Saturday, January 16, 2010

Speak to Me of Food Processors

There are two kitchen tools that I have never possessed: a pizza cutter and a food processor. Last night I was thinking, I am a grown up lady, why don't I have these things? I think that I would really like a food processor, to use for, like, chopping things and stuff. And pureeing. Actually I really only want to make pesto and hummus, but I bet there are other wonderful things I could do with it.

So give me the deets. I looked a little bit and it seems like the top-rated food processor is a Cuisinart thing that costs $160 bucks on Amazon. Can I spend less than that? Could I even get by with a mini one? 'Cause the top-rated mini model is only $20. Now we're talkin'!

If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I'm not really a food person. I was joking with my mom at Thanksgiving that our family boasts generations of adequate cooks. I am not inventive. But there are certain things I like that I think I could make better for myself, especially if I had one of those chopper thingamies. I believe that many of you guys are learned in such matters. What food processor do you have and what do you do with it?

Another culinary query I had: I let a bottle of olive oil freeze in my garage. Do you think that's bad?


Anonymous said...

I have a cuisinart - I bought is because I kept melting the others in the dishwasher. I've had this one for 6 years and it is great but you know I never use any of the blades other than the chopping one. As for the olive oil, I don't think freezing will bother it and it will return to its normal consistency if you stick it somewhere warm.

Jen said...

I use a mini cuisinart and have for years.. I've always wanted a big one, but even though I cook a lot, I'd barely use it and can't justify the cost. The mini one is starting to fall apart and I've had to replace the blade once (b/c I accidentally left a pit in once.. oops). Despite the condition, it's still kicking and does the job well! I love that little thing.

As for the olive oil... It should be perfectly fine, but might look cloudy and funky. But it's ok to use!

Michele said...

I have probably every small kitchen appliance known to mankind. So here's my 2 cents;

Big food processor: I have one with 2 bowls - very handy. What do I use it for - grating cheese, hummus, chopping large amounts of stuff. I used it a lot when I canned my own veggies. And, most important pizza dough. It makes the best pizza dough.

Small food processor: I love this. I use it to chop veggies for dinners, small batches of hummus, anything that I use my big one for but for smaller batches. I've had mine for 5 years. I can only use it to chop with now because I wore out the stand thingy that holds up the slicer/grater blade. This would be a good place to start your food processor adventure.

Both of mine are Cuisinarts but Kitchenaid is good also.

Olive oil: will be fine. Maybe cloudy but not ruined.

Do you have a hand held blender? I use mine for just about everything. If you go to buy one get a good one. Go for wattage and steel. I burned the motor out of my plastic one in less than a year. I'm buying the industrial strength model today.

Amy said...

Your olive oil will forgive you.

I too lived too many years without a FP. I bought a tiny mini one but it was so small as to be primarily a tool of vexation rather than any culinary function.

Then I happened, in one of my perhaps annual forays into the world of garage sales, onto a full-size GE model. I paid exactly $3 for it. Now, having lived with one, I would gladly pay 30 times that!

My input would be to buy a full-size one, cos you can do little tasks in a big one, but not big ones in a little one.

I see that Consumer Reports rates the 7c Kitchenaid (KFP715) just a hair lower than the 11C Cuisinart... at half the price. And my experience is 7C is plenty for basic prep. And perfect for hummus & pesto, which is what I use mine for primarily too!!

My 2 cents. Oh, and I agree, immersion blenders rock!

Maggie said...

I have to say that if I had to make a life or death choice between a food processor and a pizza cutter--I would pick the pizza cutter. I HATE cleaning the food processor and I didn't think one could put it in the dishwasher. I have really used my Pampered Chef pizza cutter for years and it still looks new and is as sharp as ever. I also have to agree about the family history of cooks. I am a mediocre cook, at best. Oh well, one can't be fabulous in All areas of life!

Jane said...

Like Maggie, I hate cleaning the food processor and often find myself doing small jobs, like cutting butter into a dough, by hand rather than by machine for that reason. That being said, I think it probably can't be beat for jobs like making hummus and pesto.

Michele R said...

You must buy a pizza cutter immediately. your needs will only grow as Hank gets bigger. Yes, I am biased because I live with boys. We got our from Ace Hardware--the college sports themed one that plays the Florida fight song. You did not ask about a quesadilla maker but we use it quite often with cheese and some quickly sauteed shrimp. I thought of it now because we use the pizza cutter to cut the quesadilla into pie pieces.
I have a full sized Cuisinart that is a million years old that I got from my mom about 20 years ago. Maybe I'd use it more if I paid for it....but it rocks for pesto ans hummus and for shredding carrots into little pieces for carrot cake. For every day veggie chopping I just use a knife and the cutting board--and I cook a lot so I think I do this to get out my aggressions. :)

Kate said...

I have a mini food processor and it does the job! It's also easier to clean because it fits on the top rack of the dishwasher. I use it for dressings and soups all the time. As for the pizza cutter, I don't have one either and ask myself why all the time.

Oh, and the olive oil thing happened to me before too. It will be fine.

Veronica said...

I have the big KitchenAid one, because someone gave it to me for our wedding. I'd never had one before, so at first I was all "Huh? What do I do with this thing?" But now I love it. Like everyone else says, great for hummus, pesto, soups (though I really love the hand-held blender thingie for soups), tomato sauce, etc.; not worth the trouble of getting it out, cleaning it, putting it back for basic veggie chopping.

Bren said...

One more vote for your olive oil is fine.

And pizza cutter - get yourself a pair of kitchen scissors. Much more useful for other things, and as good as a pizza cutter for cutting pizza. In my opinion. Unless you can find one that plays a song. That's pretty cool.

Food processor. My lovely mother in law has strong pro-cuisinart opinions. But I researched the hell out of it, like everything, and found that a lot of reviewers were irritated with the safety mechanisms they added, and that cuisinart recently began using cheaper blades and parts than they did in years past. She offered to buy my choice, so I have the KitchenAid kfp600, 11 cups, which may be overkill for you, I don't know. But it comes with a smaller bowl for smaller jobs. I say start with the $20 thing - you won't regret having it even if you decide to later get a larger one later. My little one isn't big enough to make hummus, though. 4-7 cup might be better?

But in the Kitchen Aid vs Cuisinart war, I'm on team Kitchen Aid (unless you can find an old Cuisinart) Cleaning, by the way, is easy. Don't know if that's just with KA, but you just put it in the dishwasher. And the shredding! I never use a box shredder any more. Put the cheese through the food processor shredder. Very nice. We do lots of veggies here. We shred and slice them in this.

Oh! And I've had it for about 5 years now, and 2 years ago something happened in there. They sent me a box, I sent it to them, they fixed it, sent it back to me, and it cost me $30 - they covered shipping. It was awesome.

I leave it on my counter, but I have counter space and cook a LOT. I'd say I use it 4 times a week. It's a bit heavy if you're going to put it away most of the time, I bet you wouldn't drag it out to use it. So if you're going to store it, hold it and lift and lower it a few times as though you're putting it away before you buy it and ask yourself if you'd drag it out of the cabinet to use it.

Get the largest one you're willing to regularly pull out of the cabinet.

Common Household Mom said...

If you have to get one countertop electrical appliance to cook with, make it a crock pot! You can make some fantastic Cuisine without very much work.

I hardly ever use my mammoth food processor because I hate to clean it. But it's old, too, so maybe newer models are better in that regard. It's useful when making large amounts of potato pancakes. Which I do once a year.

Elizabeth said...

Pizza cutter: Pampered chef. It's awesome and actually cuts without that awkward "pressing really hard and nothing is happening."

I have a large food processor (just used it today to make a tomatillo sauce) but if you're not planning on using it a lot, I would say get a small one. They're completely perfect for dips, sauces etc. The large ones can almost be too big. Though the big one IS good for slicing veggies in perfect, thin circles, if you find yourself manually doing that a lot.

Becky said...

Wow, this is great info, because I didn't even know that there WAS a Team Cuisinart vs. Team Kitchenaid. Maybe it depends on how you feel about French? Also, you mean FP's can shred cheese?!?

Then how will I get knuckle in my cheese?

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm a former stalker, finally commenting. I couldn't stand it anymore. I've had a KitchenAid FP for a year or so now. I cook and bake a lot, and I pull it out often enough that I'm glad I have it. I think you should seriously consider getting a large one for reasons of flexibility. Mine has a small bowl and small blade, which comes in handy for small amounts. You should be aware that it will chop the heck out of whatever you put in there.

I have a shredding disc, but I find shredding cheese to be difficult. That could very well be me and not the FP, though. I like it for large amounts of chopping and for things like hummus (as mentioned numerous times above). Seriously, if you like hummus, buy the FP and you will make up for the price with what you save on buying hummus. If you don't like hummus, why not?

Lots of people complain about cleaning it. You can put it on the top rack of the dishwasher, but with all the pieces, it takes up half the rack, so I hand wash it. It's not THAT bad.

That's my 2 cents.

Elle said...

