Although this is an old post, I was in the same situation you were and , thankfully, the solution for me was the Vitamix. The only machine I have on my counter which is used at least 4 times a day. Smoothies, Ice Crusher, Soups, Ice Cream, food processor, makes nut milk, nut butters and the list goes on. It is an investment, but paid for itself a LONG time ago, given the use. Also has a fantastic warranty. Highly, highly recommended. Can only purchase online or, they do a Costco road-show, where I got mine at a discounted price of about $380. Fantastic machine.
Hi -This is my first posting, but it's a while after the initial post. I recently bought a food processor and had this same question, so if anyone needs a more current answer, here's mine. I needed a food processor - I would second the suggestion about the food processor and immersion blender being the most important kitchen essentials, and I have an immersion blender so was on the hunt for a food processor. I wanted one with as wide a range of capabilities and functionality as possible, because I have no counter or cabinet space for a blender, which would primarily be used for crushing ice (the immersion blender works well for pureeing soups and making smoothies). So....I was on the hunt for a great food processor, but I needed a full-size one with a nice large /wide mouth feed tube, because I see little point in taking out a knife to prechop ingredients - I'd just feel like I should finish the job, and I wouldn't take out the food processor to complete the task. I ended up buying two processors, with the intent of testing both and returning one. I bought a Cuisinart 12-cup Elite - lovely, die cast metal, nested 12 and 4 cp bowls, and an adjustable slicing blade (wow!, nice idea) for approx $350 (got it on sale for just over $220). I bought a Black and Decker with blender and minichopper for $88 at Walmart. Didn't think the B&D would measure up, with a 600Watt motor next to the Cuisinart's 1000Watts, but it had a blender...so I decided to try it. I think I am going to stick with the B&D, and that has surprised me greatly. I initially thought I'd end up with the expensive Cuisinart and am almost heartbroken that it hasn't measured up, because I found such a great sale. But even without trying the Cuisinart, I found that the B&D had the following advantages:
- 2 speeds - Hi/Low/Pulse (vs Cuisinart's On/Off/Pulse)
-full size 6-cup blender jug (crushes ice, does other jobs the processor can't)
- 10 cup wide mouth chopper jug and 4 cup minichopper which are NOT nested, so they don't both get dirty with one being used (Cuisinart's nested bowls both get dirty if the nested small one is used, as it cannot be used independently of the big bowl, and must remain nested.)
-ease of use (easy to lock and unlock) - Cuisinart, although apparently improved with this model, is notoriously hard to assemble/dissassemble
-compact, fits on counter - Cuisinart is too large to fit under cabinets when assembled
-small enough to be maneuvrable (5 lb vs 22 lb base)
-My primary concerns were that the B&D comes with only two discs - one thin slice / thin shred and one very thin slice / very fine shred, and no other disks are available to julienne, or make different thicknesses of slices, and also, that it apparently isn't easily reparable as the company doesn't sell some of the parts to repair shops. But the latter concern isn't a big deal - it's a decent price if I have to buy another, and it's warrantied for a year...I can hope for the best. I can buy more blades, at least, if those get dull. As for the discs, well, that's a problem - it limits functionality. But the Cuisinart doesn't do much more - in fact, it might even do less, because you don't have a blender jug to crush ice. The disks available for the Cuisinart include - adjustable slicing disk (1-6mm) and fine/med reversible shredding disk (sold with it) and a julienne blade (sold separately and hard to find in Canada).
Therefore, I think I might stick with the B&D. At least it has a couple of thicknesses of slices and shreds- nothing very thick, unfortunately, but you can't have everything, I guess. It does at least have a blender jug to crush ice. So it does the main jobs - shred, slice, chop, make dough and batters, and also any blending tasks, including crushing ice for sorbets or granitas.
It's a good price, and it does everything everyone here has mentioned.
I should, however, mention that the Kitchen Aid food processors, (some of them, anyway) offer slicing disks (different thicknesses), shredding disks (different thicknesses), julienne disks (diff. thicknesses), and even grating disks (for grating ICE and hard cheeses), AND citrus juicing attachments, and egg whip attachments. They are really ALL-PURPOSE machines...so why didn't I go for it? Two reasons: firstly they have a major issue with leakage - around the lid, and around the stem (so even the 12 cup bowls do not hold more than 4 cps of liquid, at most). The second problem (for me)....the price. While not substantially greater than the Cuisinart, on sale, they charge for th extra disks - they come with a single slicing/shredding disk, and you have to then pay around another $100 for the full set of different slicing/shredding/julienne/grating disks. i saw a decent sale with all the disks and processor offered for $279, but I missed it. I'm not sure I would have gone for it, anyway, given the issues with leakage....doesn't seem to make sense to pay so much for something that does everything, but spills your recipes out the side. All that hard work for nothing.....you end up cleaning the counters, instead of eating.
