Before you start daydreaming about how a fresh new all-in-one food processor is going to change Sunday dinner into an "Iron Chef" episode, it's a good idea to get acquainted with the machine's basic functions and, more importantly, how to use them.
While features vary, a standard all-in-one food processor consists of a metal or plastic base with motorized controls and at least one bowl, a blade stem in the center and a covered top with a feed chute. The processor's blades and discs, which are attached to the stem and rotate and cut the food in the bowl, determine the functions it can perform. An S-shaped steel blade is typically used for chopping, mincing and pureeing, while metal discs handle slicing and grating jobs. Many models also include a plastic bread kneading blade. These tools are detachable, allowing the user to select the appropriate blade or disc for a given task [sources: Whistler, The Reluctant Gourmet].
To get started, the user covers the processor bowl and starts the motor-powered blade by pressing a control board switch before sliding the food item into the machine via the feed tube. Some users place larger items directly in the bowl before starting the blade. Unlike a blender, which because of its cone-shaped bottom requires water or some other liquid to keep food moving, a food processor's flat bottom bowl allows the user to simply chuck the food in and let er' rip [sources: Whistler, The Reluctant Gourmet].
With a simple blade switch here and there, a home chef can use a food processor to perform a variety of tasks from grating chocolate and making compound butter to dicing tomatoes and onions for salsa. But what about the reluctant chef? You know, the one who not only can't be bothered to cut and slice food, but also to cook it. Enter: the Kenwood Cooking Chef. Drawing on a 1,100-watt induction burner, this souped-up appliance actually cooks food while it's being processed, producing temperatures of 20 to 140 degree Celsius (68 to 284 degrees Farenheit) [source: Kenwood].
Retailing at $1,800, however, Kenwood's Cadillac of food processors probably doesn't fit everyone's price range. The good news is that other models can be found for as little as $40 (and as much as more than $4,400). Read on to find out how to food processor that's best for you.