A food processor's best selling point is its ability to replace a number of other kitchen gadgets. A versatile model with the proper blades and attachments can chop food like a knife, knead bread like a mixer, blend ingredients like a power blender, and extract juices like a commercial juicer. Many home cooks can be overwhelmed by the number of options presented by this kitchen machine.
When shopping for a food processor, you should consider power, portability and functionality. These devices range in size from a miniature 2 cup (473 ml) chopper to a 20 cup (4.7 l) professional model for bulk cooking and preparation. The first trick is to buy one that matches your particular cooking needs. Most home cooks could use a medium-size food processor, with an approximately 8 to 10 cup (1.89 to 2.36 l) capacity, for family recipes. Smaller mini-processors could prove handy for quick chopping of a few ingredients, so having two different machines may not be a bad idea. Save the largest sizes for professionals and caterers, unless you anticipate the occasional need for bulk cooking.
Another important consideration is power. Larger units naturally require more power to knead bread doughs and break up hard vegetables. Look for at least 400 watts of power for an average machine. Professional units may feature 750 watts or more, which is more than enough power to handle any food preparation.
One consideration which can separate a good food processor from the rest of the pack is the available accessories. An ideal unit should contain blades, cutting disks and whisks. The cutting tools should be well-constructed and fit securely in the machine. A generous feeding tube with a plunging device is also a good feature. Small feeding tubes can cause cooks to spend significant time cutting food down to size before processing. A good machine allows for food to be added while in operation. A blender attachment can save time and shelf space, while a juicer option duplicates the function of a more expensive device.
Because a food processor is designed to replace a number of other appliances, storage and portability may also be a consideration. Some feature retractable cords or a stacking system for blades and accessories. Most of the processing parts should be dishwasher-safe, or at least easy to clean by hand. Cooks with small children may want one with a locking system to prevent accidental start-ups.
Learning which attachments perform specific tasks in a food processor takes time, so study the owner's manual carefully for tips on getting the best results from your new kitchen appliance.