When you’re cooking up a storm, a large, high quality food processor is a must-have. In mere seconds it can chop pounds of vegetables or blitz a bunch of parsley into dust. If what you're looking for is a blender, after all, don't sweat it. We've done similar roundups for the best blenders and pro-style blenders.
If you’ve never used a food processor, you may find there's a bit of a learning curve. But once you master the operation, you’ll never again find it too much trouble to slice spuds thinly for scalloped potatoes, shred carrots for salad, or grind peanuts and almonds to make your own nut butters at home.
Our top pick, the Cuisinart "Custom 14" DFP-14BCNY(available at Amazon for $155.62), isn’t cheap but it gives a top-notch performance without hogging too much kitchen space. With 14 cups of capacity, this food chopper is a great option for home cooks. However, if you’re looking for a more stripped-down experience, we've got plenty of other options.
These are the best food processors we tested ranked, in order:
Cuisinart was the first food processor sold in the US and, in our opinion, the Cuisinart “Custom 14” is the best food processor on the market today. It excelled at almost every task, chopping onions and slicing tomatoes as well as a razor-sharp chefs’ knife, as well as kneading pizza dough into a smooth elastic ball.
Shredding mozzarella was the only chore at which it faltered. Although it shredded without stalling, like every model we tested it failed to produce shreds evenly.
It’s not small, but the nearly 16-inch tall Cuisinart will fit under a cabinet, and at 17 pounds it isn’t too heavy to move around. The operation is simple: There are two large levers to press, one to run the processor continuously and then shut it off and one for pulse. In addition to the basic chopping/mixing/dough blade, it comes with shredding and slicing discs. To use the discs, you attach them to a stem that sits in the bowl. Be aware that it’s a little tricky to click them into place.
The food chute locks into place at the rear of the bowl, which is slightly inconvenient when you’re feeding in food but makes it easier to see what’s happening in the bowl during processing. As the tube is large, there’s no need to cut a block of mozzarella or a beefsteak tomato in half before processing them. While it’s running, the Cuisinart is so quiet it won’t shut down conversation in the kitchen.
The Custom 14 is easy to clean: Cuisinart is the only manufacturer that goes beyond just "dishwasher safe" and actually encourages you to wash the parts in the dishwasher. It’s available in white or black with stainless accents or all brushed stainless steel. A disc storage unit, a flat lid, other size shredding, and slicing discs, and whisk attachments can be purchased separately.
In spite of its rock bottom price, the Black + Decker 3-in-1 Easy Assembly 8-cup food processor (model FP4200B) wowed us with its ability to mince, chop, and slice. Although large ripe tomatoes had to be cut in quarters to fit in the feed tube, they came out in perfectly uniform slices (this is great if you like chopped vegetables), ready to be arranged around a salad bowl or tucked between slices of mozzarella. This Black + Decker was also the only one we tested to cut a complete stick of pepperoni into perfectly even rounds.
What you don’t get at this price is the ability to knead the dough. The bowl is particularly easy to position on the base. With this machine, you get only one attachment besides the chopping blade: a reversible slicing and shredding disc that can easily be stored in a drawer. The noise isn’t great either. When it’s running it pretty much sounds like a hairdryer.
How We Tested
Hi, I'm Sharon Franke, and I’ve been reviewing kitchen equipment for upwards of 30 years. Before that, I worked as a professional chef in NYC restaurants for seven years. Now, most of my cooking is done on weekends in my small apartment kitchen. While I’m a whiz with a knife, I wouldn’t want to live without my food processor for tasks like finely chopping veggies for a tabbouleh or preparing pastry dough for tarts and quiches.
