Sometimes a large food processor just isn't the best tool. It doesn't handle small amounts very well. When you've got a job that's too big to do by hand and too small for a large food processor, it's nice to have a 3-cup (720-mL) food processor in your kitchen. If you're going to spend your hard-earned money on one, however, you should get your money's worth. The best 3-cup food processor will feature a bottom-mounted and sealed motor; a large, solidly constructed bowl; a small footprint; and steady, even operation.
A bottom-mounted and sealed motor is one characteristic of a high-quality 3-cup food processor. Some small food processors come with motors that sit on top of the bowls, but these have distinct disadvantages. A top-mounted motor can block the view of the chopping process, forcing you to bend over to see what's going on. That's not only annoying, it could be a major problem if you have limited mobility. Also, unless the motor is completely enclosed, dust and even food particles can get in and clog the mechanism.
The best 3-cup food processor will also have a large, sturdy bowl. Ideally, the bowl should be the same width as the base. Smaller bowls are difficult to keep clean. Dinky bowls might also increase the amount of contact between the blades and your food, chopping or puréeing it too fast. Also, the bowl should feel sturdy enough to survive a fall onto a hard kitchen floor.
A quality 3-cup food processor should also have a small footprint, so you can store it on your counter top. This is especially important if you have a small kitchen, but a diminutive food processor is a good choice even if you have plenty of space. With your appliance set up and ready to go, you can whip up great meals and treats whenever the inspiration strikes. You'll be less likely to use a processor you have to dig it out of a cabinet.
Lastly, the best 3-cup food processor should operate steadily and evenly. Lower-end models are often improperly balanced, and that can cause problems. An improperly balanced food processor can vibrate during use, and if you get distracted while such a model is running, the entire unit might dance off the counter and fall to the floor. Unevenly balanced food processors also make more noise than their balanced counterparts, which might influence your willingness to use the machine.