From Too Many Chefs -

September 12, 2005
A question for the cooking masses

As you may or may not have noticed, my household is devoid of only one major cooking implement (well, aside from the 10,000 btu wok burner, that is). You've seen me chop, slice, dice, blend, and make dough, but always by hand or with a mixer or blender.

I do not own a food processor.

Yes, that's right, I have somehow managed to do without that most ubiquitous of gourmet gadgets for years. My wife, however, has decided, that just maybe we can consider getting one of these marvels.

So I have two questions for our loyal readers:

One - do I need a food processor? Will it make that much of a difference in my life or my cooking? Or will it sit on the shelf mostly unused?

Two - If I do get a food processor, what size do I get? I "inherited" a mini food processor from roommates long gone, and I think the thing is useless. By the time I get the thing out, plug it in, use it and clean it I could have done the work twice with a knife or immersion blender.

My good friend Paul (he of locussolus and formerly of Too Many Chefs fame) recommends a 7 cup processor, with the warning that it's easy to get a machine that's too big for many jobs. When I've looked, the 14 cup processor certainly seems oversized, but I'm intrigued by the 11 cup model. Or is that too big, and I should be thinking about a 7 cup model?

So do I need a food processor, and if I do, should I get a seven or eleven cup model? What do the cooking masses think? Leave your opinion in the comments.

OK, I'll add a third question - Cuisinart or another brand, and why? Thanks to all who leave informed opinions.

UPDATE: OK, based on the feedback, I think I will defer purchasing a food processor for now. It seems clear that space is a determining factor. We have a kitchen that's pretty full of stuff already, and to be honest I don't know where the beastie would go. I may still get one in the future when we move to a new place next year, but for now, it's no processor for me.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at September 12, 2005 9:02 AM | TrackBack

I use mine for a lot of the things you use your mandolin to do. That said, I think it's GREAT at grating a lot of cheese quickly.

If you do get one, I would recommend one that comes with a centrifuge fruit juicer. It's something I didn't use much when I didn't have a dishwasher but they are realy fun. Basically, you pulp the fruit against a textured base and then it gets flung against the sides of a drum that is lined with a plastic filter. The juice trickles below.

As for brands, I'm reasonably happy with mine but not so much so that I'd say it's better than any other brand!

Posted by Meg in Paris on September 12, 2005 at 9:33 AM

Meg, what brand and size is your processor?

I just remembered the one thing I liked about the mini food processor - it was called a "micro-processor". I'm sure it wasn't much more than a 80286.

Posted by barrett on September 12, 2005 at 10:14 AM

Mind is Moulinex and is so old (nearly 10 years!) that the model number has worn away.

I hate the mini-processors. The one my mother owns was awful at making baby food; you processed and pulsed and processed and still ended up with big chunks that the baby wouldn't accept. My wand blender is a thousand times more efficient and much easier to clean.

The Moulinex is great for Nigel's salsa verde also. I thought it was a disadvantage when I first started making the sauce that the quantity was too small to make a smooth purée. But the first time I made the sauce with the wand blender, I realized that it was much better roughly processed. The flavors and texture were more interesting.

Posted by Meg in Paris on September 12, 2005 at 10:41 AM

I spent $200 on a food processor 20 years ago when I was making maybe $18K -- it's still going strong, I keep it handy and use it 2-3 times a week -- and when I do, I'm VERY grateful to have it for nothing else would work quite right. It's a Cuisinart, a big one though don't remember how big. I agree about the baby ones - they're largely useless (I gave away a baby Cuisinart, an entry-level product that probably hurt Cuisinart's overall sales) except that I do very often use the small food processor bowl that came with the immersion blender and DO really appreciate it. In the last year, Cooks Illustrated rated/ranked food processors. I didn't think to look at what you cook day-in, day-out before starting this comment. Fun question, the responses will e ingriguing. Alanna

Posted by Alanna on September 12, 2005 at 11:21 AM

I'm going to say no you don't need a food processor. I recently gave a large one away because it sat in the back of my pantry collecting dust and taking up far too much precious space. I did however keep the mini-processor that I use occasionally for grating cheese, making bread crumbs or chopping onions.

If you have good knife skills, a Kitchen Aid mixer, a blender or stick blender and a mandolin I think it is a useless addition to your kitchen.

Let us know what you decide.

Posted by Tracy on September 12, 2005 at 12:08 PM

I don't have a food processor either, though I do lust after one... I think you can probably survive without one, but having one around will make your life easier! If you put stock into what the folks at Cooks Illustrated say, I think they recently said that their favorite food processor is actually from Kitchenaid. I realize this isn't really giving you advice so much as making your decision more complicated. So I say go for it!

Posted by Luisa on September 12, 2005 at 1:58 PM

It gathers dust for awhile, then it feels like you use it on every meal. There are also some nice things you can do with it that you cannot do as easily by hand. Gioza (sp?? Japanese Pot stickers) are one of them. You get a real nice mash on the filling with a processor and it's easier to put it on the wrapper.

Just my 3 cents, with inflation.

Posted by Bryan on September 12, 2005 at 2:35 PM

I have a simple Black and Decker model, not sure of the size.

It's great for when I have a lot of slicing or grating to do (I host most of the family meals now). I will say, though, that my knife skills aren't great. I also have been using it recently to sift flour and other "dry goods" when I bake. It does a way better job than my old metal sifter or a wisk.

It also does a fantastic (if gross) job of pureeing meat when I make dog treats. This is probably not a common use, though :)

Posted by Keri on September 12, 2005 at 4:43 PM

I'm going to go with Tracy on this one. I'm a grump and don't want something taking up space I can't use on a regular basis, daily cooking. I've worked with them and find it far easier to clean a knife, grater, dough kneader than a processor. Yup, it grates cheese fast and makes great pesto, blah blah blah. But I already have tools in my kitchen that do the same thing with a little more effort, yet less on the clean time.
Unless you have plenty of counter/storage space and don't mind spending a few hundred dollars on something that you may or may not use.
Picture this, go to your favorite market, farmers or otherwise and gather yourself up 250 dollars worth of your favorite ingredients, any time of year. Lay them out and admire them. Then, put the processor next to them and decide.
It's your choice.
Or you could ask around to borrow a friends for month to see if you'd really like to own one.


Posted by Dr. Biggles on September 12, 2005 at 5:31 PM

I don't think one needs a food processor either.

Having said that, I do find that ours is useful. We use it enough to merit having it - for pate, palak paneer, a Christmas torte, and pesto.

I used to use ours for grating cheese but found it was just as easy to use the box grater. And the box grater is WAY easier to clean. I also used to use it for finely slicing potatoes for scalloped potatoes but now we either use the mandolin or a knife. Again - mandolin and knife are WAY easier to clean.

We have a Braun Multipractic Plus that we bought in 1988. Last year we had to replace the shaft because some idiot who lives here (whose name begins with E) tried to knead too much slack bread dough at once.


Posted by ejm on September 12, 2005 at 5:40 PM

IF you can afford the space.. that is the prime consideration, IMHO .. it is fabulous. I went with the 14 cup model (Cuisinart, if anyone cares), and already had the small mini model. I now do nearly all my breads in the big one ... pizza dough, tart paste, etc. But I also remodeled my kitchen to give me 12 linear feet more of cabinet space. If you have a small space, and doing breads is not prime in your life ... I wouldn't do it. The last time I used my small one, was for the last of the summer basil, so I could do a quick food processor pesto for the freezer (Thank you, Marcella!); otherwise, it is waaaay too much trouble to get the little guy out for a job that my chef's knife (or, more recently, my santoku) can do just fine, with lots less trouble and inconvenience.

Conclusion: You have the space - get it! No space - you can get by without it!

Posted by k on September 12, 2005 at 7:59 PM

I had a food processor for years and rarely used it. Then I was doing a lot of recipe development, and decided to keep it on the countertop. Once there, I used it all the time. That's the secret of using a food processor: If you keep it handy, you'll use it. Since it has lot of moving parts & panels, it's drag to always schlep it out from behind all the pots and pans it's hiding behind in the lower shelf of a kitchen. So keep it on the counter (if you have the space) and you'll use it.
Also, choose a model without all the fancy feed tubes and the like. They just complicate things. I like my KitchenAid food processor, which is simple and powerful.

Posted by David on September 13, 2005 at 4:10 AM

Years ago, I happened upon a medium-sized [I don't know how many cups] Omnichef food processor in mint condition at a thrift shop for the ridiculous price of about 6 bucks. How could I pass up that kind of bargain?!

Having worked in a restaurant where two food-processors whirred non-stop, I wondered how I ever got along without one. So I bought it and set it up on my kitchen countertop, next to the blender and the toaster and the coffee maker and the microwave. And there it sat.

On the rare occasions that I used it, I had to wash it twice...once to get off the dust it had gathered, and then again to divest it of whatever mess I'd made in it.

I've always found the food processor way too powerful...a little intimidating even. And everything I prepare in it comes out exactly the same...pureed mush. No nice perfect paper thin slices of potatoes, no finely grated zucchini and carrots, no coarsely chopped apples. I once tried to make my wonderfully chunky tomato-cucumber-parsley fatoosh that I serve with wedges of pita bread and ended up with something more like gazpacho with an Arabic groove. Tasty but not at all what I had in mind.

However, there are certain tasks that a food processor does best, especially creamy soups, fine herbs and bread crumbs...Not that a blender wouldn't do and is much easier to clean, but the food processor is just a little better at it for some reason. I think because of the shape and volume.

In my new kitchen, my food processor is conveniently and accessibly stored in a cupboard, next to my shiny chrome hand-cranked pasta maker, under the countertop where the microwave and the toaster and the blender, still hold their esteemed places in full view.

But my 6" cleaver (which I love!), my wire whisk, my hand mixer, my trusty box grater, and even my suicidally-sharp, new-fangled mandolin get more action than my food processor.

So, all that being a food processor. As long as you don't mind washing it and have a place to store it, you won't be sorry.

Posted by celeste on September 13, 2005 at 3:04 PM

Good point, Celeste - I do use my processor to make bread crumbs periodically and I don't think the stick blender or a real one could do it nearly as well. I just keep old baguette pieces until they are thoroughly dry and then break them in small pieces and zap them. I use the colandar to separate them into large pieces (for stuffing) and fine crumbs (for breading cutlets, fish, etc.).

Posted by Meg in Paris on September 14, 2005 at 2:16 AM

i use my custom pro 11 (cup) cuisinart constantly. it has a flat cover accessory (to use when you don't need the wide feed tube) that's easy to clean. the bowl is large enough to handle pastry dough or a quick chop, but will handle a small amount of pesto as well. i particularly like it for making mayonnaise. the push tube has a very small hole in the bottom, so i just set that in place - holds about 1/2 cup of oil at a time. i can make a double batch of mayo without having to stand there with my arm in the air - just refill the tube when it gets low. (i use grapeseed oil and never buy commercial mayo anymore.)

i use a brush for most cleanup - works great on the blades, the work bowl, and flat cover. when i use the wide feed tube for grating cheese, it goes in the dishwasher!

buyer beware, my first food processor was a less expensive brand that wasn't near as much fun - not as versital and turned a lot of things to mush.

i say bite the bullet - get a good one!

Posted by terri on September 16, 2005 at 10:15 AM