Food processors and blenders are similar in theory: A container with a blade inside, topped with a lid, sitting on a stand with a motor to power it all. But that is as far as it goes for similarities. Their work bowl shape, blade style and accessories, cause them to differ in terms of what foods they are ideal for.
“In general, the two have different purposes,” says Nicole Papantoniou, Senior Testing Editor of the Good Housekeeping Kitchen Appliances Lab:
A blender has a jar with blades at the on the bottom that cut food into small particles and whirl them around. That’s why the blender purees and liquifies so well. This makes it better for recipes where a smooth, even consistency is key. Blenders also crush ice, so they’re the best for frozen drinks. Overall, the blender works best when liquid is involved; it can also whip cream for dessert, or eggs for a fluffy omelet.
A food processor is more of an all-around kitchen workhorse, the trusty sous-chef that preps all the ingredients that would be tedious work for the chef. Switching blades and discs and using different speeds — plus the pulse function — lets the cook have more control. The food processor has a wide work bowl with an S-shaped blade in the bottom, and works well on dry ingredients, such as chopping herbs, pulverizing graham crackers for pie crust or kneading dough. It can make short work of a block of mozzarella for pizza, or shred carrots for a cake in seconds
What are the main differences between blenders and food processors?
Blender jars come mainly in either glass or plastic, either square or round. The choice comes down to cleaning and handling: Glass is heavier and doesn’t absorb odors as easily as plastic. The blender jar is designed to create a vortex that stirs the liquid contents and funnels them down to the blades for better blending.
The wide bowl of a food processor makes it easier to add recipe contents (such as adding butter to flour to make pie crust) and to scrape the sides without the blade getting in the way. Some food processor models also come with multiple work bowls, including smaller ones for simple tasks, and multiple lids with chutes to fit different-sized ingredients, like vegetables for slicing.
Blender blades sit flush in the bottom of the jar, either built into the jar or as part of an attachment that screws onto the jar. Blades come in two main types:
X-shaped blades: The most common is star-shaped and has four blades, but some models come with six blades. Since the blender’s efficiency depends on blades making contact with the food, six blades is considered to be better than four, but most household models have four.
“Wing” blades are flat blades with blunt edges that turn up or down. They are better for crushing hard ingredients such as ice, so they’re more commonly used for making frozen drinks and smoothies. Some blender models, such as the “bullet” types, come with multiple blades, so you can switch from the X-shaped blade for most traditional blender uses, to a flat blade to grind dry ingredients and crush ice.
The blade in the food processor is S-shaped and sits just above the bottom of the work bowl, the better to chop and mix. The blades can be plain-edged or serrated; the plain edge delivers clean cuts and is better for chopping meat and most vegetables, while the serrated blades can puree as well, working well on nut butters and frozen ingredients.
Food processors typically come with an array of blades that can knead dough, mix liquids for sauces or mayonnaise, and even a cutting disk at the top of the work bowl can also add more tasks to its to-do list: Slicing, shredding, julienne and more cuts. Some disks can even spiralize vegetables and cut French fries and waffle fries.
Which is better: A food processor or blender?
It depends on the task! So which recipes work better on the blender and which work better on the food processor?
Salsa comes out best when made in a food processor to better control the size of the chopped ingredients, though it can can be made in the blender too.
Hummus and other purees are easiest to make in a food processor. Some purees, such as hummus, pesto and nut butters, can work in either appliance but the shape of the blender jar makes it a little harder to work with and you will need to add more oil.
Smoothies are best made in blenders. The best blenders tested by The Good Housekeeping Institute could blend kale into smoothies without leaving traces.
Soups are best made in your regular blender (just make sure not to overfill the jar) or an immersion blender that purees soup right in the pot you cooked it in. Instant Pot recently jumped into blenders with a model that can heat your soup and also pureé it.
Icy drinks should be made in a blender if you want to turn fruit into cocktails or make milkshakes. It can whirl frozen strawberries and ice into smooth daiquiris, or turn frozen wine into frosé in seconds.
Pie crust is best made in a food processor: Even pros like Ina Garten use one for their pies. It can cut cold butter into flour quickly and avoiding the warmth of your hands and to make a flaky pie crust. “They’re the only way I make pie dough,” said Papantoniou.
Baby Food is a task for a good processor. Pureé fruits and vegetables in large batches to fit the workbowl, or use a smaller bowl if your food processor has one.
Bottom line: Think of a food processor as a kitchen assistant — chopping, pureeing, making pastry dough, slicing, shredding and even dicing — while a blender is meant primarily for smoothies and drinks.
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