A good food processor can chop, slice, dice, knead and puree, making it one of the most versatile tools you can have in your kitchen. But if you’re unfamiliar with how to use your food processor or you don’t know about all the kitchen tasks it can accomplish, there’s a good chance your handy appliance is sitting around underutilized.
The Good Housekeeping Institute’s Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab regularly tests food processors and evaluates each unit’s ease of use, cleaning and assembly, plus the variety of settings it has to offer. Our experts carefully measure food processors’ performance by using them to slice and shred vegetables, dice onions, mince parsley, grate cheese and knead dough. The best units, like our winning 12-cup Breville Sous Chef, have the right capacity, accessories and power to handle all these tasks and more. While a food processor can’t fully replace your chef’s knife, it can save you a lot of time in the kitchen by speeding up tedious tasks.
Ready to start slicing and dicing? Here’s everything you need to know to get the most out of your food processor:
How to assemble your food processor
Before you start using your food processor, you’ll need to make sure all the parts are clean and properly assembled. Most food processors come with an electric base, a plastic work bowl, a blade shaft, multiple blades, a work bowl lid, a feed tube and a plunger.
- Place the work bowl onto the base. With the unit unplugged, fit the work bowl onto the electrical base, making sure it’s securely attached.
- Insert the blade adapter. If the vertical blade adapter is not already built into the appliance, attach it now to the center of the work bowl.
- Attach the appropriate blade or accessory. For most dicing, chopping and pureeing, you should attach the standard S-blade that comes with your appliance. For kneading dough, attach the soft dough accessory. For slicing or shredding, attach the round slicing blade that will sit at the top of the work bowl.
- Attach the work bowl lid. To prevent food from splattering and to make using the food processor as safe as possible, you should attach the lid to your work bowl before mixing anything. You can add ingredients directly into the work bowl before putting the lid on, or add ingredients through the feed tube, depending on the recipe.
- Plug in and use your food processor. Once your food processor is safely assembled, plug it into the appropriate outlet and get to cooking! Make sure to unplug the appliance before cleaning or changing the blade while the work bowl is in place.
What size food processor do I need?
A standard food processor has a wide work bowl with a capacity between 2 and 14 cups — we recommend larger models between 12 and 14 cups for the most versatility. An S-shaped blade sits in the bottom of the bowl, and the blade can be plain-edged or serrated; the plain edge delivers clean cuts and is better for chopping meat and most vegetables, while the serrated blades can puree as well, working well on nut butters and frozen ingredients.
Most food processors have one speed, though some can have high, medium and low settings. The highest setting is good for smooth purees and working through tough ingredients, while the low setting is good for processing softer ingredients.
A pulse setting is great for incrementally chopping food and controlling the blade to limit your risk of over processing. It’s also great for getting an even chop: The stop-and-go motion allows unprocessed items from the top to fall onto the blade to be processed. Otherwise, items close to the blade just continue to be processed, making the bottom more fine than the top. (If your appliance doesn’t have a pulse setting, you can manually pulse.)
Blades and accessories
In addition to the basic S-blade, many food processors come with slicing and shredding discs, dough blades, dicing attachments and other accessories. Switching blades and discs and using different speeds — plus the pulse function — allows you to have more control over your ingredients and get the most out of your appliance. Always handle your blades with care.
What should I use my food processor for?
Food processors are good for much, much more than just dicing vegetables. Here are some everyday kitchen tasks your processor can handle with ease.
- Grating Parmesan cheese. Microplanes and handheld graters are great for adding some cheese to the top of a dish, but if you’re working with a pasta recipe that calls for half a cup or more of finely grated cheese, you need a quicker option. If you cut your wedge into 1-inch chunks and blitz them in your food processor with the standard blade, you’ll quickly have just what you need. Pulsing will give you control over the texture of your final product. (This goes for other cheeses, too).
- Kneading dough. Using the dough attachment on your food processor can make quick work of kneading bread or pizza dough, as well as pie crust. If you’re making a crumbly crust for something like cheesecake, the standard blade works well.
- Mincing herbs. Standard food processor blades can mince herbs like parsley, cilantro and basil without much of the bruising you risk with a knife.
- Whipping up dressings and dips. Most food processors have specific chutes or holes in the feed tube that are perfect for slowly incorporating oil into the work bowl, which is essential for making mayonnaise or creamy Caesar salad dressing. I love using my food processor for making chimichurri and a variety of dips and sauces.
- Mixing cookies and light batter. Simple cookie recipes that aren’t weighed down with a ton of butter and flour can easily be made in the food processor. You can also use your appliance for part of a larger recipe, like shredding carrots for carrot cake.
Food processor mistakes to avoid
Although good food processors are fairly durable and versatile, they can’t accomplish everything. Avoid these mistakes to get the best results (and the longest lifespan) out of your appliance.
- Throwing in whole hard vegetables. Before chopping, cut food — particularly uncooked meat and hard veggies like carrots and potatoes — into 1-2 inch pieces for more even processing. Freeze soft meats and cheeses for 20 minutes before adding to the processor for better results.
- Ignoring the pulse button. By pressing pulse to run the processor intermittently, you’ll get more even results. Pulsing is particularly great for rough chopping, preparing dishes like bruschetta without bruising herbs or onions and dicing meat without over-processing or liquefying your ingredients. If your food processor doesn’t have an automatic pulse feature, simply press the main control intermittently.
- Applying too much pressure. When shredding or slicing, let the food processor do most of the work, but work with the pusher to gently guide food into the work bowl. Keep the pressure steady to get the most uniform results.
- Not packing the feed tube. When slicing vegetables and meats, packing ingredients snugly into the feed tube and then pressing lightly with the pusher is the best way to get super-even slices. If your feed tube had multiple sizes or sections, use whichever section will fit your ingredients best and hold them in place as they go through the processor.
- Using it instead of a blender. Not sure when to use your food processor and when to use your blender? If you want a coarse texture, a food processor will get the job done. Blenders are better for fine grinding and pureeing smooth concoctions with liquid.
- Walking away. Don’t walk away while the food processor’s operating, particularly if you’re preparing a heavy load like yeast dough. The processor can “walk” on, or even fall off of, the countertop, creating a huge mess and damaging the appliance.
For more information, please see more information about Best way to chop onions in a food processor