So....I'm happy with my B&D. It's a humble little machine. But it is easy to use and it does pretty much everything I will need. I would have paid more for it, in fact....but thankfully, it was under $100!! Most places charge around $120 for it - e.g.Amazon.com. It's worth every penny, even at that price. I promise...you won't find it lacking, even if you try it against the big boys!!
Here's a link to the B&D 3-in-1 mentioned above, in case you're interested.
I have a Cuisinart Duet and use both parts of it a lot. It's gotten mixed reviews (probably a Chowhound search would probably turn up a lot of comments), but I really like it. I don't crush ice often but would second renov8r's comments. It's a 3-cup food processor, so kind of small. Blender is normal size.
official website: http://cuisinart.com/catalog/product....)
While a decently powerful Cuisinart or KitchenAid fp will be able to smack the ice into reasonably fine chunks you will wish you had not.
#1 It beats the crap out of the blade. If you find a spare blade at a thrift store you know it was used for ice becuase the serrations will be all out of line. This will result in very poor performance (and lots of slop) when trying to use the fp for the tasks it is best at.
#2 it really scratches the hell out of the work bowl. This not only makes the work bowl unsightly, it makes it a pain to clean as all those scratches cling onto stuff. Yuck.
#3 It is painfully loud. Like putting silverware in the disposer. it will make you cringe.
#4 It is messy. the ice won't stay put. It sort of flies up and around the container, working its way into the feedtube and other areas where it can actually break the safety tabs as you try to clean it out -- trust me, I had this happen.
I would not consider a food processor a good tool to make smoothies. Use a kick ass blender. I don't like have too many machines either, but from the blade to the container to the motor and controls a blender is just THE right device to make smoothies.
Some folks find that they use a fp a lot. Some not so much. Ditto for blenders. I'm thinking that if you are a smoothie lover you will use the blender for them a lot. In generally I'd say anything that comes out the consistency of a Wendy Frosty or thinner should be a blender item. Any thing that can be reproduced with the "martin yan two cleaver chopping technique" or will end up as a spread (like mayo or pesto) or a dough is best in the fp.
Totally make sense -- but I hate blenders -- they never do as good of a job as food processors when it comes to actually blending. I always end up having to use a spoon to push everything toward the blades at the bottom -- which is stressful because if that spoon drops in, good bye blender! And it's not like they are cheap.
So there is no good FP or FP technique that will handle the chopping AND take on tougher jobs like chopping up ice cubes?
I have a trick for keeping the spoon from touching the blades, though it looks -really- strange and I always get strange looks from someone that is looking for something in my utensil drawer. ( i know this is in response to something in May, but I'm throwing this out there anyway for anyone that happens to read the thread)
I take a cheap wooden spoon with a long handle and a flatter "spoon" part. then I poke a hole through a tennis ball and put the shaft of the spoon through the ball. I put the lid on my blender (that is turned off and unplugged) and take out the center part of the lid for "adding liquids". I insert the spoon and let the tennis ball rest on the lid, then I adjust the position of the spoon until it's about a half an inch away from the blades while the tennis ball is resting on the lid. mark the spot at the top of the tennis ball where it meets the spoon and drill a little hole through it to put a little nut and bolt through or even a few toothpicks has worked. rubberbands also work if you don't want to drill but it always makes me iffy if it will allow the spoon to move when the blender is on.
It looks really strange and is kind of ghetto, but it allows me to get everything down to the blades without worrying about hitting the blades, or food getting everywhere since the top is sealed. I'll take a picture of the weird tennis spoon if anyone wants it for clarification. also, it comes apart for cleaning.
As mentioned in a recent thread, a blender works much better for liquids. Food processors will push the liquid up the straight, short walls and it will spill over. Blenders are specifically designed to have deeper walls to better contain smoothies and such.
I use my KitchenAid blender to make pesto, hummus, etc., and have a small chopper instead of a processor for those needs.
I'm the opposite of mojo. I use my FP for everything - salsa, pesto, hummus, bread dough, meat grinder. I only use my blender for soups and smoothies, and wish I had gotten an immersion blender instead.
As for ice, they sell an ice-grating disc for my FP, but I haven't used it. I would be VERY reluctant to use the FP blade for ice.