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What can a food processor do that a mortar and pestle, Kitchenaid Professional stand mixer, Shun mandoline, and Vitamix Professional blender cant do?

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little_monster Dec 17, 2011 11:12 AM

I was about to get a food processor when I realized it might be a waste of counter space. I normally like to do chopping with a regular knife to practice my knife skills. If not I use a mandoline. The mixer is great for everything baking related. The mortar and pestle is great for a more authentic pesto. Im just left to wonder why I would need a food processor.

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  1. dcrb RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 11:45 AM

    You say "Im just left to wonder why I would need a food processor". You do not need a food processor if ALL of your food prep needs are met by the arsenal of tools you have mentioned. You may be having a slight bout of the "I want" rather than I need. The food processor is a great labor saving device for many people.

    There is a great, out of print food processor book titled 'ABBY MANDEL'S CUISINART CLASSROOM' that can be found in used bookstores and ebay, quite reasonably priced. Abby Mandel was a food columnist for Bon Appetit magazine. Her book can be used for all brands of food processors; just adjust recipes for the size of the processor. If you can get this book, inexpensively, read thru it, then you can decide if a food processor would help you.

    Me personally? The more tools the better whether it be the kitchen, workshop, or garage. They all have a purpose; some just get used more than others.

    Good luck.

    4 Replies
    1. re: dcrb
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      little_monster RE: dcrb Dec 17, 2011 12:59 PM

      the thing is im a college student so im still exploring cooking. Yes, all of my food prep needs are met AT THE MOMENT but since im constantly adding new foods to my repertoire im just wondering if a food processor would eventually be needed. With my little experience I do not know what I will eventually need. Are there recipes where a food processor would be needed? I know I do not need a food processor but I really dont want to limit myself to recipes that dont need one. For example, I didn't always have a mixer and back then found no need for one as all my prep needs BACK THEN were already met. But then came meringue made of 12 egg whites for a cake i was making and I found my self laboriously whisking at egg whites until stiff in front of the tv which at my first time took the whole duration of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Did i need meringue? No. One can survive their life without it. I could have made something else that did not require a mixer. Im not the kind of person who likes to be limited. So are things that a food processor can do that all of these other pieces of equipment cant.

      1. re: little_monster
        Chemicalkinetics RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 01:40 PM

        You are a college student and you have a Shun mandoline and KitchenAid stand mixer? :) You are lucky. I don't think my entire college kitchen accessories and cookware worth one single KitchenAid stand mixer.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
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          little_monster RE: Chemicalkinetics Dec 17, 2011 02:12 PM

          I get a lot of allowance lol.

        2. re: little_monster
          dcrb RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 02:56 PM

          Just read thru all the replies. Being a college student you know that research pays off. Here is a ling covering the contents of the book I mentioned earlier. Maybe some of the topics mentioned will pique you interest and help you decide.

          http://www.etsy.com/listing/85915145/...

      2. Chemicalkinetics RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 01:38 PM

        Speed and volume. A food processor can handle a much greater volume of food in a short amount of time. It makes little sense to use a food processor to chop up a potato because you will spend more time cleaning it than using it. However, if you are going to prepare a meal for 10+ people with 5 bags of potatoes....etc. So, it is all a balancing act.

        I have not had the need to use a full food processor. I have a mini 2-cup food processor just for grinding and chopping nuts (walnuts, almond...etc).

        1. pikawicca RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 01:44 PM

          Quenelles.

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            acgold7 RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 01:56 PM

            Well, I'm not sure we really NEED any of these things, but I have and use them all. Sure, I could whip cream or egg whites by hand with a whisk, but I never do. I use my gadgets and love them.

            I use my Food Pro for large repetitive tasks that I otherwise wouldn't likely do if I had to do them by hand. My most frequent uses are for bashing up aromatics to a very fine state. Just turn the beast on and drop in forty or fifty cloves of garlic or a dozen or two shallots, and they spin around until they are finely minced and stick to the sides of the work bowl. Then I can drop in a few quartered onions and chunks of carrot and celery, and a few pulses later all is ready for the pan. Cleanup is just a quick rinse.

            I also use for making breadcrumbs, and for shredding cabbage finely and evenly, slicing potatoes paper thin without risking my hands on a mandoline, and I never bake a cake without it -- it mixes more thoroughly and quickly than a mixer. Well, quicker anyway. I think it's also a lifesaver for pasta dough.

            So yeah, you could do all this with the stuff you already have, but I like my processor for much of this stuff.

            4 Replies
            1. re: acgold7
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              little_monster RE: acgold7 Dec 17, 2011 03:05 PM

              theres one gadget i really want and i dont think improvisation is possible. im asking santa for an immersion circulator and a chamber vacuum sealer. just getting ambitious and want to try out sous vide cooking and molecular gastronomy. I prefer the stand mixer over a food processor for baking because of variable speeds. Overmixing a cake just toughens it up and i think the extra time it takes to make a cake with a stand mixer is worth it. Only time i can see myself using a food processor for baking is for biscuits and pie crust.

