Think of your food processor as an extra pair of hands that can cut down on prep time and may even inspire you to try new recipes. Here are its main features.
If you make a lot of bread dough, look for a high-wattage model (about 1,000 watts), which will provide the power for extended kneading. Otherwise, 600 watts will handle most daily kitchen tasks.
2. Small Feed Tube
Use this opening for feeding small items, like radishes, or for adding liquids while the machine is running, as when you incorporate olive oil into pesto.
The large and small pushers protect fingers as you pass food through the large and small feed tubes. (Most machines are rigged to work only when the large pusher is in place.) You can vary the thickness of the slices by changing how hard you push.
4. Large Feed Tube
This is the opening through which you push most food for slicing and grating. Look for one at least 4½ inches wide. For nice, long shreds, place carrots and other long, narrow vegetables in the tube parallel to the blade, rather than standing them up on end. Insert the pusher and press down firmly before turning the machine on.
5. Work Bowl
An 11-cup capacity is ideal. Skip the models with nesting bowls (4½-cup inside a 14-cup). To use the smaller bowl, you must fit it inside the larger one, then both get dirty during processing.
6. Pulse Button
Use this to turn the machine on and off quickly. Great for chopping in quick spurts so food doesn’t get overprocessed―think salsas and relishes.
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You’ll use this most, so store it in the bowl. If you avoid processing anything you can’t cut with a knife, it should stay sharp for decades.
Often comes in 4 millimeters for thick slices and 2 millimeters for thin. Some machines have one disk that can be flipped over.
You’ll probably use this the least, as it’s intended for kneading yeasted dough. For short doughs and piecrusts, use the metal blade.
Use this to cut firm vegetables, fruits, and cheeses into 1/4- to 1/8-inch bits. You’ll get much prettier results than with a box grater.
Surprising Things You Can (and Can’t) Make in a Food Processor
Peanut butter. With the metal blade, process peanuts continuously for 2 minutes. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of peanut oil at the end if the peanut butter is too thick.
Bread crumbs. Use the metal blade and you’ll never throw away stale bread again.
Pasta dough. Forget about messy flour volcanoes on the counter. Use the metal blade.
Good-for-you chips. Trick kids into eating something wholesome. Use the 2-millimeter slicing disk to make sweet-potato chips; toss with olive oil and bake.
Cole slaw for an army. With the slicing disk, breaking down two heads of cabbage will take 2 minutes instead of half an hour.
Grated mozzarella. Stick the cheese in the freezer for 5 minutes to firm it up, then use the grating disk. This tip also works for cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss, and Muenster.
Big-batch baby food. Cook or steam fruits and vegetables, then puree with the metal blade.
Papier-mâché pulp. With the metal blade, process several sheets of newspaper (torn into small pieces) with a little water. Strain the pulp using a colander and mix with about a tablespoon of glue.
No, Don’t Even Think About It
Mashed potatoes. The starch in the potatoes will yield a gummy consistency.
Meat loaf. The meat will be so pulverized, you will end up with the densest dinner known to humankind.
Whipped cream. You can do it, but the resulting cream will be stiff and you run a strong risk of ending up with butter. Unless the processor model comes with a whipping attachment that allows air to be worked into the cream, stick with your mixer.
Egg whites or meringue. For the same reason you can’t process heavy cream; the results will be too stiff.
Large batches of soup. The fill line is usually too low to make a decent amount, so use a blender instead. (But soup for one or two? Go for it.)
Ground coffee. If the bowl of the processor is larger than 4 cups, skip it. The beans will fly to the side and you will get a rough chop, which will yield a terrible cup of coffee. (The finer the grind, the stronger the brew.)
Crushed ice. Ice is too hard and will dull your blade.