To find the best food processor, we tested six full-size ones over the course of a few weeks (we'll give mini food processors their due, don't worry). Each appliance was rated on how well it chopped onions, minced parsley, ground almonds, sliced potatoes, tomatoes, and pepperoni, shredded mozzarella cheese, and cut potatoes into julienne strips. In those that were designed to knead, we made pizza dough. As you’ll definitely need to read the manual before you use your food processor for the first time and maybe the second, third and fourth, we spent a lot of time poring over each one. Did it explain how to use the processor thoroughly or did we still have to experiment to figure out how to assemble the parts, use the attachments, and process specific foods? We also considered whether it was easy to lock the lid onto the work bowl and use the controls and how much of a racket it created when running. While we didn’t include size in our ratings, we took it into consideration as once you see what it can do, you may want to give your food processor a permanent place on your countertop. We also checked whether or not they come with a storage case.
What is a Food Processor?
A food processor is a kitchen appliance that can chop, mix, puree, emulsify, grate, and shred ingredients. There are two main features that set this appliance apart from others in your kitchen—its settings and its blade.
Ellsworth goes on to say that most food processors come with base settings that include pulse and puree. Pulsing allows you to chop ingredients in short bursts—this is best used when adding large chunks to the processor, as it allows you to chop them down to a manageable size. Even if you're going to eventually puree the ingredients, it’s a good idea to pulse the big pieces first so they don’t get stuck in the blade.
On the other hand, when you puree in your food processor, the blade blends ingredients continuously. This is the perfect setting for making pesto or tomato sauce. Most processors allow you to control the speed of your puree—typically with high and low settings. A high speed will emulsify your ingredients more, while a low speed will leave you with chunkier bits.
High-end models may also come with more advanced chopping options, but for the most part, these standard settings work perfectly. It's more important to have a powerful model, which is one of the key aspects we tested in this article.
What's the Difference Between a Grating Disc and a Slicing Disc?
Food processors have a removable blade, which not only makes cleaning much easier but allows you to use a variety of specific attachments. You’ll want to use your standard blade for pulsing and pureeing, but the following are two common attachments that are helpful for other food prep.
Grating Disc: A grating attachment works well for items like carrots, potatoes, and cheese. To use it, remove the standard blade and place the grating disc on the middle spoke in your processor. Reattach the lid, then remove the pusher from the feed tube—that's the little "chimney" that allows you to drop ingredients into the processor. Hold the pulse button and add your ingredient. You should use the pusher to press your ingredient further into the processor. Do not use your fingers!
Slicing Disc: To slice an ingredient, follow the same steps as grating, but use the attachment that has a thin slicing line across it. You can use this attachment to shave Brussels sprouts, make potato gratin or slice up other vegetables.
How Do I Clean a Food Processor?
There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that food processors can take some work to clean. There are a lot of pieces to remove and soak, and some components have nooks and crannies that are difficult to fully clean. There are a few easy-to-clean food processors available if you're not one for careful scrubbing.
The good news, however, is that all the pieces are removable, and many can go in the dishwasher.
Other Food Processors We Tested
Breville BFP800XL Sous Chef 16 Pro
The Breville Sous Chef 16 Pro is a real beauty, but you certainly pay for the privilege. In addition to top-notch performance, it offers every imaginable bell and whistle and then some. If you cook often in large quantities and have the change, this 16-cup machine is worth the money. However, if you don’t, the Breville may be more food processor than you need.
It’s big, with a footprint of 11 x 8 inches, and at 18 inches tall, it’s too high to fit under a cabinet. And because it weighs 26 pounds, you won’t want to be lugging it in and out of a closet or cabinet. Once you invest in the Breville you’ll want to give it a dedicated space in your kitchen. With it, you get a 2 ½-cup bowl that turns it into a mini chopper and a storage box that holds 5 discs, 2 blades, spatula, and a cleaning brush. While that gives you lots of flexibility as to how you use your machine and store all the stuff, that’s two other items to find room for.
But there’s much to love. The Breville screams quality with parts that glide into place. It has three lighted control buttons: on/off, run, and pulse. There’s an LCD timer that counts up or down—handy for example when a recipe specifies to knead for 2 minutes. The shredding disc is reversible so you have a choice of two size shreds and the slicing disc is adjustable from very thin to about a third-of-an-inch thick. Among the accessories are julienne and French fry blades so you don’t have to slice potatoes twice to get strips. On the bowl, you’ll find measurements in cups, liters, ounces, and ml, maximum fill lines for liquids and shredding, and a spout. The cord, which is particularly easy to pull out of a socket, stores in a compartment in the back. As it has a huge food chute, you can slice a small pepper without cutting it in half. When your machine is running it practically purrs. If you’re the type who likes to throw everything in the dishwasher, keep in mind that it’s recommended that you wash the parts by hand. You can choose a silver, red, or black housing.
The KitchenAid 14-Cup Food Processor is a bit of an investment that will occupy considerable space in your kitchen. It has a footprint of 11 x 11 inches and stands 17 inches tall—too high to keep under a cabinet. It also weighs 21 pounds. The blades and discs, plus a cleaning brush, come in their own decidedly not-small case. Plus you get a 4-cup mini bowl and a dicing kit in a container that will also need storage space.
Unfortunately, the KitchenAid’s performance lagged behind those of similar size and price. It chopped, minced, and ground evenly but not quite as finely. While it sliced uniformly, its feed tube was small and a beefy tomato and pound of mozzarella had to be halved before processing. If you make lots of pizzas and bread, this is definitely not the food processor for you. It struggled to knead and danced alarmingly across the countertop, knocking over other items in its path. Surprisingly, the dicing attachment only creates a small dice with soft foods like tomatoes, fruits, or hard-boiled eggs and not hard veggies. Around the edge of the lid, there’s a trough that traps food and is particularly difficult to clean, especially after processing soft items like cheese or hard-boiled eggs.
On the plus side, the slicing disc can be adjusted from the front of the machine; when you want thin strips of cucumber and thicker ones of tomato for the same salad, you won’t have to stop and change the blade. Unlike the others we tested, the chute doesn’t lock into the lid, which makes it especially easy to use. The motor noise is downright pleasant. Available in silver, slate, white, black, and red.
The 12-cup Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Duo Plus Food Processor can mince parsley and grind almonds with the best of them. However, it was weak on some tasks, leaving a big percentage of pepperoni unsliced and cutting ripe tomatoes so thinly they fell apart. The Hamilton Beach is not designed to knead heavy yeast doughs. Considering its price and lightweight it would be a decent choice for family meal prep if the cook isn’t looking for precision results. With it comes a smaller 4-cup bowl for turning an avocado into guacamole or mincing a few cloves of garlic. This is definitely not a statement piece for your countertop and gunk can collect around the control buttons making it nitpicky to clean. Don’t be surprised if the kids cover their ears when they hear it whirring.
There’s a lot to love about this model. For starters, it had the most thorough manual of all we tested. In the back of the base, there’s a storage compartment to hold the chopping and dough blades and the stem. You do, however, have to find a place to stash the reversible slicing and shredding disc as well as the 5-cup bowl that converts it into a mini chopper. On basic food processing tasks like chopping onions, mincing parsley, and grinding almonds it did as well as the much pricier models.
However, when it came to slicing, it didn’t yield uniform results and left large chunks of pepperoni sitting on top of the slicing disc unprocessed. And on kneading pizza dough, it really fell behind the top-rated food processors. In order to mix the dry and liquid ingredients, we had to stop and give it an assist with a spatula. Although the Oster ultimately turned out a workable ball of dough, as it kneaded it rocked in place and sounded like a space ship getting ready for blast-off. Plus, liquids leaked out from between the lid and the bowl and into crevices on the base, leaving us with a big mess to clean up. This reasonably-priced model can handle basic kitchen prep but isn’t recommended if you want to whip up made-from-scratch pizza and breads.
You’ll know right away that the Black + Decker Power Pro Wide-Mouth Food Processor isn’t in the same league as the more expensive models. When you slide the bowl and lid into place, they move stiffly and figuring out how to use the lid and chute is a challenge. It didn’t chop onions evenly and mangled mozzarella. Although it’s called Wide-Mouth we had to cut our pound of mozzarella in half to fit it in the chute. This food processor is not designed for kneading dough. In the lid a crevice traps food, especially sticky stuff like cheese, making cleanup a lot of work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.