A food processor is not a substitute for a chef’s knife. Is both superior (in the volume of tasks it can perform) and inferior (in the quality of some tasks) to a sharp quality knife. The greatest thing about a food processor is that preparations that were once reserved for top restaurants are now within the grasp of anyone with a sufficiently strong index finger to push a button.

Food processors are best at ‘coarse’ tasks such as chopping nuts and chocolate, pureeing soups, grating hard cheeses (romano or parmesan), making pie dough, kneading bread dough, and making emulsions (mayonnaise or pesto). So although you probably won’t be using it every day (I use mine a handful of times every year), it is a terrific time saver for larger more tedious tasks, and when you have lots of other things to do.


Smaller, more precise tasks, such as mincing or chopping small quantities of garlic are faster and simpler with a sharp knife. Also, tasks that require a sharp cut, such as chopping onions, are also better performed with a knife. If you’ve ever tried to chop or grate onions in a food processor, you’ll notice that the cuts are very rough and a significant amount of liquid is forced out of the onion. Dicing/chopping by hand, with a sharp knife, helps to preserve the moisture in the food (and leads to much less crying in the case of onions).

Another feature to look for when purchasing a food processor is to make sure that the plunger (the piece used to push items down the food chute into the cutting disk while the processor is on) has a small opening at the bottom. This will make it much easier to drip oil in when preparing an emulsion (a stable mixture of 2 normally incompatible liquids). The most commonly prepared emulsions are mayonnaise, salad dressings/vinaigrettes and pesto.

Similar to the stand mixer, you’ll want to purchase a food processor that is heavy (10 lbs minimum). Heavier models tend to have more powerful motors and are more durable. They can more easily handle the most strenuous tasks, such as kneading dough and chopping chocolate. Cheaper, lighter models, will tend to have smaller motors that will strain (and possibly burn out) under these heavier loads. If you plan on performing any of these more strenuous tasks, a more durable (heavier) food processor will be a bargain in the long run. The higher cost will be offset by its ability to perform even the hardest tasks. One final advantage to purchasing a heavier food processor is that when kneading dough or chopping chocolate, the processor won’t be bouncing around your counter top as the dough/chocolate bounces around the inside of the bowl.

For almost 30 years, Cuisinart has been THE name in food processors (founded in 1971 by Carl Sontheimer – a physicist with a passion for cooking – who re-engineered a Magimix, the original food processor, which was modeled after the ‘Pros only’ Robot Coupe). More recently, with the introduction of its Professional 670, in 2001, KitchenAid has emerged as a strong contender to Cuisinart’s dominance.

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned chef or weekend (or Holiday) warrior, you will first need to determine what tasks you’ll be using your food processor for, so you can purchase an appropriate model. If you’re not sure, my advice is to purchase a heavier, more durable model, from either Cuisinart or KitchenAid. This way, if you do decide to knead bread dough or use it to make your pie crusts, you’ll have a capable machine, not an underpowered unit that will make you wonder why you bought it in the first place.

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