Food processors are so full of promise—they slice! They dice! They knead! They shred!—but depending on which model you choose, the large base can weigh as much as a small child and can come with such a dizzying array of attachments that assembly feels less like cooking and more like an IQ test. That's why it's so important to find a model that works for you and not the other way around—one that feels like the ultimate wing man, not dead weight.
After putting a small fleet of food processors up for a day of heavy test kitchen prep in 2018, we determined the best full-size one to be the Breville Sous Chef 12. In November of 2019 we put it up against two new models to see if they could usurp it for the best food processor title, but the Breville held strong. Read on for why we love it (and how it outperformed the beloved Cuisinart), and for the specifics of how we tested and what to look for in a food processor, scroll to the bottom of the page.
The Best Full-Size Food Processor Pick: Breville Sous Chef 12
Here's a food processor that really lives up to its name. With a sturdy build, simple controls, an intelligently designed body, and a diverse and useful array of standard attachments, the Breville Sous Chef 12 is the right-hand man you always wanted in the kitchen. Prepping a half-dozen pies for Thanksgiving? This puppy comes with a specialized dough attachment and can bang out batches of flaky pastry in a blink. Staring down five pounds of onions for French onion soup? With its powerful motor and spinning blade, the Sous Chef 12 will make quick work of them, saving you not only time but tears in the process.
Though this model is a slightly-smaller sibling to Breville's headliner 16-cup food processor (which is simply called the Sous Chef), we found its 1000-watt motor and 12-cup dry capacity (8 ½ cups for liquid) more than sufficient, and the blades and shredder that were included served us well in our basic tests. (If you need a mini prep bowl or any of the extra attachments that come with the larger Sous Chef, they're available for individual purchase.) In other words: unless you're feeding a small army or running a take-out business from your home, you likely won't miss the four extra cups—especially since that small downshift in size also comes with a $100 difference in price.
Though Breville is a not as big a name in the food processor field as Cuisinart, the appliance company is known for being a leader in intelligent design—and indeed, beyond the Sous Chef's mere power, its assortment of thoughtful, user-driven design tweaks made it stand out from the pack. Sitting snug on the base like a blender, the work bowl is very easy to attach and detach, never leaks, and doesn't require the latching, turning, and locking that's common with other models. Also, from a purely tactile standpoint, all the Sous Chef 12 components feel great in the hand, especially the smooth ergonomic handle on the work bowl and the lid. We also like how the work bowl is clearly marked with measurements in both cups and milliliters, and how the neat pour spout makes it feel like a nice big measuring cup when maneuvering it from the base to the counter.
The Breville sports a wider "feed chute"—the opening in the top of the lid that you push ingredients through—than many of the other models we tried, which makes the processes of dicing and shredding easier since you don't have to cut the components into smaller pieces. Unlike the Cuisinart's, the Breville's slicing disc is adjustable from 0.3mm to 8mm, making it a legitimate replacement for your mandoline. Its pulse function is quick and powerful; when chopping onions the results were neat and precise, producing pieces of consistent size. It easily dispatches blocks of sharp cheddar cheese into delicate and even shreds, leaving almost no waste behind. Making pie dough in it was quiet and easy—all it took was a few whirrs for the flour and the butter to pulse together—and the mess was so minimal that I didn't even have to wash my hands afterwards.
The Breville is larger than the Cuisinart—it weighs about a pound or two more and stands an inch taller—but because of the proportions, it looks less clunky. The company doesn't recommend washing the bowl, lid, and attachments in the dishwasher on a regular basis as the high temps and detergent may shorten their life span. This admittedly is a downside, but because there are few nooks and crannies, it was the easiest food processor to hand wash. Best of all, despite being the most powerful food processor in our lineup, it was also the quietest. This is one serious machine, but it doesn't so much roar as it does purr.
The Best Mini Food Processor: KitchenAid 3.5-Cup Food Processor
If you have the means for it and do a serious amount of hands-on cooking every week, a full-sized food processor like the Breville is worth adding to your kitchen arsenal, but if you're short on space or money or just don't have that many mouths to feed, consider a mini version instead.
There aren't as many high-quality mini food processors on the market as there are full-size. After reading extensive Amazon user reviews and considering opinions from sites like The Wirecutter and Cooks Illustrated, we decided to only test two: the KitchenAid and the Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus.
Between the two, we vastly preferred the KitchenAid's design: the handled prep bowl is easier to grip and maneuver than the Cusinart's handle-less version, and the push-button activated motor is convenient to operate with just one hand. The base, while small, is weightier and sturdier than the Cuisinart model. The blade chops onions with ease, producing fine pieces of an even size and clean texture. The pesto it produced was creamy and bright with no unsightly or uneven chunks. On no test did it shine more than with the mayo: thanks to a clever little well in the lid that holds oil and allows it to stream slowly and evenly into the work bowl while the motor is running, the KitchenAid makes the process of emulsification a cinch—and makes homemade mayonnaise an achievable everyday luxury.
