All About the Mighty Food Processor

Trying to decide between a food processor and a blender? Need to know when to pulse and when to grind? What kind of food can be made with a food processor? Here’s the lowdown on food prepping with this handy kitchen appliance.

Top down photo looking into an open food processor cup

Ask anyone who spends enough time in a kitchen what their favorite appliance is and chances are it’s a food processor. Often times prepping a meal can be labor-intensive, but a food processor breaks things down in seconds to reduce the time it takes to get meals on the table.

A good one is indispensable–small, easy to clean and powerful, it can make a variety of soups, dips, sauces and more with just a few flicks of a button. Let’s dive into how to use, clean, purchase, and maintain a food processor– your handy sous chef.

Food Processor vs. Blender

Many people think a blender and a food processor are one in the same. They are, in fact, different appliances that have different uses, though some people prefer to own just one or the other. A good rule of thumb to remember is that blenders are better for wet ingredients like soups, smoothies and salad dressing, while food processors are for dry or tough items, like vegetables, protein, cheese, and other dry goods.

When processing liquids like hot soups or beverages, the hole in the center of the food processor bowl can be a little messier and harder to pour. However, the larger base size and surface area of the food processor may yield more consistent sized pieces of food.

Close up photo showing the blades of a food processor

How To Use A Food Processor

In general, most food processors have only one motor speed and many have a feed tube at the top that allows you to safely add ingredients while chopping. When working with a food processor, you’ll want to keep these tips in minds:

  • Grind in stages to make sure each ingredient grinds or chops properly when taking into account different textures.
  • Start with the ingredients that need to be the most finely chopped and then add once the desired texture is achieved.
  • Liquids help, so if the recipe calls for oil or anything else, add as you go along.
  • The “pulse” button–this is best for kneading dough or quick chopping and it will allow you to control the speed for short bursts. Pulsing helps clumped food to resettle and drip down to ensure everything gets processed.
  • The “low” and “high” settings help to maintain a more consistent grind of the ingredients and usually can be set on continuous mode. This is helpful for making smooth nut butter or adding in oils to sauces.
  • Scraping down the sides when needed helps to reincorporate large chunks of food stuck to the sides or below the blade.

Person pouring a cup of oil into the feed tube of a food processor

Food Processor Uses

So, what can you use a food processor for? The versatility of the processor allows for endless prepping and recipe options. Here are some ideas:

  • Grinding Meat: Make ground chicken, pork or beef for meatballs and meatloaf, stir-fries, or even salmon burgers.
  • Produce: Chopping, shredding, and slicing fruits and vegetables.
  • Cheese: Shredding cheese if you have the attachment.
  • Dairy: Ice cream and whipped cream can be made in the food processor.
  • Frozen: Large pieces of frozen fruit and ice to make desserts work well.
  • Sauces, Dips, and Dressings: Mayonnaise, pesto, hummus, curry paste, salsas, spreads, vinaigrettes.
  • Doughs and Crusts: Pasta, bread dough, pizza dough, and pie crusts can be made in a large unit that has high power for working through gluten-development. It makes breaking the pieces of butter into tiny pieces in the flour so fast and easy!
  • Purees: Baby food and smooth soups.
  • Nuts: Grinding nuts into smaller pieces or making homemade almond butter or peanut butter.
  • Grains and Cereals: Make your own oat flour or other grains. Breadcrumbs are made in an instant!
  • Sugar: Powdered sugar can be made in the food processor.

Close up photo showing nut butter being created in a food processor

Cleaning and Maintenance

  1. To clean, first dismantle the food processor by taking apart each piece, including the blade, cup from the base and lid from the cup.
  2. Wash all the removable pieces by hand with warm water and dish soap, taking care to not use any abrasive pads or scrubbers.
  3. Blades should be wiped down immediately and never soaked.
  4. Removable parts can also be washed in the dishwasher on the top rack.
  5. Take a damp cloth and wipe down the base.
  6. After drying each part completely, put the food processor back together and store it until the next use.

A clean food processor on a marble counter top

Benefits of Using a Food Processor

  1. Speed: Unless you find it therapeutic to chop like me, it’s nice to have a little help. When you are in a hurry or working with multiple ingredients for a recipe, a food processor can help with prep, tremendously cutting downtime.
  2. Versatility: From savory sauces, pie doughs, to desserts, this tool can help create various recipes using a quick and powerful blade.
  3. Healthy: I own a Cuisinart 8-cup food processor and I really like how I have the ability to make healthy meals by taking bulky items like spinach, kale, whole fillets of fish, or chicken breasts and make different recipes in one tool.

The Best Food Processor To Buy

It can be a difficult decision for selecting the best food processor to buy for your needs. Here are some key things to consider:

  • Parts: A food processor should generally come with a work bowl (3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, or 20  cup size), work bowl cover, chopping blade, and a pusher that helps feed in large, voluminous, or tougher pieces of food through the feed tube.
  • Size and Power: If you’re using a food processor as an all-purpose appliance, I suggest getting a full-size processor (8 cups or larger) with at least 600 watts of power. Anything less than that and you risk it not chopping correctly or running down the motor. A family of four will do well with 11 cups and up. Cooking for one or two, or taking on smaller jobs, a mini chopper may be your pick. Look for around a 3 cup processor size for prep work like chopping herbs and nuts or making small quantities of sauce like pesto.
  • Speed: Most food processors have speed option buttons for low, high, and pulse. It also helps if there is continuous processing so that you do not have to manually hold down the button for a longer period of time, especially when you’re trying to simultaneously add ingredients to the feed tube.
  • Cleaning: It can also be convenient to get one with many dishwasher-safe features, though it’s generally a good idea to hand wash the blades–it keeps them from dulling too quickly.
  • Extra Features: Keep an eye out for bells and whistles, too–some fancier food processors come with different sized bowls and blades, discs for grating cheese and other foods, citrus juicers, and other things. While exciting, consider whether or not they’ll actually be used before forking over the extra cash.

Popular on Amazon

Here are a few of the most popular Food Processors listed on Amazon.com

An image showing three food processors

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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5 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Lily L. says

    Could you please tell me which is a best option for grinding or “processing” dry foods, such as Gingersnaps, crackers, etc. Anything dry? I’ve been considering a Kitchen Aid because I am a fan of the brand, But your expertise means a lot. Thanks!

  2. Narda Potts says

    Hi Jessica!
    This may sound ignorant, I have a Bamix, can you tell me which it is more like, a food processor or food blender please?

    I enjoy your recipes!
    Thank you

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