A food processor is a handy and time-saving appliance, but before buying one, there are a few things to consider so that you buy the size and type that meets your particular food prep needs. For more tips on buying a food processor including some important use information, read Food Processor 101
Deciding on Capacity & Size
Your first processor buying decision is capacity. Processors come in various sizes from the 1-3 cup chopping variety to large 12-cup models.
A mid-size 7-10 cup model is popular mostly for small-batch chopping and for slicing/shredding for occasional salads. A smaller chopper will suit those that regularly chop small amounts of onions, vegetables or nuts. If you like to make pickles, often make large salads or want to make bread dough in a processor, you'll need the larger 12-cup model.
Types of Food Processors
Next, do you want a chopper, slicer or more processing function? The term 'food processor' can include a wide range of appliances from basic small choppers or salad slicers, to juicers or specialty food or meat processors, but more commonly, it refers to larger units that have chopping, slicing, shredding and even dough processing abilities, depending on the accessories. Some models have attachments to maximize convenience and function. For this reason, prices can range from well under $100 to several hundreds depending on function and accessories.
Attachments Increase Processing Function
Once you've narrowed down the type of processor you want and capacity, it's important to give some thought to what kind of processing you want to do. If you want to merely chop - you don't need much in way of accessories, but if you want to make bread dough - you'll need a dough hook attachment.
Food processors come with little or much in way of accessories and some models (not all) offer optional attachments. Decide which attachments matter to you and confirm that they're included or can be purchased separately, before buying.
Performance & Features
Performance will vary based on unit size and capacity, but a 500-600 watt motor has reasonable power to handle most food processing tasks. If you tend to make large salads often and want to process bread doughs, look for a larger unit with at least 600 and higher wattage. Many 7-10 cup models come with only one slicing/shredding disk. For more accessories, you'll need to look in the $200 and up price range. Best food processor features include a wider feeding tube, more than one slicing/shredding disk and disc holder, dough hook and convenient smaller work bowl.
Should You Consider a Multifunction or Combo Appliance
Multifunction appliances can save on the budget as well as space, but they're not for everyone.
There are exceptions, but appliances that multi-tasked often do a mediocre job of one function and if you use each function often, buying individual, more efficient appliances may be a better choice. If you're not sure if you'll ever use the added function, you may be paying more which could be a waste. That being said, a dual appliance such as blender/chopper can be perfect for some households, especially those that only occasionally use one of the functions.
Food Processor vs Chopper
It really depends whether you want to chop or do more with the appliance. Those who are creative and like to experiment with food prep will likely want a full-featured food processor that has cutting discs for slicing, grating and shredding. Many kitchens have a larger food processor to handle the bigger tasks, as well as a smaller 1-4 cup chopper for everyday onions, nuts and vegetable chopping.
Consumer Purchasing Tips
If you're buying a larger more expensive food processor, buying an extended service contract is something you may want to consider. Ensure you read the product manual - there may be features or tips that can save you time. The manual will also give you an indication as to optional accessories that are available.
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