A food processor is apt to be the most useful appliance in your kitchen, so it's important to pick the right one.
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Serghei Starus
| Credit: Getty Images; Credit: Serghei Starus

With the ability to shred and chop ingredients, knead dough, grind spices, and puree just about anything, a high-quality food processor is one of the most versatile and useful tools one can have in their kitchen, with few prep tasks its unable to achieve.

A good food processor can last you years—or even decades—with proper care and replacement blades. However, not all food processors are one-size-fits-all, and depending on your cooking needs and kitchen space, picking between a larger, profession-level processor and something more compact and easy-to-use can be a tricky decision.

Though all food processors perform relatively the same function, the size of processor you choose for your kitchen will largely depend on what you’re planning to prepare with your appliance and how much space you’re willing to sacrifice to the countertop chopping machine.

Mini vs. Full-Sized

For casual cooks prepping ingredients for one or two dinners, making small batch dips and sauces, or performing minor chopping tasks, a mini processor will likely fit your needs just fine. A major benefit of these more compact processors is that they can break down and stow away easily, leaving your counter space free.

Though some have strong anti-mini food processor sentiments, for cooks with limited space who aren’t planning on prepping heavy-duty ingredients, a smaller—and typically, significantly less expensive—processor is a good starter machine, and can easily be upgraded to a full-sized processor down the line.

On the other hand, for those willing to sacrifice some space for the sake of a more powerful appliance, a high-quality, high-yield food processor will make you feel like the head chef of your own professional kitchen, ready to tackle any task a recipe throws at you.

The obvious downside to a larger machine is the space sacrifice you’ll make, as most of these machines won’t easily fit within a cupboard and will be backbreaking to heft to and from the pantry for as much as you’ll want to use it. Though all food processors will require careful—and arguably arduous—hand cleaning, a full-sized processor will also require more time and effort to clean properly.

Keeping Power in Mind

Motor power in food processors can vary significantly, ranging anywhere from 400-1,200 watts. Depending on the ingredients you’re planning on breaking down with your machine, you’ll want to choose your motor power carefully. If you plan on processing tougher ingredients like root vegetables, hard cheeses, and dense doughs, you’ll want a higher-power appliance with a 600-watt motor at minimum, to avoid the risk of burning out the motor and/or sacrificing the quality and consistency of your prepped ingredients.

Standard and Reliable

For those looking for a classic, mid-sized processor that can handle bulkier items, like pizza dough and big-batch recipes, a standard 11-cup machine like the KitchenAid 11-Cup Processor is a good fit. Most of these machines also come with, or have the option of buying, blade attachments to extend the functions of your food processor.

Large and in Charge

Though the average family won’t need a professional level, restaurant-sized processor, for those frequently preparing large-batch items for gatherings or potlucks, a heavy-duty mixer like the Breville Sous Chef Processor, equipped with a hefty 16-cup bowl, will fit your more sizable needs.

Small and Substantial

Great for individuals and those planning to use their processor to prepare smaller portions of ingredients, sauces, dips, and more, a miniature processor like the Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus with a 3-cup bowl will fulfill your needs while cutting down on clean up and taking up significantly less storage space.

A Super-Compact Option

If you’re typically cooking for one, or using your processor solely for small-scale tasks like chopping nuts or mincing herbs, a tiny, 2-cup model like the Ninja Master Prep Chopper will not only get the job done but require very little space for storage.

The Combination Processor

Combination blender-processors are a great starter appliance for those planning to use their processor for soups, sauces, and other ingredients. This Oster Blender with Food Processor Attachment will switch from smoothie maker to master chopper with a simple swap of attachment.

Once you’ve decided on your ideal machine, try out these recipes for Food Processor Butter, Food Processor Pastry, and easy Guacamole.