              1. re: little_monster
                chowser RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 03:10 PM

                You don't need a food processor to make biscuits or pie crust. Doing it by hand, or using a stand mixer works fine. The only things I really use my food processor for are grinding nuts, oreos/graham crackers and other small items like that and pureeing roasted vegetables or soups (at least that I can think of off hand). For the latter, I'd rather use an immersion blender. If I had to choose between a food processor and immersion blender, I'd go w/ the immersion blender.

                1. re: chowser
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                  little_monster RE: chowser Dec 17, 2011 03:26 PM

                  im aware of that. I use a pastry blender but im just saying i would use a food processer if i did have one.I only have an ancient Betty Crocker mini food processer thats older than me atm. btw...it SUCKS!

                2. re: little_monster
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                  looz RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 04:19 PM

                  Ah, but it *is* possible to improvise sous vide cooking!

                  http://www.chow.com/food-news/64330/h...

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                pothead RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 02:26 PM

                You definitely don't *need* a food processor, but as others have said it's great for chopping and slicing in large volumes. Also useful for small quantities of the kinds of things you could do in the stand mixer, but which get frustratingly stuck at the bottom of the bowl. The only thing I can think of that you can't do with the tools you've mentioned is anything involving grating: carrot cake, potato latkes, etc. You can certainly make these things with a hand grater (I have done so many times), but it's infinitely easier and faster with a food processor.

                If the parents who have contributed to your current arsenal are interested in adopting a 33 year old, please let me know.

                1. SanityRemoved RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 02:27 PM

                  Provide you with more time to study or relax :)

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                    looz RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 02:32 PM

                    A food processor comes in handy in terms of speed and volume. For example, the first time I ever made latkes for 10 people, I didn't have a food processor. I grated five pounds of potatoes and onions by hand. Took me the better part of an hour. Then I got a food processor. The grater attachment meant that the same five pounds of potatoes and onions took about three minutes.

                    Another thing I use it for regularly is hummus. Dump in the chickpeas, tahini, oil etc. and whiz for a minute or so. Instant hummus! While I could use a mortar and pestle, if I'm cooking for a party, that means lots of batches. This gets it done quickly.

                    Really, the food processor is great for any time you need to chop something into a paste, or grate a whole lot of something. I last used it to make shortbread - chopped the butter into the sugar and flour.

                    I also have a mini food processor, and I use that even more than my large one. I use it for chopping herbs, nuts, garlic, onions, and all sorts of things.

                    Now I don't have a Vitamix, and I hear that it is quite the machine, so that may be able to do some of the tasks that I use my food processor for. I can say, though, that my most used kitchen appliance (after the coffee maker and tea kettle!) is the mini food processor, followed by the regular size one. I use them much more than my stand mixer or blender, and I would give both of those up before I gave up my food processors.

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                      escondido123 RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 03:42 PM

                      Since it sounds like money is no object, why not just go ahead and buy one? I use mine for bread crumbs, pie dough and pasta dough mainly, and have never used it for slicing or grating--though my sister uses hers for that all the time. But then mine is in the cabinet down the hall, so only get it out when other methods aren't readily available.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: escondido123
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                        little_monster RE: escondido123 Dec 17, 2011 03:49 PM

                        Its going to affect my shopping spree at Bergdorfs lol.

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                        rasputina RE: little_monster Dec 17, 2011 06:00 PM

                        Chop things well, provided you don't over fill it. I prefer the FP for hummus for example. I also use it for chopping my cranberries for the relish I make. Making bread crumbs, it's great for grating. I don't know, the FP is one of those things I've had for 25 years and don't want to live without. I probably use it more than my stand mixer. I've sure made a lot of pizza and bread doughs over the years in the FP even though I have 2 stand mixers.

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                          shezmu RE: little_monster Dec 19, 2011 02:17 PM

                          If you count a professional grade food processor in here, I believe there are combination food processors that can do almost every form of prep you'd want to do with fruits/veg except some forms of garnish. Mince, dice, waffle, ripple, you name it.

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                            comestible RE: little_monster Dec 19, 2011 02:19 PM

                            Not to change the subject, but for those of you who find the FP useful for chopping things like onions, celery, garlic, I have to say my experience is negative. I was really HOPING the FP would relieve the task of chopping with a knife, but the FP (mine, anyway) actually just sort of irregularly chops and mashes ingredients into an unattractive mass. That's using the big blades though, not the discs that slice and shred. Should I be using the slicer disc for these tasks?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: comestible
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                              shezmu RE: comestible Dec 19, 2011 02:47 PM

                              Does your FP uses discs? Because what I was talking about was something more like this.

