The Best Food Processor
After spending 25 hours researching food processors, interviewing experts, and conducting nearly two years of long-term testing, we still think the Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor is the best choice for most home cooks. With its simple, pared-down design, it’s easier to use and clean than models with more settings or multiple bowls, and we found it to be more solidly built than other processors at this price range. The 14-cup bowl is better than smaller versions for blending wet ingredients and for processing big batches of shredded slaws and grated cheese. It even made dough on a par with or better than that of models with a specific dough speed. The Cuisinart Custom isn’t the fanciest machine around, but it does everything you need it to do, consistently well.
If you want a processor for little batches of vinaigrette or soup bases such as mirepoix, we really like the 3-cup Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus. Compared with the KitchenAid we tested it against, it chopped onions more evenly. On top of that, its seamless plastic membrane buttons were easier to keep clean, and its handled jar was more convenient to use. We also think this model is the most convenient, idiot-proof tool we’ve found for making small batches of mayonnaise. And it’s a great option for people who can’t or don’t want to invest in a $200 machine. You couldn’t make bread dough or shredded salads in it, but you could grind or chop small batches of herbs or nuts, or do other tasks that would be more tedious by hand.
The Cuisinart Custom is a great value for the amount of performance it offers, but if you plan to use your food processor several times a week, need a more powerful machine to cook for large groups, or use a scale for most recipes, consider investing in the $400 16-cup Breville Sous Chef. Its 1,200-watt motor and its smart design save you time in use and cleaning; in fact, despite its many accessories, it was the easiest to clean of all the models we tested. That said, if you use a food processor only occasionally, the Breville’s high cost probably outweighs its benefits. And given that it’s huge—over 18 inches tall and nearly 20 pounds—you’d need a big kitchen if you want to keep it on the counter.
Table of contents
- Why you should trust us
- Should you upgrade?
- How we picked and tested
- Our pick
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Long-term testing notes
- Great for small batches
- Great for power users
- Care and maintenance
- Recipe tips
- The competition
- Wrapping it up
Why you should trust us
Over the past two years, I’ve written the Sweethome’s guides to blenders and immersion blenders, as well as our original food processor guide. I’ve spent many hours using our top food processor pick in my own kitchen, shredding pounds of cheese, making slaws, slicing veggie chips, and whipping up dips.
To suss out the features to look for in a great food processor, we turned to two best-selling authors of food processing cookbooks: Jean Anderson, the James Beard–award-winning author of Process This, and Norene Gilletz, author of The New Food Processor Bible. Both women were early adopters, purchasing their first Cuisinarts shortly after the company introduced the appliances in the 1970s. Combined, they’ve logged thousands of hours on many machines.
We also scoured reviews by America’s Test Kitchen, Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, and Serious Eats, and we examined user reviews on Amazon, Macy’s, and other sites in our efforts to figure out which models to test.
Should you upgrade?
Food processor design hasn’t changed all that much since Carl Sontheimer, an MIT-trained engineer, introduced the first Cuisinart model to American cooks in 1973 (poaching the idea from the original French Magimix processor). So if you have an older but quality machine that still works well, stick with it. But we can think of a couple of good reasons to upgrade.
Food processors will blend wet ingredients (tomatoes for pasta sauce, for instance), but if you’re looking to purée velvety soups or to crush ice for smoothies, you’ll need a blender. “A blender acts like a centrifuge; everything gets sucked into the center and makes a purée more silky,” Norene Gilletz told us. “A food processor has a tendency to fling food outward.”
If you often make things like homemade mayonnaise, vinaigrette, or small batches of bread crumbs, you might want to pick up a mini food processor—even if you have a full-size version. A mini model will process smaller quantities more efficiently, and its diminutive size means it’s easier to move around a counter, to store, and to clean.
How we picked and tested
At its most basic, a food processor consists of a work bowl that sits on a motorized drive shaft. The bowl’s lid has a feed tube for inserting food to be chopped, diced, sliced, ground, or even kneaded (in the case of dough). Most food processors come with S-shaped blades and various disks for grating and slicing, but a host of other attachments—such as julienne disks and citrus juicers—are also available.
