How to choose between food processors and blenders for your cooking projects
By Becky Krystal
Food processors and blenders tend to get lumped together when people talk about kitchen appliances. After all, you can throw a bunch of ingredients into each and come out with something puréed.
That is certainly true, but these two staples for home cooks work differently and excel at different things. Here's how to differentiate them - and decide which one is right for you, or your recipe.
How they work
Food processors and blenders are similar in that both typically involve a motorized base and a repository for the food (bowl or jar) fitted with a blade. With their tall, narrow jars, blenders work by creating a vortex that continuously sucks food down to the blade.
The food processor's wider bowl means it relies more on the longer blade to slice horizontally through the food as it rotates. Food processors operate at around 1,700 revolutions per minute, while blenders start at around 17,000 rpm and can go even higher than 30,000 rpm.
How they differ
In general, a food processor is more multifunctional than a blender, thanks to its slower speed and variety of blades that can be used for slicing, grating, making dough and more. Because the food processor goes slower, it gives you much more control over the texture of your food. You can do everything from a brief pulse to full-speed processing, giving you food that runs the gamut from coarsely chopped to puréed.
The faster speed of the blender blade means food is broken down at a much quicker pace, so you begin to cede control over the size of the food and how quickly it's being worked.
How to pick
Food processors and blenders are different enough that, if you can, it's helpful to have both in your kitchen arsenal. But budgets, kitchen sizes and other factors make it possible to turn this into an either/or proposition, which is fine, too. And even if you have both, sometimes you need to decide which to pull out.
Pay attention to your cooking style, Rodgers says, or what your particular recipe is trying to accomplish. If you want a tool that can replicate a lot of knife work, go with the food processor. "It's not easy to do any type of dough in a blender," Rodgers adds. "You cannot slice or shred in a blender." Those are common tasks to keep in mind as well.
If you need something primarily for beverages, the blender is absolutely the way to go. Smoothies, frozen drinks, horchata and agua fresca - the blender excels at them all. Manufacturers typically do not recommend breaking down ice in a food processor.
Pureed hot soups are a possibility in both appliances, though you need to pay attention to the fill lines in each. Again, you'll achieve a somewhat smoother consistency in the blender.