                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdWXDI... (the magic starts at 'round 1 min

                              )

                              Been looking for something like but smaller and cheaper myself. Hope that vid isn't counted as advertisement as it's just showing the machine doing it's thing.

                              1. re: shezmu
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                                comestible RE: shezmu Dec 19, 2011 03:12 PM

                                Interesting vid! I noticed the dicing disc is used with a grid that slips in first. But it looks like a plastic grid that wouldn't have any cutting function...

                                My unit is a Cuisinart at least 10 years old. It has only three cutting options: the big swoopy blade that sits in the bottom of the bowl, or a disc with a wide curved slash in it that sits atop a spindle, or another disc/spindle that has holes across the top for shredding, as in cole slaw.

                                I understand the Robot Coupe is a more sophisticated machine, but just wish I could chop uniformly with my Cuisinart. Not that I mind knife-chopping; I enjoy it; but in quantity it takes some time.

                                1. re: comestible
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                                  coz77 RE: comestible Apr 24, 2012 05:41 AM

                                  Regarding the RC dice: the grid is all metal blades the housing is plastic.

                              2. re: comestible
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                                escondido123 RE: comestible Dec 19, 2011 02:57 PM

                                I don't use the FP for chopping unless it is something I want to puree/grind. Otherwise, it doesn't do anything uniform at all. And I can slice pretty fast so added to the prep of onions and clean up of the FP, it just doesn't seem worth it for the quantities I cook.

                                1. re: comestible
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                                  acgold7 RE: comestible Dec 19, 2011 03:40 PM

                                  You just have to practice when to pulse and when to let it rip. While the results you mention can certainly happen, I haven't had a problem with that for some time now.

                                  For finely mincing garlic and shallots, you turn it on first and then drop the aromatics in and let them spin. When they are the perfect size they'll stick to the sides of the bowl.

                                  For larger dice with onions and carrots, you just need to practice the right amount and interval of pulsing and you can control the dice fairly well. Also, how much you put in the workbowl at once can have a significant effect.

                                2. cityhopper RE: little_monster Dec 20, 2011 05:59 PM

                                  I'm no longer a college student AND still on a budget. As I began to build a kitchen collection, I came to the same dilemma. I opted with the Cuisinart Stand Mixer, Cuisinart Spice Grinder, and a Swissmar Mandoline. Overall, I do not regret my choice.

                                  This combination of equipment is easier to clean and serves the purpose of cooking for one. I could not justify the FP when I don't normally cook for a large group. However, if I can snag a quality FP at an amazing deal, I'll probably purchase it.

                                  Given that you have the Vitamix too, I think you have adequate small appliance coverage.

                                  1. tim irvine RE: little_monster Feb 4, 2012 02:46 PM

                                    My wife uses it a lot, but I use it chiefly for mayonnaise and hummus. The only time the ability to chop a lot of stuff quickly is a big issue for me is canning chili sauce. For most of the slicing things my wife uses the FP for I prefer the mandoline, for grating I find a box grater as fast, and for chopping less than a mountain of most anything a ten inch Chef's knife and a big heavy cutting board is as fast, neater cuts, and rinse and dry to clean. There are a lot of lthings the FP can do awfully well that are just more fun to do by hand, but if I were 5'3" and didn't like using larger knives I am not sure they'd still be fun. I miss making mayonnaise by hand but arthritic hands get tired and the FP has been wonderful for that. Plus I can drop in a chipotle. If I did that with a whisk and a bowl the whisk would jut chase the pepper around the bowl. Oh I also like to make pasta dough with the FP. I do not like pie crust made in an FP nearly as well as I like it made with two knives.

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                                      cacruden RE: little_monster Apr 24, 2012 06:01 AM

                                      I had a food processor up until 2 years ago when I moved to a different country, with different electrical supply.... and I don't miss it. I rarely used it. When I did use it - it would only be for large batches of something (canning) - but if you are not doing that then it is more work to wash all the pieces. I am fairly adept with my knives.... which tend to be quicker and easier for chopping (don't need a mandolin). I do use a mortar and pestle almost daily. I recently did add a cheap blender for drinks which can be used for other stuff if necessary. One thing that might be a good addition would be an immersion blender - with attachments. Rule of thumb - don't buy stuff until you need it -- it saves money and counter space :p

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                                        Elfer RE: little_monster Apr 24, 2012 07:28 PM

                                        As everyone else mentioned, it's about speed and volume, much like a mandoline. Whether or not you want to buy one depends on your personal style. I prefer to avoid extra equipment or cookware when I can (especially appliances), so I don't have a mandoline or food processor, and I use an immersion blender instead of a blender proper. On the other hand, I enjoy knife work, and at the volume I work with, I can chop fast enough that I generally wouldn't save any time by using and cleaning a food processor.

                                        It's really up to you. If you decide to get one, I'm sure you'll find use for it.

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