Anderson and Gilletz agreed that an 11- to 14-cup processor is most useful for most cooks. “It’s always better to go a little bigger than a little smaller,” Gilletz said. “It’s one investment that’s going to last you a lot of years. You’ll regret getting one that isn’t big enough.” I informally polled friends who cook, and a lot of them seemed happy with their 7- or 9-cup machines, but most of them cook for only one or two people. If you cook for a family, or if you simply cook a lot, a bigger machine makes more sense.
Mini food processors—also called mini choppers—have bowls ranging in size from around 1½ cups to 6 cups, but the highest-rated ones hover around 3 cups. These machines are most useful for small jobs, such as chopping up one onion, making a curry paste, preparing salad dressing, or a doing small batch of pesto. They are much smaller and lighter than a full-size food processor, so they’re easier to tuck into a cupboard and bring out when needed. Both Anderson and Gilletz keep mini processors, and Gilletz swears by her Cuisinart Mini-Prep (not to be confused with our mini processor pick, the Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus).
High-quality food processors have strong motors and heavy bases that anchor them to the counter so that they can mix sturdy yeast doughs. Low-quality machines, which also happen to be lighter, will often skid across the counter when processing dough, or the motor might even seize up.
Some processors come with a specific dough speed. I asked Norene Gilletz if investing in one of these is worth the cost. “If you’re making a lot of bread, maybe. But if you don’t have that speed, just do a little dough and pulse, and you won’t need the dough speed,” she said. Gilletz said it’s more important that the machine have a pulse speed, which gives more control than just on and off buttons. The appliances usually come with a dough blade, often made of plastic.
Most companies have redesigned feed tubes, widening them to accommodate blocks of cheese, potatoes, and other hunks of food. Models usually come with two food pressers: a larger one that fits in the wide feed tube, and a smaller one nested inside that will keep carrots and other thin objects upright during slicing.
Various models come with nesting bowls, so you can attach a smaller bowl that essentially acts as a mini chopper. (Both cookbook authors I spoke with for this guide use mini food processors in their kitchens.) A few machines, such as those in the Cuisinart Elite series, come with a gasket on the lid of the mixing bowl to prevent leaks. Other models have adjustable disks so you can control the thickness of slices; most of these you adjust manually on the disk.
Beyond the main blade, a dough blade, and disks for shredding and slicing, you don’t need much else. Although you can purchase everything from a juicing attachment to an egg-white-beating attachment, such extras often go unused. Both cookbook authors I spoke with essentially said these add-ons were a waste of money.
Going by reviews and expert recommendations, we ended up with five full-size food processors in our original testing. For this update we didn’t find any new full-size processors that looked capable of competing with our original picks. Instead, we opted to test mini food processors, which offer a nice alternative for processing small batches and represent an affordable option if you want to make mirepoix, bread crumbs, or mayonnaise but don’t want to spend $200.
We tested the large processors 10 times each, chopping vegetables and parsley, slicing tomatoes and potatoes, grating soft mozzarella, grinding bread crumbs, puréeing a particularly delicious hummus, and mixing double batches of pizza dough. We also cleaned the bowls, lids, and food pressers of each model 10 times—a test that proved more revealing than we’d expected.
The Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor does everything that a great food processor should, without any unnecessary extras that would boost its price. With one bowl and only on and pulse buttons, it’s simply designed—but it works as well as or better than machines with multiple bowls and more attachments. Unlike some other models in our tests, the Custom’s base never shook while running, even when processing double batches of dough. We also found that its 14-cup work bowl was much better for blending wet ingredients and doughs than smaller jars were. The Cuisinart Custom comes with just the right number of blades and disks, as all of them will stow inside the mixing bowl, so you won’t need to store a big box of attachments. The Custom’s simply designed base and jar were also more easy to clean than most of the competition.
At first the Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Processor seemed a little puny next to the other models, which boasted nesting bowls, taller bases, and big boxes of attachments. But after two days of testing, its simplicity won us over. The Custom’s 750-watt motor is less powerful than the 1,000-watt Cuisinart Elite motor or the 1200-watt Breville motor, but that limitation didn’t negatively affect its performance. Pizza dough was our most motor-intensive test, and the Custom kneaded it effortlessly—even without a specific dough speed. It chopped vegetables, ground bread crumbs, and shredded soft mozzarella just as skillfully as the more expensive models did, and it took up less counter space.
We also appreciate the Custom’s 14-cup work bowl, which offers a lot of room for grating cheese or shredding big batches of coleslaw ingredients. Although our experts said a processor with an 11- to 14-cup bowl works best, we found that the 11-cup Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus was a little too small, particularly when processing wet ingredients (liquid tended to leak out of the Prep’s bowl). The other models we tested came with bigger bowls capable of holding 13 cups or more, and we found all of them better for handling wet ingredients than the smaller Cuisinart Prep.
The Custom comes with just the most useful attachments: a stainless-steel chopping blade, a dough blade, and shredding and slicing disks. Those attachments cover most of what you’d want to do with a food processor. In contrast, the Breville Sous Chef comes with three blades and five disks, which could be handy for more nuanced slicing tasks but could also gather dust in a cupboard. With some careful layering, you can store all of the Custom’s blades and disks in its work bowl, with the lid on, which saves a bit of storage space (and keeps you from gouging a hand on a loose blade in a drawer).
Finally, we found cleaning the Custom’s work bowl an easier task than doing so on most of the other models. After 10 rounds of testing and cleaning, we were achingly familiar with the gunk that can get trapped in overly complicated lids. The Custom’s lid doesn’t have many grooves, or extra pieces of plastic for food to wedge into. The Cuisinart Elite, on the other hand, comes with a gasket on the lid that frequently trapped ingredients like flour or sticky tahini in our tests.
I read a few reviews that dislike how the Cuisinart Custom’s lid locks with the feed tube in the back, rather in the front (standard for most models). This feature tripped me up as well, but I think that’s simply because I’m used to working with a processor that locks in front.
Cook’s Illustrated named the Custom as one of its top choices, while Good Housekeeping recommends it, saying it’s “Very good at chopping onions, mincing parsley, grinding Parmesan cheese, cutting julienne strips, kneading dough, and slicing pepperoni and tomatoes.” In our tests the Custom chopped nicely when we used the pulse button. It took a little longer than the Breville or KitchenAid did, but that time difference certainly wasn’t a dealbreaker. In the Consumer Reports review, the Custom placed third after the Breville Sous Chef and the Cuisinart Prep 11, with 67 out of 100 points.
The Custom’s three-year limited warranty (five-year warranty on the motor) isn’t the best among the models we tested, but that’s still pretty good. We also like the slightly retro, sleek design. And at only 15 inches tall, it should fit under most cupboards.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell when the Custom’s lid is totally locked; if the lid isn’t locked, it will rattle loose during processing, and the machine will stop. But this is a minimal problem, and probably boils down to user error.
The Custom’s shredding disk isn’t adjustable—we’d prefer one that is, for making thinner or thicker cuts. The shredding disk on the Breville Sous Chef, in comparison, has multiple settings, allowing you to use it as you would a mandoline. If you want to use the Custom like a mandoline, you can buy additional slicing disks. The included slicing disk makes approximately 5-millimeter slices. That’s fine for cutting tomatoes to top pizza, but you’d probably want the 2 mm slicing disk to cut homemade potato chips.
The Custom doesn’t come with a storage case for its attachments. If you don’t want to store the attachments in the jar, purchasing a case for about $20 would be worthwhile.
Long-term test notes
Over two years of long-term testing, we’ve consistently liked using the Cuisinart Custom. We’ve made slaws, grated cheese, blended dips, and kneaded pizza dough in it, and it has worked well. The 14-cup bowl doesn’t leak, and the controls are exactly what you need.
The processor’s base is heavy. We’ve found that keeping it on the counter to use often is the best approach. The jar has scratched a bit (perhaps because we’ve stored the sharp blades inside the jar). But overall we still really like using this machine.
Great for small batches
For small chopping tasks, the Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus offers the best value and performance we’ve found. The Mini-Prep Plus makes a good addition to a full-size model, and in our tests it performed better than the mini bowl attachments that come with some of the larger processors. We tested the Mini-Prep Plus against the KitchenAid 3.5-Cup Food Chopper, as well as against the chopper attachment of our favorite immersion blender, the Breville Control Grip. In almost every test, the Mini-Prep Plus came out on top.
The Mini-Prep Plus looks almost identical to a full-size processor, except that it has only the two pulse buttons for chopping and grinding. The chop button moves the blade counterclockwise so that the sharp edge of the blade hits the food; the grind button turns the blade clockwise so that the dull side contacts the food. Its blades are less sharp than those on a full-size processor, which are usually slightly serrated. And, of course, the Mini-Prep Plus is quite a bit smaller and easier to move around than bigger machines. While the 18-pound Cuisinart Custom processor measures 15½ inches tall and has a 7½-by-9¾-inch footprint, the 2¼-pound Mini-Prep Plus reaches only 9½ inches tall and has a 5-by-7½-inch footprint.
We didn’t notice any straining or stuttering of the Mini-Prep Plus’s 250-watt motor, even when blending a thick curry paste. Since you won’t use it for heavy tasks such as making bread dough, we don’t think there’s much risk of burning out the motor.
The Mini-Prep Plus excels at emulsifications. In fact, of all the food processors, blenders, and immersion blenders we’ve tested for various guides, we found making mayo easiest in the Mini-Prep Plus. That’s because its lid has a small indent to hold oil, and two small holes that allow the oil to pour directly onto the blades so you have a consistent, measured stream. With this method, the mayonnaise comes together without your having to control the flow of oil. The KitchenAid offers a similar feature but has only one hole in its lid, so in our tests the oil took much longer to drip down—so long, in fact, that I wouldn’t use the KitchenAid for making mayonnaise.
We also think the build of the Mini-Prep Plus is nicer. Its jar has a handle, while the KitchenAid’s doesn’t. And the Cuisinart model has seamless buttons on its motor base, while the KitchenAid has grooved buttons on its lid, where they could trap gunk.
The Mini-Prep Plus will not make bread dough or shred cheese, and its small bowl means it isn’t a great choice for chopping large quantities of anything. You’ll need a full-size machine for any of those tasks, as well as for making shredded salads, pie crust, or multiple servings of blended tomato sauce.
Great for power users
We think the Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor is more than enough machine for most people, but if you need extra power or a bigger blending bowl, or if you don’t mind paying twice the price for nicer features, the Breville Sous Chef was the overall best performer in our testing. It chopped vegetables, ground bread crumbs, puréed hummus, and shredded mozzarella about as well as the Custom did, and it excelled at slicing. The Sous Chef powered through an entire russet potato in less than a second—noticeably faster than any of the other models. And despite its power, it was the quietest of the bunch at kneading dough.
Although we weren’t huge fans of the mini bowls on most of the big processors, we liked the Sous Chef’s 2½-cup bowl better than those of the Cuisinart Elite and KitchenAid ExactSlice. Deeper than the others, this bowl’s design seemed to make it easier to mince fresh parsley uniformly.
We also like how the work bowl is removable with the lid attached; the KitchenAid ExactSlice and Cuisinart Elite also have this handy feature, but most models (including the Cuisinart Custom and Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus) require that you loosen the lid before removing the bowl.
Breville clearly put a lot of thought into other design elements as well. For one thing, the buttons are easy to press. The Sous Chef is also the only model we tested with an LCD timer (which counts up and down), and it has retractable cord storage. In addition to the standard blades, the Sous Chef comes with a reversible shredding disk and an adjustable slicing disk that goes from a whisper-thin .33 millimeter to a generous 8 millimeters. It’s a true alternative to using a mandoline. We didn’t try the machine’s french fry disk, julienne disk, or whisk attachments, but the handy cleaning brush did a great job of getting trapped bits out of the slicing disk. The machine’s seamless food pushers also make for easy cleanup, since they have no crevices to trap food. The pressers aren’t dishwasher-safe (water can get stuck inside them), but they are easy enough to rinse off in the sink.
The Sous Chef is the top choice in reviews from Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping. Cook’s Illustrated, however, isn’t convinced that the Sous Chef is worth the money: The reviewers say this model “chopped so fast that it was hard not to make a puree when we wanted diced vegetables.” We had the same problem when chopping carrots, celery, and onions using the “on” setting. In a second test, though, we used the pulse button, and the Sous Chef cut everything to a uniform size in just a few seconds. It has an average grade of 4.8 stars (out of five) across 398 Amazon user reviews.
The Sous Chef comes with a limited one-year product warranty and has a 25-year warranty on the motor—by far the longest of any of the models we tested.
Care and maintenance
Food processor blades are not designed to be sharpened. Generally they should last you a long time, but as Cuisinart told us, if a “consumer is using it more aggressively or more frequently than the average consumer it can become dull. They can always order a replacement through the cuisinart.com website.”
If you have to schlep your processor from a cupboard across the kitchen, you might not use it often. Norene Gilletz recommends buying a processor that will fit on the counter under your cabinets. She keeps her machines on folded dish towels so that they’ll slide out more easily.
Those with limited counter space can get creative, as Jean Anderson did when she lived in New York City. “I had a pop-up, like those old typewriter pop-ups that folded down underneath the desk. My processor pop-up folded down into the base cabinet, and I just swung it up whenever I used the machine.”
After testing models with storage boxes, we found that such boxes are convenient for keeping attachments organized, and they’re worth investing in if your model doesn’t come with one. You can also organize blades and disks in a designated Tupperware-style container, basket, or other receptacle. We store the Cuisinart Custom’s extra blades and disks inside the processor’s work bowl.
Most brands sell replacement parts, which may come in handy after the limited warranty on parts expires. You’ll find replacement bowls, food pushers, blades, and various other attachments for the Cuisinart Custom, the Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus, and the Breville Sous Chef.
For many tasks, a food processor can replace an upright mixer. According to Jean Anderson, you usually need to use specific recipes developed for a food processor. In her book Process This, Anderson employs a variety of techniques for making quick breads, yeasted breads, cookies, and cakes. In one recipe she even allows a yeasted bread dough to rise in the work bowl and then “punches” it down by pulsing the blade.
In a Serious Eats article, J. Kenji López-Alt says that a food processor surpassed a standing mixer at kneading pizza dough. His dough came together in a food processor in a fraction of the time it took in a standing mixer, and rose nearly twice as much—indicating that the food processor made dough with better gluten formation.
You can also make ice cream in a food processor, as shown in this Chow.com video. Given how much space an ice-cream maker can take in a cupboard, this is a particularly nice trick.
In our tests the Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus didn’t mix big batches of dough as well as the Cuisinart Custom due to its smaller, 11-cup bowl. The Prep 11 Plus struggled to grind bread crumbs, leaving large chunks unprocessed while overprocessing the rest. This model also leaked around the shank at the center of the bowl when processing wet ingredients. Michael Zhao, our associate editor, has had the same issue with his Prep 11 Plus. Good Housekeeping gave it an A- (ranking it above the Cuisinart Custom).
The KitchenAid 13-Cup ExactSlice was our least favorite of the large processors. The base shook and the motor eventually seized when processing pizza dough. And the food presser easily plugged up with mozzarella and sticky tahini from our hummus recipe. In January 2013, Cook’s Illustrated tested this model against the Breville Sous Chef and Cuisinart Custom, and found that “in almost every task, it lagged behind the Cuisinart and the Breville.”
The KitchenAid 3.5-Cup Food Chopper performed well at most tasks. We felt it was easy to use, and the bowl capacity is perfect for making small batches of bread crumbs, vinaigrettes, and the like. It didn’t make mayonnaise as nicely as the Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus, however. We also didn’t like the need to pull up on the KitchenAid’s blade to release it, which could easily cause a cut. In addition, half of the KitchenAid’s lid is covered in black push pads for the buttons, and we noticed that water and soap got under those pads; washing the soap out was difficult.
We considered other models, but ultimately didn’t test them for a number of reasons.
Magimix: The is the original French processor made by Robot-Coupe. We saw mixed reviews in Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, and The Wall Street Journal for the 11-, 14-, and 16-cup models. Since we didn’t find overwhelming support for any one model, we opted not to test them.
Braun Multiquick 3 Kitchen Machine: Braun no longer makes this machine for the US market.
Cuisinart Pro Custom 11 DLC-8S Food Processor: This model didn’t get better reviews than the Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus, so we opted not to test it.
Hamilton Beach 70579 Big Mouth Duo 14-Cup Food Processor: This machine did not receive better reviews than the models we opted to test.
Hamilton Beach 70580 Big Mouth Duo Plus 14-Cup Food Processor: Good Housekeeping’s review says that this machine is loud and that it struggled to make dough in trials, so we chose not to test it.
KitchenAid Professional KFP750 12-Cup Food Processor: This was America’s Test Kitchen’s former top pick, but the company has since discontinued it.
Omega Professional Food Processor, 11-Cup: This machine didn’t get better reviews than the models we tested.
Viking VFP Professional Food Processor: A former America’s Test Kitchen pick, this model has since been discontinued.
Black & Decker EHC650B Ergo 3-Cup Food Chopper: This processor didn’t receive better reviews than those we tested.
Black & Decker HC306 1½-Cup One-Touch Electric Chopper: This 1½-cup model seemed less versatile than the 3-cup models we tested.
Bosch Universal Chopper: This model did not receive better user reviews than the mini choppers we tested.
Breville BSB530XL All In One: This machine resembles Breville’s Control Grip immersion blender that we like, but at $130 it’s far more expensive than the mini choppers we tested. We opted instead to include Breville’s immersion blender chopper attachment in our testing.
Cuisinart DLC-1SS Mini-Prep Processor: The mini version of our top full-size processor receives lower Amazon user review scores than the Mini-Prep Plus (a 3.8-star average across 553 reviews versus the Plus’s 4.3 stars across 1,794 reviews), so we elected to skip testing it this round. We may consider testing it for a future update.
Cuisinart DLC-4CHB Mini-Prep Plus 4-Cup: We chose to test the 3-cup version of the Mini-Prep Plus. If you wanted a slightly larger mini chopper, this would likely be a good option.
Food Network 3-Cup Mini Processor/Chopper 70403: Amazon user reviews are mediocre for this model.
Hamilton Beach 70730 Bowl Scraper Food Processor: This model didn’t get better reviews than those we tested.
Hamilton Beach 72600 Fresh Chop 3-Cup Food Chopper: Did not receive better reviews than the models we tested.
Hamilton Beach 72705 Deluxe Food Chopper: Another model that failed to get better reviews than the tested machines.
Hamilton Beach 72900 3-Cup Capacity Food Chopper: Also did not receive better reviews than the models we chose to test.
KitchenAid Chef Series 3-Cup Food Chopper: This mini food processor receives promising user reviews, but it has been discontinued (although models are still available on Amazon).
Oster 3-Cup Mini Chopper: Receives only mediocre Amazon user reviews.
Proctor Silex 72500RY 1½-Cup Food Chopper: This appliance enjoys positive Amazon user reviews, but its 1½-cup bowl capacity seems to make it less versatile than the 3-cup models we opted to test.
Oster also makes a number of budget models, but none rated all that highly. The only exception is a Food & Wine review that loves the Oster 10-cup processor, but the company has discontinued that model.
Additionally, we looked into blender/food processor hybrids by Cuisinart, DeLonghi, and Ninja. We like the idea that you could get two machines in one, but according to reviews, they don’t stack up to our top picks when it comes to food-processing ability alone.
Wrapping it up
Available at a reasonable price, the Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor excels at most tasks and even kneads big batches of dough effortlessly. Its simple design and efficiency will satisfy novice and experienced cooks alike.
Food Processors, Cook's Illustrated, January 2013
Food Processors, America's Test Kitchen, January 2013
Food Processor Reviews, Good Housekeeping
Food processor & chopper buying guide, Consumer Reports, February 2013
Equipment: Which Food Processor Should I Buy, Serious Eats, May 11, 2010,
Process This, Interview,
The New Food Processor Bible, Interview,
Originally published: June 15, 2015