There seems to be a separate appliance for everything these days. I can’t be alone in the struggle of where to put all these machines? My kitchen has a good amount of counter space but this is quickly obliterated when I start cooking and all the blenders, choppers and mixers come out.
Before I invested in a good, solid food processor I used to chop, mix, and whisk everything by hand. This inevitably leads to me wondering if there was a faster way to prepare food.
As I was struggling through a huge mountain of veggies to make a roast dinner, I glanced over at my trusty Vitamix blender and wondered, can blenders be used as food processors?
The short answer is maybe. Blenders are a type of food processor but they liquefy ingredients rather than chopping them. There are hundreds of types of food processors available for every food prep task that exists and some blender models come with attachments that help them to serve these functions.
What is a Blender?
To start with, let’s take it back to basics. What actually defines a kitchen appliance as a blender?
There are actually two basic designs when it comes to blenders, countertop, and handheld blenders.
The counter-top blender consists of a powerful motor base unit with a cup or jug attachment. The motor spins sharp blades at high speeds to puree ingredients at the base of the jug.
The design of the countertop blender ensures the blades create a vortex in the mixing bowl which funnels dry ingredients towards the razor-sharp blades.
The handheld or immersion blender is more of a stick-shaped design. It also has a built-in motor and sharp blades but the whole blender is held in the pot of soup or sauce. By using the blender to stir the pot, solid food is pureed in no time.
A blender is designed to puree food into a thick paste or smoothie and shouldn’t leave any lumps or fibrous material in the recipe.
What is a Food Processor?
A food processor is similar to a blender in that it is a countertop machine with a built-in motor. The jug attachment is where it differs.
Food processors have shorter, wider bowls and come with various attachments instead of just the standard blades.
A typical food processor will come with a chopping, grating, slicing, mixing and whisking function and some even have dough hooks.
Food processors are usually a bit better at lower speeds as well so can be used for kneading bread dough.
They are a great kitchen aid for shredding, dicing, and chopping veggies but the design of the bowl means that pureeing is a bit less effective compared with a powerful blender.
Another variation of the food processor design is the stand mixer. These are a mixing bowl with the motorized portion suspended above it. They get a bit more movement than the fixed blades so are ideal for whisking, mixing, and kneading dough.
Blenders are ideal for…
If you’re looking to make smoothies, baby food, cocktails, nut butters, or ice cream then a blender is a good starting place. The result is a silky smooth, aerated texture that can be spooned or sipped with ease.
Hand mixers are ideal for pureeing sauces and soups in large quantities. The mixer can be introduced to the cooking pot which saves spooning it between bowls. The only issue with a handheld blender is you can easily miss lumps in the sauce as the blender can by-pass them.
Food Processors are designed for…
For a hand making pesto, to crush ice or make breadcrumbs then the blades of a food processor may be a better option. They are perfect to chop veggies, shred cheese or get that hummus texture perfect.
For assistance with batters, dough, and whisking cream or eggs the stand mixer is the way to go. The arm of the mixer moves in a circular motion alongside the spinning attachment so the mixture is gently folded and aerated as time progresses.
Examples of Blenders
A standard counter-top blender like the Vitamix 5200 is one of the best blenders on the market. It’s powerful blades and smooth conical-shaped jug directs all ingredients towards the base. The design of these ensures that no food escapes the pulverizing.
Counter-top blenders can adapt to food processing if the design permits. Some varieties (such as the Ninja Professional Plus Kitchen System) come with dough hooks, crushing blades, and chopping blades as well.
A stick blender or immersion blender like the Commercial Immersion mixer by Hamilton Beach is best used to thicken sauces and soups. Some varieties come with a blender jar attachment which can turn them into smoothie makers as well.
Another fab accessory that can help make these tools multi-functional is a whisk attachment to replace the standard blades. These additions can help adapt the blender and extend its food processing capabilities.
The Nutibullet is one of the best known individual smoothie makers. These blenders are similar to the countertop designs but are much more compact. The blender pitcher doubles as a cup to hold the smoothie so you enjoy it immediately or pop the lid on and save it for later.
These types of blenders are much more specialist for making smoothies so don’t adapt as well if used as food processors.
Examples of Food Processors
Standard Mixing Bowl
A standard food processor fulfills a variety of tasks in the kitchen. A good example of this is the Oster food processor.
It has three basic settings; a shred/slice, a mix/knead, and a chop/pulse setting. The bowl fits on the motorized base and the lid has an elevated opening with a food chute to allow you to feed in the whole ingredients.
The blade is a reversible slicer/shredder for cheese or veggies and it has a dough hook attachment as well as the standard blades.
Whilst this machine will struggle to mix a smooth and silky fruit smoothie it will save you tonnes of time chopping vegetables and can really help to mix up batters or kneading dough.
The Kitchenaid stand mixer is a great example of this type of food processing. A stand mixer is what you’ll reach for if you need to whisk up some egg whites or fold a delicate cake batter.
The bowl is fixed under the moving arm so the result is a lighter and better overall mix compared to just pulverizing everything with blades.
Similar to a standard food processor a mini chopper is a great kitchen aid. It is basically a tiny version of the mixing bowl design with a short, wide bowl and chopping blades. It can finely chop up small volumes of ingredients like herbs, onion, and garlic without reducing them to a paste.
It can save you hours of chopping and I love the fact that you end up with beautifully prepared food without that dreaded garlic staining on your hands.
Blenders are a type of food processor that is designed to puree food to make smooth sauces and smoothies. They work using razor-sharp blades to finely chop everything into a liquid. Some blenders have attachments that help them to double as food processors but if you need a light whisking or rough chop then you’ll need a different food processor to complete the job.