How We Tested
We focused our testing on three of the most commonly used food processor functions: chopping, shredding, and mixing. For the first, we used the cutting blade to chop two onions on the pulse function and examined the results for consistency and quality. (Points were deducted for uneven pieces or watery, pulverized results.) For the second, we used the shredding disc to dispatch a large block of sharp cheddar cheese, taking note of the texture and consistency of the shred and how much (if any) waste was leftover. We also considered how hard it was to wash and clean the shredding blade. To test the mixing power, we prepared a batch of our favorite pie dough in each machine and kept an eye on the performance of the motor, the efficiency of the blade (did it cover enough of the surface area to fully incorporate wet and dry ingredients?), the ease of use and cleaning, and the quality of the finished product.
For the mini food processors, we chopped a single onion and added two other tests: making pesto and mayonnaise. We considered the power of the motor, the smoothness of the pesto, and the ease of emulsification for the mayonnaise. We also noted generally whether the machines were simple to assemble, intuitive to use, and quick to clean. (Bonus points for dishwasher-safe bowls!)
Factors We Evaluated
Besides examining the results of the individual prep tests explained above, we considered the following for all full-size food processors:
1. How powerful is the motor and how large is the capacity of the bowl?
The whole point of a large food processor is to make daunting prep tasks more manageable, so we were looking for models that could easily accommodate generous batches of dough, small mountains of shredded cheese, and an oversized Dutch oven's worth of stew ingredients. We also paid attention to the strength and smoothness of the motor: did it strain when working at high speeds or processing thick and sticky mixtures? When chopping, were its pulses firm and even?
2. Is it intuitive to assemble and use? Does it have any notable attachments or design features?
Most food processors have similar standard parts: a motorized base to which a work bowl attaches and a small selection of blades and shredders that rotate from a spindle inside of the bowl. We made note of extras like dedicated dough blades, components that doubled as measuring cups, and adjustable slicing discs that went the extra mile.
3. Does it feel well built? Does the construction and ease of use seem to justify the price?
Food processors get moving at quite a clip, and I think we can all agree that you don't want to mess around with low-quality materials when you're dealing with spinning blades.
Other Food Processors We Tested
The Cuisinart Classic Series 14-Cup Food Processor is like the Kleenex of the food processor market. In a lot of cook's minds, the terms Cuisinart and food processor are interchangeable, and the classic 14-cup model still tops a lot of best-of lists. At about $160—about $100 less than the Breville Sous Chef 12—there's no denying that it's a very powerful tool at an affordable price. But all things being equal, the Breville was simpler to set up, more attentively designed, quieter, and came with a wider range (and more flexible) attachments. Most importantly, it performed each task as well, if not better than the Cuisinart.
For our 2019 update of the best food processor product review, we tested another model from the brand: the Cuisinart Elemental 13-Cup food processor. It has a very similar design, and almost all of the same features, as the Breville Sous Chef. But while it's over $100 cheaper, it's noticeably less sturdy and well-built than the Breville. We found this to be true both in handling the product in our tests—and a significant number of Amazon reviewers call out the flimsiness of the model. Additionally, the machine's pulsing function allows for less precision than other models because the blade doesn't stop spinning abruptly—after the motor stops, it continues spinning for a few split seconds until it loses momentum on its own.
We also tested the Ninja Ultra Prep in our 2019 update. While many cooks are enthusiastic about their Ninja appliances, this hybrid processor-blender makes more sense when you think of it as a blender first, and want to use features of a food processor as a rare secondary function.
We were intrigued by the sheer power and variety offered by the Magimix by Robocoupe 14-Cup Food Processor, but its performance didn't live up to its promise. The volume and violence of the motor while processing onions was off-putting; it leaked flour into the base when prepping pie dough; and left large chunks of cheese untouched when shredding cheddar. And the whole thing—a giant base and huge battery of attachments including an egg whisk, blender, and graduated-sized work bowls—took up so much space it seemed impractical for all but the most zealous cooks with enormous kitchens. At close to $400, it was also one of the most expensive models we considered.
In terms of both aesthetics and user-experience, the KitchenAid 13-Cup Exact Slice fell to the bottom of our list for full-sized food processors. We found the base and accessory box needlessly bulky, and the performance, though satisfactory for basic chopping tasks, inconsistent for shredding and pastry.
If you're a serious cook who regularly tackles recipes that require significant prep, the Breville Sous Chef 12 is a great investment, a joy to use, and can help seriously cut down on tedious prep tasks. If you don't need the big guns and just want the best food processor to help with small, everyday tasks like chopping onions, making pesto, or pulling together a fully emulsified vinaigrette, the KitchenAid 3.5 Cup Mini Food Processor is a powerful tool that comes in a much smaller, easy-to-stash package. Or, you could think of it another way: the Sous Chef 12 is a weekend warrior and the KitchenAid 3.5 Cup Mini is a weekday workhorse.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious