Countertop space in my kitchen is valuable. What I keep out and about in my kitchen has to be useful. When it comes to countertop appliances, food processors are one of the most versatile. They are designed to accomplish specialized tasks quickly in the kitchen, and having the right one at your disposal means less effort and time spent slaving over a recipe.
Like stand mixers, food processors are multitaskers. Depending on the attachment, a good processor can easily shred hard or soft cheeses, mix dough, dice and slice vegetables or make butters and spreads. you can even make emulsions and soups with the help of a processor.
I tested seven different food processors, representing major brands and best sellers according to Amazon, Target and Walmart. You can pick a food processor up for as little as $25 or splurge big on a pro model for upward of $600. The models I tested fall squarely in the middle, in the $100 to $200 range. There are also mini models and extra large options. These are all an average size -- between 10- and 14-cup capacities.
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Best overall: Braun FP3020 12-cup food processorTyler Lizenby/CNET
It isn't pretty (not even a little), but this $180 German food processor from Braun's Tribute Collection had the best results by far when it came to blending and chopping. The hummus from the Braun processor was the smoothest of any I made in my testing. Pico de gallo pulsed in the Braun FP3020 was uniform and finely chopped without leaving too much juice pooled in the bottom of the bowl.
The 12-cup bowl is big enough for families, and with 15 speeds you'll have plenty of control over your processing. The ability to fine-tune the speed came in extra handy when I grated a hard block of parmesan. On high, it was uncontrollable in most food processors, but with the speed at, say, a 6 or 8 out of 15 in the Braun, I could steady the cheese and guide it better through the chute while still getting a good grate.
You'll also get seven attachments for shredding, slicing, whipping kneading, juicing and mixing. The $180 MSRP is on the upper end of our price range, but the Amazon price at the time of this posting put it at a reasonable $159.
Best value: Cuisinart FP-11SV Elemental food processorTyler Lizenby/CNET
We tested multiple Cuisinart models, and this one wins for its balance of performance, value and features. The $129.99 MSRP and current Amazon price of $115.35 make it a reasonably priced, midrange processor that performed well in our tests.
Hummus with the Cuisinart FP-11SV was smooth and well-blended. Four pulses chopped up my pico de gallo ingredients well, and though getting almonds to a butter consistency took significantly longer in this model (about 10 minutes on average compared to other models), the result was a smooth and well-mixed.
Shredding cheese was a bit tricky, since the mouth of this processor is small compared to other models. I had to trim down my wedge of parmesan quite a bit to fit in the chute. However, you do get thoughtful extras like a disc with two shredding size options (fine or medium) and suction cups on the bottom of the processors to help it stay steady on your countertop.
Best for shredding and slicing: KitchenAid KFP1133CU 11-Cup Food Processor with ExactSlice SystemTyler Lizenby/CNET
KitchenAid is a classic brand, and while its stand mixers are beloved, I can't say the same for the food processors. This 11-cup model worked well, but it wasn't the best performer in blending and chopping. However, you will get a lot of attachments, and it's great for shredding and slicing since it comes with multiple discs for different shred and slice sizes.
Hummus in this model was a smooth, well-blended consistency with even flavor. Five pulses did the trick for pico de gallo, and almond butter was easily processed, though the machine did get very warm in the 18 minutes it took to process the nuts. This KitchenAid model does have an automatic shut-off to prevent motor burnout, but that heat still made me nervous.
Shredding and slicing is where KitchenAid really shines. There is a reversible shredding disc option and an externally adjustable slicing disc that corresponds with a slider on the front of the base, so you can get really specific slice sizes.
There's also a nice storage case included, so you don't end up throwing all those blades into your bowl when it's not in use. It has a classic style, and like any good KitchenAid appliance, it comes in multiple finishes. The MSRP varies depending on which finish you choose. The silver model I tested has a suggested retail of $250, but is on sale at Amazon for $180.
What else we tested
In addition to the three recommended above, we tested four other food processors in the $100-$200 range.
Worth considering, but not as good as the top picks above:
- Hamilton Beach Professional Dicing Food Processor -- I was impressed by the design of this processor, but it wasn't the winner in performance, and I found the button labels and noise level to be a bit bothersome. At $200, I can't recommend it over other better-performing models.
- Cuisinart DFP-14BKSY Custom 14-Cup Food Processor -- This Cuisinart model performed well enough, but you'll only get one speed option and a one size of shredding disc. Models recommended above offer more for your money.
- Ninja Smart Screen Blender and Processor -- This kit comes with a blending bowl, processing bowl and a travel cup. With a smaller (5-cup) bowl capacity, inconsistent and underperforming results, I can't recommend Ninja's system to anyone who's top priority is food processing.
- Oster Designed for Life 14-Cup Food Processor - This food processor just didn't perform well. Hummus had multiple unchopped chickpeas in it, and the gusty airflow out of the front of the machine was enough to blow around items on my countertop.
What to look for
Picking the right food processor for you means considering all the features you'll need for your favorite recipes and common kitchen tasks.
Food processors come in many different volumes. The size is based on the size of the work bowl. I tested models ranging from 11 to 14 cups, but you can get food processors as small as 3 cups. For a household with two or more people, I'd recommend at least an 8-cup model.
Most recipes involving food processors specify mixing or chopping at either a high or low speed, and for that reason, you'll want a processor with at least two speeds. The most common configuration is a low, high and pulse button. There are some models with just one speed, but that's extremely limiting when it comes to having control over your meals.
My top pick, the Braun FP3020 has 15 individual speeds on one dial. That's much more than most people will ever need, but the option to really zero into a specific speed is adds the option for precision.
While your food processor is primarily two spinning blades, there are a host of other attachments that can expand your processor's abilities.
Some come with multiple attachments like discs for shredding and slicing, blades for kneading dough and attachments for juicing or dicing. If you know the tasks you'll do most often, be sure to check that your processor includes the right attachments.
How I tested
While food processors can perform many different tasks, I chose tests that represented the core functions of a food processor. Most people use them to blend, chop, purée and shred.
Narrowed down to these key functions, I chose hummus, pico de gallo, almond butter and shredding parmesan. Those recipes offer a mix of blending, chopping, shredding and pureeing to give me a feel for the performance of each model.
Hummus is a good indicator of how well the processor can blend ingredients together into one smooth dish. Pico illustrated how easy it is to get a uniformly chopped dish made up of ingredients in varying textures and hardnesses.
Almond butter allows me to test the processors ability to puree something like a hard almond into a butter consistency. It also allows me to run the processor for an extended period of time to see if there are overheating issues or noise and vibration complaints. I used 16 ounces of almonds in each test.
A shredding test calls for a nice big block of parmesan, one the hardest cheeses. This tests the grating disc performance as well as the usability of the mouth's width and the processor's food pusher.
I tried my hand at performing each of these in each of these processors. Each recipe was repeated twice in each processor using the same ingredients in the same amounts across all brands. Here's how it all shook out.
Food processors compared
Braun FP3020 12-cup food processor
Cuisinart FP-11SV Elemental food processor
KitchenAid KFP1133CU 11-Cup Food Processor with ExactSlice System
Dimensions (depth, width, height)
14.9 x 11.3 x 15.4 inches
8.0 x 10.5 x 15.75 inches
10.17 x 10.04 x 16.0 inches
Number of speeds