If you’re not a wizard in the kitchen, the concept of a complicated food processor purchase can seem bewildering. You might have a vague idea that slicing and dicing will be made more efficient and you like the idea of making juices and smoothies, but confronted with so many functions and not knowing which is which can make choosing the right one a baffling process.
On top of everything else, food processors are not exactly cheap, especially the high-performance models. All this can mean that unless you already spend a lot of time in your kitchen and love to cook, a food processor can seem like an unnecessary extravagance.
However, that would be a mistake. Food processors are a godsend for masterchefs and the kitchen-challenged alike. While skillful kitchen operators will find the appliance allows them to do more simultaneously, the joy of not having to put in the hard labour of basic kitchen prep and cleanup is something we can all enjoy.
What makes it so great? It’s compact, affordable and comes with all the functions you want (blend, chop, grate and grind) without any extra bells and whistles.
Best for: Uncomplicated cooks who just want a bit of help in the kitchen without breaking the bank.
What makes it so great? KitchenAid is a very well-regarded appliance brand and this machine is a top-notch, high-quality and high-performing addition to your kitchen.
Best for? Serious cooks who understand the difference between mixing and folding, and want to do plenty of baking.
What makes it so great? The Nutribullet Veggie Bullet can handle more than the flagship Nutribullet products. It chops, dices, minces and blends and is easy to assemble.
Best for? Singles or two-person families, as while it’s high performing the bowl sizes are a bit on the smaller side.
What makes it so great? This is the ultimate baking appliance. It might have a narrower range of functions than a standard all-round food processor, but it’s great at what it does.
Best for? Bakers, desserts and cookie craftsmen. This would make an ideal addition to a kitchen that already has a food processor and needs a little boost to give the baking side of operations some extra help.
What makes it so great? While this would be a great all-rounder in any case with all the attachments or blades you would expect from a mid-to-high range food processor, the extra-wide feeding chute is what sets this machine apart. Dice chunky and whole vegetables in seconds.
Best for? Anyone who wants a high-performing appliance and can afford to splurge a little.
What makes it so great? Homemade pasta. Enough said.
Best for? Anyone who already has a KitchenAid food processor and wants to up the ante.
What makes it so great? It’s a sturdy, high-quality, eight-speed food processor for a mid-range price.
Best for? Entry-level food processing for those who can already cook and want to experience the full range of functions a hard-working appliance can perform.
In most food processors you can expect to find these standard functions:
A standard food processor’s main compartment is a bowl attached to a spinning S blade that chops or slices meat, vegetables or other ingredients efficiently and evenly. You can usually adjust the size of the final sliced products.
Grind (such as nuts, seeds or meat)
The grinding function is like a mortar and pestle, except it’s so fast that the naturally-occurring oils in seeds or legumes become extracted to make a paste. That means you can make your own tahini or peanut butter, as well as your own mincemeat.
Clip your grating blade onto the main motor element (or in some models feed the ingredients into a grating compartment) to grate cheese, carrots, or whatever you need quickly and effectively.
This compartment is like a blender and you can use it to make smoothies or blend any other liquid.
Mix and knead doughs
Depending on your model, the main compartment’s regular blade might also be able to tackle basic cake or bread mixes, but better food processors will come with a special blade or attachment that will knead dough.
No matter which model you choose (more on that in a moment) there are a few features to look at in a food processor before you buy.
Capacity.This comes down to common sense. If you have a big family, or regular dinner parties with lots of people over, you are going to want a larger bowl. Remember that you should only fill your bowl up to about half to get the most out of the functions. Be sure to check the litre capacity listed on the box or manual.
Blades. A wider blade selection will mean you can do more with one kitchen appliance which is clearly a positive thing. However, if you’re less of a cook and do little more than some chopping, grating and blending then consider keeping it minimal to lower the cost. Buying a reputable brand will also ensure that the blades are chip-proof, sharp and likely to last a long time.
Power usage. While basic food processors won't take up any more than any other kitchen appliance, it’s always a good habit to double check the power.
Warranties. Warranties are easily overlooked until the moment you really need it. Purchasing a reputable food processor like a brand we recommend from a respectable Australian retailer will ensure your consumer rights are protected, and you will be able to repair or replace your purchase if there is a problem.
Dishwasher safe. Most food processors will have dishwasher-safe parts, but this is such an important point it’s always best to double check.
Base weight. A heavier base will mean that your food processor is able to tackle more food without being thrown off balance.
Controls. Most food processors have three controls: on, off and pulse. For most people this will be more than sufficient, but if you’re really active in the kitchen and want numerous functions, look out for a model than allows you to choose from multiple speeds. This might be helpful for people who bake a lot and who might need noticeable speed variation between whisking and folding.
Lid and feeding chute. The feeding chute should be made from thick, high-quality plastic and be wide enough to fit bigger vegetables without having to halve or quarter them first.
A ThermomixⓇ is a popular food processor marketed as a complete kitchen in a single appliance. It does live up this reputation and is a high-performing, heavy-duty appliance that allows you to quickly and efficiently prepare any kind of food or meal in one machine.
ThermomixⓇ is an extremely efficient, high-end device, and it comes with the price tag to match. If money is of no concern or if you really love to cook and will use the whole range of functions, controls and features, then ThermomixⓇ may be a good choice.
On the other hand, if you just want to try out a food processor, or if you don’t normally do much more than chop or blend, then a ThermomixⓇ is probably overkill. It is quite pricey, and if you’re not going to use the extra features, a standard, high-quality food processor will probably be sufficient.
Blenders and food processors have many similarities and in some ways the functions each appliance offers overlap. However, there are some key differences that you should take into account.
Blenders tend to work on higher speeds which means they are perfect for mixing and ‒ wait for it – blending liquids such as smoothies. If the main reason you’re buying a food processor is to make smoothies, you might want to consider a blender instead.
However, while a standard food processor might not blend liquids as quickly, it will have plenty of other functions a dedicated blender may lack. A blender will not, for example, slice and chop vegetables.
A Nutribullet or Magic Bullet are different makes of essentially the same product: a compact blender that also claims to chop and crush. They are efficient blenders but because of their size, can sometimes fall short of of the professional outcome you would expect from a better food processor.
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