I have an 11-cup KitchenAid FP. I borrowed my girlfriend's model a long time ago to make a bunch of stuff for a party, and it was so easy & so quiet that I decided I did not have to shop & evaluate and what you are doing now, etc, that that one would do.

I bought it 10 years ago (mostly to make hummous, having done the math and proven it would pay for itself in hummous alone) and have not had a problem with it and it works great. I would buy it again just for hummous, but now I use it for so much more. Sausage, nut butters, slicing home fries, there are a couple of complicated wayback-machine cakes I make that require ground nuts, dips -- to say nothing of hanukkah and its shredding.

Mostly, I chop everything with it, because then I don't have to dick around with a knife and really? It's so easy. vroooom! It is not a problem to clean it and less so now that I no longer wash the dishes. I do have two bowls so that if I am making different things (usually it is because one thing is sticky) I can switch gears quickly, without getting bogged down in transitional cleanup. (I also have two sets of beaters for my stand mixer. Be prepared.)

Every year I promise myself I am going to read the instruction manual and learn what else it can do besides chop, shred, and slice (it has an egg whip, which ????) but I never do.

Mine came with a mini-bowl and mini-blade, and I use them for making salad dressing, mostly, but also for chopping fresh herbs, etc.

I guess my only problem now is that it is not large enough ... Frequently I have to shred things in batches and it gets messy. I have been looking at the Magimix 5100, which is half again as large. I will have to size up when the children are bigger, there is no doubt.

See if you can borrow someone's & take it out for a quick spin. You will love it.

Elle said...

I'm sorry, I had no idea I'd gone on so long.

Keely said...

I have a large one. I don't have the counter space and it's a pain in the ass to clean so I use it about once every six months.

I guess it's handy though. Twice a year.

gretchen said...

I actually DO cook, and I seldom use the food processor. It's the biggest pain in the butt to clean! I have this little mini one that I got for a wedding gift at (gasp) my first wedding, back in 1987! And it's great. All I ever need. It shreds great quantities of cheese, chops onions, and chops things like nuts and chocolate. I can't imagine needing anything fancier.

The olive oil? Defrost it and smell it. If it smells right, use it.

Bex said...

i really love the kitchen aid one. target has it for $39 last i checked. its relatively small so you can easily chuck it in a cabinet when you are not using it. also? i saw alton brown use one on Good Eats. i'm just sayin'...

Elisa said...

First things first: the frozen olive oil? No problem. It might be less flavorful, but it should still be ok. Not for frying though.

A food processor can be used for a bunch of thinks: making pancake/waffle/cake batter in a couple of minutes, chopping veg for stir-fries, soups and other dishes, pureeing soups and beans and stuff to make hummus, guacamole, salsa, baba ganoush (yummy eggplant spread), olive tapenade, pesto, etc.

Once you own one, you will likely use it a lot because it saves a lot of chopping and manual stuff. But if you don't think you'd use it much, the alternative is to get a REALLY good food chopper. The best one I have ever tried was by Black & Decker. With that you can still make hummus, salsa, guacamole, maybe even pesto - just in much smaller quantities.

kathy said...

I used to have a large one and hated cleaning it! It was heavy and cumbersome, and I found myself hating the prospect of digging it out to use. So, I bought myself a mini version and have found I use it much more frequently. It fits easily into the top rack of the dishwasher. Since the mini is so much cheaper start with it and if you love it graduate to the larger version.

Becky said...

Okay, I brought the olive oil in and it seems normal now. It had some cloudy junk in it but now it's gone.

Bex, I'm intrigued by the Alton Brown option! That dude is one of my steady boyfriends. And $39 sounds good. And all you guys are very persuasive on this issue. I think I will start with a small or mid-sized one and see how I go.

Jenni said...

I've got the big and the small and love and use them both. The small one is perfect for pesto, but not quite large enough for hummus.

I use the big one for shredding veggies and cheese; making homemade salsa; pureeing soups, like butternut squash or potato leek; making hummus.

If you're not much into the cooking, I think you can get by w/just the small one.

Jenni said...

Oh, mine are both Cuisinart, and dishwasher safe (top rack.)

Jenni said...

OH, AND like Keely, I have no counter space so I have to haul the big one up from our basement when I use it and it weighs a freaking ton. There must be a jet engine in that sucker.

Last comment, promise :)

Krysten said...

I use my hand-held blender to make both pesto and hummus... while the giant and expensive food processor we got for our wedding sits in the cupboard . It's simple really, the blender attachment is dishwasher safe, the food processor is not, which is usually how the decision-making process works in my kitchen. :)