Food processors vs blenders: What's the difference?

They both have spinning blades, but the similarities end there.

Credit: Cuisinart
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If you’re anything like us, you probably have a number of small appliances in your kitchen. Among your collection, you likely have a food processor or blender—or maybe even both! But do you know the key differences between these two appliances?

Most people know to use a high-performance blender for smoothies and a food processor for chopping vegetables, but what makes one tool better suited for these tasks than the other? Strap in, because we're going to dive into what makes these appliances tick—or should we say, spin—and when to use each one.

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Food processors: When to use them

When to use a food processor
Credit: Cuisinart

Food processors are ideal for chopping food.

Food processors should be your go-to tool when doing meal prep. This appliance allows you to chop, pulse, and puree ingredients, whether you’re combining them into one dish or prepping them one at a time.

You can also think of it this way: You should use your food processor when you cut whole ingredients into smaller pieces. This includes chopping onions, slicing carrots and even cutting butter into pastry dough. A food processor is also a great choice for dishes that call for several chopped ingredients blended together—such as pesto and salsa.

  • The blades: Unlike blenders, food processors come with very sharp blades—the standard blade is S-shaped with dual prongs, which provides quick and effective slicing. The blade is typically removable, and different food processor attachments allow you to do more complex food prep, such as grating and shredding.
  • The motor: Food processors come with a standard motor—the real power comes from the blades.
  • The bowl: Food processors come in a variety of sizes, with bowls ranging from 3 cups to 15 cups or more. They typically have feeding tubes, as well, which can be used to safely add ingredients while the machine is on.
  • Cleaning: It can be cumbersome to clean a food processor since there are so many pieces, and the main thing to keep in mind is safety—those blades are sharp!

These are the basics, but for a more in-depth discussion of this appliance, we have additional tips on how to use a food processor.

Food typically made in a food processor

Bottom line? Use a food processor for:

  • Pesto
  • Pasta sauce
  • Pastry and cookie dough
  • Slicing and grating
  • Chopping vegetables

Blenders: When to use them

When to use a blender
Credit: KitchenAid

Blenders put the smooth in smoothies—and other liquidy concoctions.

There are so many varieties available—high-performance, budget-friendly, and even personal blenders—but at their core, all blenders are born to puree.

Whether you have a professional-grade blender or a budget blender, use your appliance for dishes and drinks that are heavily liquid-based and those that don’t require different consistencies. If you want a smooth, velvety texture, you should break out the blender.

  • The blades: Unlike the food processor, blender blades are quite dull—you still don’t want to stick your hand in there, but the true power of your blender comes from the motor, not the blades themselves.
  • The motor: Blenders have a stronger motor than food processors, allowing the blades to spin quickly, easily pureeing your ingredients. Speed and power make your blender such an effective tool.
  • The bowl: Most blender bowls are made for pouring, so they feature a lip and measurements on the side. The lid may also feature a small removable plug, which allows you to add ingredients during the blending process.
  • Cleaning: It's easier to clean a blender. The base doesn’t get too messy (unless something has gone terribly wrong), so it’s really just the blades and bowl you need to clean. Both are detachable and can be washed separately, which allows you to take care when washing the blade. Alternatively, some people just put warm, soapy water in their blender, then turn it on, allowing the appliance's power to do the cleaning.

Food typically made in a blender

When in doubt, use your blender for:

  • Smoothies
  • Soups
  • Frozen drinks
  • Pureed fruits
  • Crushed ice

Immersion blenders: When to use them

When to use an immersion blender
Credit: Braun

Immersion blenders are great when you're strapped for space.

But wait—what about the blender's little cousin, the immersion blender? This stick-like specialty blender is unique enough to warrant its own section.

Immersion blenders are inexpensive, lightweight and compact. They’re easy to clean and store, making them the ideal choice for novice chefs or cooks who don’t have a lot of kitchen space. This appliance is great for small-batch cooking, soup making and churning. Many people love using immersion blenders to puree soup ingredients in the pot itself, as it saves you from having to wash extra dishes!

  • The blades: The blades in an immersion blender are smaller and encased in a metal lip. When using an immersion blender, it’s important to remember the blades must be fully submerged before they can properly blend ingredients.
  • The motor: While still powerful, the motor of an immersion blender is smaller and not as powerful as a traditional blender. You probably don’t want to crush ice with your immersion blender, but for pureeing, it will do just fine.
  • The bowl: Depending on what you’re blending, you may not need to use the bowl that comes with immersion blenders. Most models include a small measuring bowl—perfect for small-batch pesto or smoothies—but if you’re blending something larger, you can use whatever bowl or pot you’ve prepared the ingredients in.
  • Cleaning: As easy as it gets! The blending apparatus easily detaches from the motor, so rinsing and cleaning your immersion blender is quite easy.

Do you need both a standard blender and an immersion blender? Not really. Most anything you'd make with an immersion blender can be made in a normal blender—but the reverse doesn't hold true. The uses of immersion blenders are more limited, making them a good, affordable starting point if you're outfitting your kitchen for the first time.

Food typically made in an immersion blender

Use an immersion blender for:

  • Soups
  • Creamy vinaigrette
  • Small-batch smoothies
  • Homemade butter

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