into a drinking mug that can be used on-the-go with the supplied lids.
Some blenders, such as the Nutribullet, come with a separate blade for grinding nuts and beans. Mini blenders usually cost between £20 and £130, although, as with jug blenders, it's possible to find very pricey premium models too.
A good blender...
Will whip up consistently smooth soups and smoothies, leaving absolutely no lumps whatever you blend. Many can also be used to purée baby food and crush ice. Models with variable speeds give you more control over your blending, while some even have automatic settings so you can leave them working while you do other things.
A bad blender...
May struggle to blend all of the ingredients, leaving you with lumpy results. While all blenders will make some noise, some can make an absolute racket, meaning you'll wake the household if you make a smoothie for breakfast. The worst blenders will also have tricky nooks and crannies that make them impossible to get properly clean.
Jug and mini blenders are the perfect choice for smoothie and soup fanatics.
Who should buy a blender? Blenders are a great option for fans of smoothies and soups - they won't require as much storage space as a food processor with a jug blender attachment. Mini blenders are an excellent choice for those looking for a compact model that can make smoothies to grab and go. Traditional jug blenders can blend larger amounts of food, though, so may be more suitable for families. If you feel like a blender is right for you, but aren't sure whether you're better buying a traditional model or a mini blender like the Nutribullet, read our guide on how to buy the best blender.
Best Buy blenders start at less than £40. To find the best model for you, head to our blender reviews.
Hand blenders: pros and cons
A hand blender is a handheld stick with a small chopping blade on the end. It excels at blending, puréeing and chopping. For many people, a hand blender is a simple and handy gadget used mainly for blending soup.
Prices range from £5 to £100. Basic models will only have a standard chopping blade. Mid-range models may come with a beaker for blending smoothies, a mini chopper and a balloon whisk attachment. More-expensive models come with a variety of specialised attachments for different tasks, such as mashing, or a large chopper bowl attachment similar to a food processor. They may also have fancy extras, such as an extra-sensitive speed control, for more delicate blending jobs.
A good hand blender...
Should blend and chop quickly and evenly, with no lumps left after blending. As with hand mixers, a comfortable grip and easily adjustable controls are essential, as a hand blender requires you to hold it while blending. Blenders with detachable bases are easier to clean.
A budget hand blender is all you need to make homemade soup or the occasional smoothie.
A bad hand blender...
May blend or chop unevenly, and be uncomfortable to hold. Cheaper models don’t come apart, so you have to clean the blade while being careful to keep the motor housing and cord dry.
Best for: A budget hand blender is all you need if you just like making homemade soup or the occasional smoothie. If you want a versatile appliance, a more expensive model with attachments for chopping and whisking will cover many tasks that a mini chopper, hand mixer or food processor can do, and won't take up too much space.
Results may not be as good as you would get with a food processor or stand mixer though, and you’ll have to be careful about ingredients spraying up from the blade (something you don't have to worry about with a food processor or chopper). Keen bakers would be better off with a handheld or stand mixer.
Find out more about choosing a hand blender.