How to use a food processor
If you have been following my recipes you know I am a big food processor fan. I can't think of any tool I have that saves me more time in the kitchen. After giving a few cooking classes that utilized a food processor I have learned many people:
- Do not know how to properly use a food processor.
- Think food processors are a hassle or too much trouble to clean.
- Own food processors (often acquired as wedding gifts), but store them in a cupboard where they never see the light of day.
My goal today is to convince you to start using a food processor. Here is why:
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Incredible time saver
A food processor will save you huge amounts of time. It can chop veggies in seconds, shred a block of cheese before you can blink an eye, and whirl up a batch of gazpacho in a few pulses.
Allows you to cook more adventurously
Let's face it, the biggest reason most of us don't experiment with more recipes is we don't have the time. Think of your food processor as your personal sous chef (fancy word for the guy who does all the work the chef doesn't want to do including chopping the veggies). The food processor does all the heavy lifting, so you can focus on being creative and time efficient.
Food processors help you to eat more veggies
I cook with more vegetables because of my food processor. Chopping vegetables for soups, stews and salsas can be a big, time-consuming job. I particularly like using my food processor to chop onions, garlic and ginger. The food processor makes chopping onions quick and tearless, and quickly reduces garlic and ginger to a fine mince.
Food processors make it easier to make large batches
When I make soups, stews, spaghetti sauce or chili, I double or triple the recipe. Why? Because when I use a food processor, it doesn't matter if I am chopping 2 carrots or 20, the food processor does the chopping in seconds. So I make an enormous batch and freeze small portions for easy weeknight meals.
Amazing for salad dressings, aioli, salsa, chimichurri and pestos
Great for soups - both creamless pureed vegetable soups and gazpacho
In the winter my family eats a lot of creamless pureed vegetable soups. I cook up a bunch of veggies in a soup pot or roast them in the oven, throw them in a pot with some broth and seasonings and whirl them in the food processor. The result is a creamy texture without the cream. See my article on Creamless pureed vegetable soups for the details and my recipes for Spiced carrot soup and Roasted tomato soup.
In the summer, we eat a lot of gazpacho. There is nothing better than this refreshing, no-cook cold soup on a hot summer day. The good news is I can make up a huge batch in all of 15 minutes because of my invaluable food processor. This summer my favorite was Peach and tomato gazpacho. My other gazpacho recipes I make in the food processor include: Roasted yellow gazpacho, Gazpacho with quinoa and Seafood gazpacho.
Shreds cheese in seconds
Do you buy pre-shredded cheese? Take a look at the ingredients and you may not want to anymore. Pre-shredded cheese is more than just cheese; there are additives to keep it from sticking together. When you shred your own cheese you know exactly what you are getting. Plus, when you shred your own cheese it melts so much better. By shredding your own cheese you may save some money to boot!
Grates parmesan cheese like nobody's business
I know I just covered shredding cheese, but grating parmesan cheese is in an entirely different category. Grating this hard cheese takes muscle and endurance. Hint: Use the S-blade instead of the grater, hold down the "ON" button and be ready for a little noise. By grating your own parmesan you can say goodbye to questionable pre-grated parmesan, and buy yourself a block of the good stuff. Hand grating parmesan is fine if you need a couple tablespoons, but if you are talking about cups of grated parmesan, I choose the food processor every day.
Makes fruit crumble and pie dough easy and quick
Food processors are wonderful for making fruit crumbles. I whip up a batch of crumble topping in seconds. If I am on top of my game I make two batches and freeze one, which allows me to whip up a second fruit crumble at a later date. See my Apple crumble recipe.
Pie dough literally comes together in minutes. I say "comes together" because you pulse the butter and flour until it looks like cornmeal, then you add a little liquid and pulse until the dough literally comes together and forms a ball. The bottom line is the food processor does the work and you glory in the all the compliments on your tasty, flakey pie crust.
What size food processor you should get?
First of all, let me disclose the only experience I have with food processors is with Cuisinart products. I have owned three Cuisinart food processors. I have no financial relationship with Cuisinart. I just love and use their products. Because I do not have experience with other manufacturers' products I can't comment on them.
My husband bought me a 20-cup Cuisinart food processor about 30 years ago. It worked wonders for about 25 years. I replaced a work bowl or two along the way, but the motor marched on producing I don't know how many wonderful meals. I'm guessing thousands.
I replaced my first food processor a few years ago with another 20-cup food processor and I use it almost everyday. I remember lamenting to the salesperson how expensive the 20-cup model was. I think I said something like "I could buy a refrigerator with the same money," and her prompt and accurate reply was "yes, but it wouldn't do what this food processor can do." Kim: 0, salesperson: 1.
The good news is food processors have come down greatly in price. You can buy this 7-cup food processor for about $100, this 9-cup food-processor for $125.95, or this 14-cup food processor for about $175. If you are serious about cooking in large volume like I am, I can't say enough about my 20-cup industrial-sized food processor. It is expensive at nearly $600, but with a life of about 25 years and usage 3 or 4 times a week, I feel I have gotten more than my money's worth out of this amazing appliance. The bottom line is I would suggest buying the biggest food processor you can afford. No one ever laments their food processor is too big.
Note: prices mentioned reflect Amazon pricing at the time I wrote this article and are subject to change.
A $35 option
If you just are not ready to plunk down a C-note or more on a food processor, I get it. There is an option that will still save you a lot of time - the 3-cup Cuisinart Mini-prep. You can't use it for making pies or soups, but it is wonderful for chopping nuts and herbs, whisking together salad dressings, making mayonnaise and hummus, mincing garlic and ginger, grinding spices and chopping chocolate. In fact, I own the 20-cup food processor and the 3-cup Mini-prep. I use the Mini-prep for small jobs and the 20-cup for everything else.
A new combo option
Cuisinart has a new model with dual small and large work bowls and a wider feeding tube that looks very interesting. I personally have not tried this product yet, but it gets very good reviews. It runs about $250.
6 tips to make the most of your food processor
- There are two buttons on most Cuisinart food processors: On and Pulse. Pulse is your friend. In fact, you can't go wrong by pulsing. Pulsing allows you to control the fineness of your chop. If you hold down the "on" button, everything in the bowl will liquify in a matter of seconds. So unless you want to liquify, stick with pulsing.
- First of all, keep your food processor on your countertop. If it is in a cupboard you will not use it nearly as much as you should.
- Start with the S-blade for chopping and then experiment with the slicing and grating blades. To learn how to use your food processor spend an hour and a bagful of vegetables practicing chopping, slicing, grating and liquefying. It will be an hour well spent and you can make soup out of your experiments.
- Always remember food processor blades are extremely sharp. Food processors are very well designed to prevent you from hurting yourself when the motor is running, but all the great engineering in the world can't protect you against running your finger against a sharp blade when the blade is not in use. See my example. So be careful when handling these blades. Think of them as very sharp knives.
- If you hate handwashing, put the work bowl in the dishwasher. It won't stay quite as pretty as if you hand-washed it, but better used and a little beat up than unused and looking like new.
- Use your food processor every chance you get!