Can small food processors be used as a spice grinder?
I have been having the need to grind some spices lately but since I don't want to get a unitasking coffee grinder just to make some chilli powder or fine cumin powder, I have been looking at getting a multitasking Blender/Food Processor Combo <http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-CBT-5...>
to solve my pulverizing and grinding needs. I was wondering if the food processor would be able to do a good job of turning chilli's and other herbs into fine powder? My philosophy in the kitchen is to get only the bare minimum and try to use multitasking devices over unitasking ones? Also, how do you feel about food processors that are just 3 cups? Is it too small? I imagine I would only use the blender and processors to make sauces and dice a few herbs or spices.
I'm not familiar with the blender/food processor linked, but my guess is that a food processor won't do a good job of grinding spices. The standard blade on most food processors is thin, designed to slice through food. A grinder has a blunt blade which spins at high speed, designed to pulverize the spice. Hard spices just bounce around in a food processor bowl. If the combo unit has an interchangeable blade with a blunt edge, it might work.
We have a Cuisinart Mini-Prep, and find it very useful for certain small chopping jobs. It does a great job on fresh herbs, for instance. However, I don't think it would do well as a spice grinder, partly for the reasons cheryl h mentions above, and also because there's too much space between the lower edge of the blade and the bottom of the bowl - you might get dried whole chiles reduced to small bits, but not get that last step to a powder. You say that you don't want to get a coffee grinder to dedicate to grinding spices, but it really is one of the best methods.
I'm sure a number of people are like me, they have two small coffee grinders, one for coffee grinders and one for spices. Those small ones are pretty inexpensive, much less than even a mini-food processor. And, I'm sure as others have mentioned, they do the job while the processor really won't. The other option of course it to buy a morter and pistle and do it by hand.
Yes, yes, and yes.
I'll add my two cents: I use a cheap-o Mr Coffee grinder for all kinds of seeds and my mini food processor for batches of dried chiles. The mini-processor does a perfectly fine of job of grinding everything down - my processor also has a grind function I guess for nuts(?). If I need a finer chile powder I'll just put the results in the coffee grinder. Personally I prefer a coarser grind - a bit chunky instead of dust.
I have been monkeying with the idea of using a pepper mill with chiles like petins.
I've done the mortar and pestle before and have been unimpressed by the results - except for mashing up garlic cloves. Trying to put enough elbow grease into grinding down annatto seeds or cumin or cloves just ain't worth the hassle.
Don't waste your money on that food processor! If you don't already have one, go with a reliable one like the Cuisinart Pro Classic. And I tried it tonight and it didn't do anything to my toasted spice mix (with cinnamon sticks). I normally use my Braun Multiquick for grinding spices and it's a tri-tasker for $30!
Alton Brown recommends using a coffee grinder for spices and he's a unitasker hater.