It Chops, Dices, Shreds, Slices and Grates: It’s the Magical Food Processor
Millions of cooks should be thankful for a man named Carl G. Sontheimer, even if they’ve never heard his name before, they certainly have appreciated his legacy. Mr. Sontheimer is credited with creating the first modern food processor in 1973; he also founded the company Cuisinart at this time. Before his invention, chopping, slicing, dicing, grating and everything else in between had to be done by hand – tasks that could take a considerable amount of care and time to complete. So the next time you have a recipe that calls for shredding a dozen carrots, say a little thanks to Carl for saving your knuckles and the considerable amount of frustration that hand-shredding carrots brings.
In addition to the substantial amount of time a food processor saves you, they are also mandatory for making dips, aiolis, marinades and much more. A solid, dependable food processor is crucial to any well-rounded kitchen. What is a solid, dependable food processor you ask? Well, let’s dive into what the minimum requirements are for one to make it into your kitchen.
Essential Elements of a Food Processor
For the most part, all food processors have a work bowl with a variety of swappable blades that are spun by way of a motor. Without those three essentials, you don’t have a food processor. But what else should you look for when determining which food processor is right for you? There are three major areas to look at:
- Work Bowl Capacity
Let’s take a look at each of these categories in more depth.
Work Bowl Capacity:
You will find work bowls ranging in size from a measly three cups all the way up to the 20-cup model which is perfect for a family of 12 or a restaurant. In my experience, anything less than about nine cups and you’ll have to do most recipes in batches – at that point, you might as well just go ahead and chop/dice/slice everything by hand. On the other hand, work bowls with a capacity of 14 or higher belong in restaurants or in applications where a bunch of food is being made; this is due to the fact that the bowl is so large you don’t get effective mixing, pureeing, etc. in smaller quantities because the food will sit below the blade while it spins by. The goldilocks zone is a 9 to 12-cup work bowl. This is large enough to handle most tasks, yet small enough to ensure everything is properly handled.
POWER! Power is an essential component in all food processors. Without a powerful enough motor, you won’t be able to knead bread or puree chickpeas for hummus; at the same time, you don’t need something that will cut through solid steel. Look for models with a blade shaft that is directly integrated with the motor – anything that is belt or chain driven should be avoided at all costs. I’m not going to tell you to buy a processor with a 100HP motor or one with 2,000 watts. Instead, I’d recommend looking at the reviews and checking to see if anyone is complaining about it jamming up during use. As long as you use a little common sense, buy good brands and only purchase models with a blade shaft that is directly attached to the motor, you should be just fine.
The final essential element is the control panel on the food processor. On the model I own, there are three buttons: on, off and pulse. You don’t need anything more than that, plain and simple. If you have more than those buttons, it could get a little unnecessarily complicated. I’m not sure why every blender seems to come with 20-buttons, but I like the simplicity of the food processor’s three button arrangement.
Okay, This Makes Sense So Far. Anything Else I Should Look For?
You know, that’s a great question. There are a few other features that can sway your opinion from one model to another, here are some other criteria by which you can judge a food processor.
- Blades & Discs – Having a variety of blades and discs is necessary to take full advantage of your processor. Sharp blades are great for chopping and pureeing. Blunt blades are necessary for dough kneading. Discs are great for shredding and slicing. I’d recommend looking for a model that includes all three of these, otherwise you’ll be looking for 3rd party or add-on solutions. Save yourself some time, hassle and cash by purchasing models that include a variety of blades/discs specifically designed for your model.
- Feed Tube – Simply put: bigger is better. When you have a small feed tube, you will be forced to either remove the top to insert more food or chop it up to fit into smaller openings. Make yourself happy by going with the largest feed tube you can find.
- Drizzle Opening – This probably isn’t the actual name of this feature, but I’m sticking with it. Basically, you want the ability to drizzle in oil while the food processor is running. This is absolutely required when making salad dressings, mayo and hummus. Ensure your food processor has the feature available before purchasing. Capisce?
That about covers it all. In addition to the three essentials listed in the above section, this is all the criteria you need to look at when deciding on your food processor. Want a bit more help? Who doesn’t. Read the next section for a few recommendations.
- The Standard – This Cuisinart model is the one I own and it has served me well for years. Easy to use with multiple attachments and simple controls make this a perfect model for 95% of home cooks out there. Buy it, you won’t be disappointed.
- The Cadillac – This Elite model by Cuisinart is great for the cook who wants it all. We’re talking 3 different sizes of nesting work bowls, multiple attachments and one beefy motor. If you envision yourself needing a ton of flexibility and want a jack-of-all-trades model, this is the food processor for you.
- The Alternative – If for some reason you aren’t a fan of the Cuisinart brand, I’d recommend checking out this highly regarded KitchenAid food processor.
- The Restaurant Owner – If you are planning on opening your own restaurant, then you owe it yourself to get this behemoth by Robot Coupe, which incidentally, is an awesome brand name. The best part about this model, is that if the engine in your car fails, you can probably replace it with the motor found in this bad boy.
Recipes: What to Make with Your Food Processor
Bear with me a few more days as I work up a few recipes to make with your food processor. For now, I have a few up.
- Avocado Compound Butter
- Hummus (coming soon)
What, you want to know more about food processors? Okay, be my guest, here are a few articles/resources for you: