What is a food processor good for?
September 20, 2007 8:08 PM   Subscribe

What do you usually use a food processor for? I've got one now, but I don't think to use it.

Twenty years ago, my parents bought a food processor. At the time, I was too young to learn to use it. In subsequent years, they already knew how to use it and so learning wasn't really on their minds. Now they've decided they no longer need it and offered it to me.

I took it, and I figured out which parts are more than half broken and which are still less than half broken, and I put it away in my kitchen. Well, I've been cooking for a while and I've got my little habits, and they do not include a food processor. I realized last night that I had just prepared an entire meal for eight people, used both cutting boards repeatedly and several different knives, but the food processor hadn't even crossed my mind.

I do not have this problem with my other kitchen stuff. I was all over my nice array of new mixing bowls in several convenient sizes, I've integrated new stockpots and saucepans and things, I thought of my pasta spoon immediately the very next time I made pasta, and I even know when I've got to break down and borrow an electric beater. But I'm sure that somewhere yesterday, between chopping chicken for the avgolemono soup and chunking all those vegetables for the Greek salad, I probably ought to have at least thought of the food processor.

So, O cooking MeFites, what are the most common uses of your food processors? What are the most labor-saving? And does it affect your style? (For example: I am big on chunky, identifiable, chewable vegetables and don't like to dice too fine.) Help me understand this with concrete examples. Maybe I'll still give it to the thrift store. But at least I'll know what I'm doing first.
posted by eritain to Home & Garden (47 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I only make hummus in my food processor.
posted by sindas at 8:11 PM on September 20, 2007

I use mine mostly when I make the Moosewood recipe for carrot mushroom loaf, which is a million billion times tastier than it sounds. One of my favorite foods, in fact, and a total PITA to make with just a grater. With a food processor, it's simple as can be.
posted by vytae at 8:13 PM on September 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Just keep using the knife and cutting board if you're big on chunky veges. I usually use my processor for liquifying veges for soups, or mixing up beans for nachos, or making curry/laksa pastes, and the odd cake mix. I prefer using a knife cos my processor is just so damn noisy.
posted by robotot at 8:15 PM on September 20, 2007

got some leftover steaks or other bbq'd meat in the fridge? Sometimes the leftovers can get tough. If so give it a 10-15 seconds in the food processor, then add some bbq sauce (or whatever you want really) to make it into a sort of meat spread for sandwiches.
posted by jockc at 8:17 PM on September 20, 2007

I mostly use mine for hummus, pesto, and so-called "carrot dip" which contains roasted red peppers, garlic, pine nuts, a little bit of tomato paste (or some not very wet tomatoes), a smidge of oregano, salt, pepper, and maybe some olive oil to thin.
Also, for blending herbs or onions/shallots into things like herbed butter or chevre filling for lasagne.
posted by janell at 8:17 PM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've re-gifted the last 3 food processors I've been given, in favor of a nice collection of kitchen knives, cutting boards, and a good sharpening machine. My blender purees stuff, and trying to keep food processor cutters sharp enough to cut cleanly, for any length of time, is a real pain, if not impossible. Most food coming out of food processors is crushed or mashed more than cut, which changes flavor and cooking properties detrimentally, in my view.
posted by paulsc at 8:21 PM on September 20, 2007

Is it a Cuisinart or comparable sturdy brand, or is it a little Oster or GE type thing?

I lost the feed-tube-plunger thing to mine several years ago, so I don't do a lot of slicing with it anymore. Also, I have nice knives now that I enjoy using.

I've always used mine to mix cake batter (the batter before you fold in egg whites, which get beaten separately). I used to knead bread dough in it once in a while, with the special plastic kneading thing, but I have a bread machine now and use that instead.

Once in a while I'll grind up meats very fine for a terrine or quenelles.

I puree strawberries with sugar, then freeze them in an ice cream maker to make sorbet.

The plunger tube in Cuisinarts used to (maybe still does) have a little hole at the bottom, which was perfect for drizzling oil into a frothing egg mixture to make homemade mayonnaise. A recipe to do this came with the machine, it was pretty good.

One of the quick and easy things I'll do with mine is to peel the zest from a lemon or orange, then grind it with 2-3 cups of sugar. Now you have flavored sugar--store it tightly in the back of the fridge, and you can have orange or lemon flavored cakes, cookies or anything anytime you want.

My little cheapie handheld Mouli grinder is much, much better at grating cheese or chocolate. And my little electric coffee grinder is perfect for powdering almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts for baking.
posted by gimonca at 8:23 PM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

It really depends on what attachments you have. I've used mine to make pizza dough, dips, and also for slicing things like potatoes very thinly (thinner and more uniform than I could ever possibly get it by hand). I'd probably use it to slice things more often, but the only attachment I have makes things about the thickness of a potato chip. You can use it to chop, but usually I find it isn't worth the bother to lug it out and clean all the other parts when I can just chop up a carrot on a cutting board with my knife.
posted by synecdoche at 8:27 PM on September 20, 2007

Response by poster: It's a Cuisinart, feed plunger and all. Chopping blades, slicer, grater still intact; the main 'broken' piece appears to be an extra lid.
posted by eritain at 8:28 PM on September 20, 2007

I have to say that I'm a convert to making pie dough in my food processor. I always seem to over-work my dough and add too much water after making in the processor a few times, I'm impressed at how much better it has turned out.

I also use mine to demolish leftover chunks of bread to make my own bread crumbs (which I store in the freezer).

Also, things like hummus and apple butter. I never use our regular blender and the stick blender works for more liquidy things, but sometimes the little bowl in the food processor is good for starting out big and chunky and getting things smooth quickly. With the stick blender, I would have to chop things up more to begin with.

I really don't use mine that much, but it is handy when I do (and I have a good place to store it in the cupboards so it doesn't get in the way).
posted by stefnet at 8:28 PM on September 20, 2007

trying to keep food processor cutters sharp enough to cut cleanly, for any length of time, is a real pain, if not impossible

That might depend a bit on the brand. My slicing discs stayed pretty sharp for years. Even so, I do prefer a regular knife now.

One thing that always used to annoy me was how you'd try to slice something like mushrooms, and they'd fall sideways while they were going down the slicing tube, so you'd end up with all sorts of skew pieces. Or you'd end up with the butt end of a tomato spinning around between the slicing disc and the lid.

Cheap food processors are terrible. Then again, so are cheap blenders. For a puree, a good food processor and a good blender are about equal, except that a blender looks more natural in a bar environment.
posted by gimonca at 8:34 PM on September 20, 2007

Response by poster: (Does this remind anyone of how microwaves were supposed to be able to do everything—steam vegetables, cook cereals, make breads, scramble eggs, roast whole fowl—and it turns out all we really use them for is reheating, pre-melting, and preparing second-rate baked potatoes?)

Good suggestions. Keep 'em coming. I think we're going to have that carrot/mushroom loaf, next time my turn to cook comes round.
posted by eritain at 8:35 PM on September 20, 2007

Salsa, pesto, pizza sauce, grating cheese, chopping veggies.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:40 PM on September 20, 2007

Pie crust, latkes, and pesto are the killer apps for my food processor. I also use it for hummous and chopping nuts.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:48 PM on September 20, 2007

Recently started using one: have found it useful for shredding lettuce & carrots in quantities greater than I'd care to do by hand. Also used it to make falafel, which I guess is mortar and pestle work otherwise?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:48 PM on September 20, 2007

Hummus, pesto, white bean/rosemary dip, grinding almonds to make Linzer cookies.
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on September 20, 2007

Hummus, pesto, shredding vegetables and some cheeses when I have to do a lot and am feeling lazy, and pureeing soups (e.g. potato leek soup).
posted by advil at 8:53 PM on September 20, 2007

meat spread for sandwiches

I can't decide if that's creative or disgusting. I too am someone that doesn't think of food processors. I wonder what other unusual things people have done.

For instance, thinking along these lines, you could make a ham sandwich, with nice lettuce, some good mustard and a fresh tomato, etc, throw it in the food processor, and then end up with ham sandwich soup? Or something not quite soup?
posted by Pants! at 9:00 PM on September 20, 2007

Apparently they are for French food. I recently got a French cookbook and almost every recipe uses a food processor for some part of it.
posted by Redruin at 9:01 PM on September 20, 2007

Curry pastes, crumb pie crusts (graham cracker, etc.), mango salsa (which I make semi-pureed for a cold sauce), grinding nuts, and "making" my own confectioner's sugar (ground regular sugar - its cheaper and you don't have to keep so many different products around).

Before I got my Kitchenaid stand mixer I also used it to make pizza dough.
posted by gatorae at 9:06 PM on September 20, 2007

Pizza dough. Start to finish in 2 minutes.
posted by Neiltupper at 9:08 PM on September 20, 2007

Gazpacho, hummus, and pesto in the blender.

Also all forms of shakes, smoothies, and some mixed drinks.

Egg whites for angelfood cake in the mixing bowl. (get all traces of oil off the beaters and bowl first!) Hand-made angelfood cake tastes different from the box mix, which uses fizzy chemicals instead of mechanical air entrainment.

Bread dough sometimes in the bowl, with kneading hooks in place of the beaters.

I've learned that cookie dough turns out better when beaten by hand. The machine tends to overdo it, which I think messes up the egg protein and makes the cookies fall apart.
posted by Myself at 9:26 PM on September 20, 2007

Ours comes out reliably once a year, when it's time to make latkes. You can power through a whole bag of potatoes in no time flat--throw in quartered chunks of onion along the way, and you're all set.

It does sort of put an end to those nostalgic times, though...hanging out talking in the kitchen with nana, earning your latkes or kuegli with a sore elbow. Ah well.
posted by LairBob at 9:28 PM on September 20, 2007

hummus and veggie soup bases
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:28 PM on September 20, 2007

I recently got a little mini-Cuisinart, and I find it's eliminated the onion tears. I quickly peel off the outer skin, chop the onion into a few chunks, and put it in the processor. No tears!
posted by radioamy at 9:32 PM on September 20, 2007

I have a nice Cuisinart with all manner of attachments. I only use it in blender mode to make smoothies.

Don't worry about it. When you start making something and think "there's got to be a better way to slice 5 pounds of carrots" then that's when you learn to use the food processor.
posted by The Deej at 9:37 PM on September 20, 2007

For grating spuds and onions for hash browns.
posted by pompomtom at 9:46 PM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I really dig the food processor pie crust. No forks, no aches.
posted by anaelith at 9:50 PM on September 20, 2007

Food processor pizza is great. You can make the dough, slice all the veggies, salami, and pepperoni, and grate all the cheese in the processor in about a tenth of the time it would take by hand. I particularly like the different Cuisinart slicing discs that will slice carrot coins, bell peppers, etc., to whatever thickness you want (depending on which disc you pick.)

But since I usually cook for 1 or 2, I don't find that I often have enough work to do to justify the setup and the cleanup. For this reason I rarely use it. I do use it whenever I make hummus, which isn't often.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:55 PM on September 20, 2007

Pesto and Sundried Tomato spread
posted by mmascolino at 9:55 PM on September 20, 2007

Oh, heck, I almost forgot; whenever I have a few chicken livers around I make paté in my Cuisinart. Try doing that by hand.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:56 PM on September 20, 2007

Any type of ground meat can be done in a food processor. I use it to make a chili grind of beef, ground chicken and lamb sausage for mint love letter raviolis.
posted by ryoshu at 10:14 PM on September 20, 2007

salsa, hummus, baba ganouj, exotic mayo
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:37 PM on September 20, 2007

how microwaves were supposed to be able to do everything—steam vegetables, cook cereals, make breads, scramble eggs, roast whole fowl

Dude, microwaves really *can* do everything, or at least begin them, and at a much lower energy cost than pretty much every other form of cooking. A good way to lower your carbon footprint!
posted by meehawl at 10:43 PM on September 20, 2007

posted by trevyn at 11:03 PM on September 20, 2007

I mostly use the food processor for baking - ie; 'cream butter and sugar', all that stuff. Most cookies and (normal/simple) cakes can be made entirely in the food processor.
My parents processor also has an attachment/thing that turns it into an electric grater, very useful when preparing a kilo of carrots, and can be used to 'finely chop' a load of onions, etc.
posted by jacalata at 12:10 AM on September 21, 2007

They can be great, when making just the right recipe with god awful amounts of cutting involved. I would use mine more if it did not take up like half of the top rack of the dishwasher. So if you only need a little chopping are you going to give up that much real estate in the dishwasher, much less the counter if you don't want to do the little out of storage dance every time you need to chop something? What time you save in chopping is now used cleaning dishes. Chopping is more fun. A little practice with the knife and you are not even saving that much time with the processor for most things. It's a useful tool, but don't believe the hype. If you have a small kitchen your stand mixer and your food processor should stay tucked away in a closet somewhere until you really need them.
posted by caddis at 1:06 AM on September 21, 2007

I make pasta dough in my food processor. It's great for simply combining the ingredients, but if you combine it with just a little less flour than you need, it's gooey but strong enough to get pulled along by the blades which makes hand kneading unnecessary. I don't chop with it for the reasons paulsc mentioned, but I do use it for many combining and puréeing tasks.

One of the other reasons to keep it is that I use it now for things I hadn't even though of making back when I got it. It would suck to give it away and one day in the future want to make something new but realise it's a huge pain in the ass without a food processor.
posted by teem at 1:20 AM on September 21, 2007

I have always used a food processor to make the batter for scones. It cuts the cold butter into the flour very nicely.
posted by catseatcheese at 3:55 AM on September 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Biscuits become painfully easy with a food processor. Like scones, it makes cutting butter into flour a mindless process.
posted by that girl at 5:24 AM on September 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I like to use mine for hummus. I think some processors have the ability to rough chop veggies. Mine does, and I love it.
posted by reenum at 8:37 AM on September 21, 2007

I'll second (third, fourth, fifth) hummus.

I will also mention garlic paste, or garlic ginger paste. You can make up a whole jar of the stuff and it will last quite awhile in the fridge ( a little olive oil, a whole lotta garlic, and some ginger if you like that ).

Otherwise, I enjoy making veggie soups.

Finally - and this is a bit odd to me - my roommates hated to grate cheese, and they would use one of the grating attachments to make a pile of cheese shavings for tacos or nachos or whathaveyou.
posted by mbatch at 10:06 AM on September 21, 2007

You can make salmon burgers by throwing some chunks of salmon in with a little parsley, onion, and lemon juice (or whatever else you like). Pulse until coarsely chopped and shape into patties. Refrigerating for an hour will keep them from falling apart when you cook them.
posted by 912 Greens at 11:35 AM on September 21, 2007

No peanut butter mention yet? I used to use mine for nut butters (homemade freshly roasted cashew butter is an absolute joy to behold) before I invested in a super-powered high end blender. The Cuisinart will make some nice peanut butter, though it is not as smooth as store bought. It is pretty sturdy.
Attempting peanut butter is not recommended for a cheaper model blender or food processor, however. It's a pretty quick trip to the dumpsterville for the cheaper models.
posted by hecho de la basura at 12:33 PM on September 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

I use the dough blade to pulverize quartered tomatoes prior to putting them through the food mill (smallest disc) to make fresh tomato puree as a base for my tomato sauce and gazpacho. The dough blade doesn't break the seeds, and doing it this way saves a LOT of time, since you don't have to peel or seed the tomatoes or chop them into small pieces prior to running them through the food mill.

For whatever reason, I've always been instructed to use the steel blade for dough. It makes short work of pasta dough, though purists will tell you that you should mix it by hand instead. I say - anything that gets you to making your own pasta is a-okay.

I also use it for making carrot cake, which is a bit of a pain otherwise.
posted by Caviar at 1:41 PM on September 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh - I nearly forgot. I also consider a food processor without a citrus juicer attachment to be an unfortunate waste of a perfectly good motor in the kitchen.
posted by Caviar at 7:11 PM on September 23, 2007

I just got a full size food processor for my birthday, as pie duty at Thanksgiving means that cutting butter into dough by hand gets very old very fast, and my small-kitchen-friendly 3 cup model isn't up to the challenge. I came here looking for other ideas and happened on this thread, so in case anybody's still following:

One great source for food processor ideas is America's Test Kitchen (check your local PBS listings). They use them for some things I'd never have though of (emulsifying salad dressing is a snap, well worth the cleanup).

And to respond to Caviar's comment:
For whatever reason, I've always been instructed to use the steel blade for dough. It makes short work of pasta dough, though purists will tell you that you should mix it by hand instead. I say - anything that gets you to making your own pasta is a-okay.
I took a pasta class taught by Chef Roberto Donna (say what you will about the consistency of his kitchen and wait staff, his credentials as a pasta maker are impeccable). The first thing we did was make a well with flour, crack eggs in the middle, and gently mix them together with a fork. Once we'd mixed, kneaded, rolled, cut, and pinched that first dough by hand, the food processor and the gigantic KitchenAid stand mixer came out. The remaining eight pastas in the class were all made the electric way. It's quick work.
posted by fedward at 9:25 PM on November 9, 2007

« Older helsinki in winter?   |   Jokes for EFL students Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.