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Product Reviews

A cut above for food prep

Processors, choppers can help home cooks bring healthy meals to the table

Consumer Reviews / July 10, 2011

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With warm weather, fresh ingredients are back on store shelves, and food processors and choppers are ready for the summer entertaining season. Food processors can shred fresh veggies, whip up savory sauces, and produce ground beef for burgers without the mystery meat.

Consumer Reports’ recent tests of food processors and choppers found 12 strong performers, starting at just $40 for choppers and $100 for processors. Its testers chopped, sliced, shredded, pureed, and grated nuts, herbs, vegetables, meats, and more with 45 food processors and choppers and found that a high price tag doesn’t guarantee a spot-on slice.

Consumer Reports’ findings include:

Top marks for midpriced models. Testers found that the Cuisinart DLC-2011CHB ($200) - one of two top-scoring models from that brand - has a large bowl and rated impressively across the board with a wide feed tube plus a hole in the pusher for, say, drizzling oil into homemade hummus or mayonnaise.

For less money and very good chopping, shredding, and pureeing, try the Consumer Reports Best Buy KitchenAid KFP715[WH] ($100), the only food processor or chopper that scored excellent for noise. The Waring FPC14 ($450) adds commercial features for a bit more money, including heavier stainless-steel processing disks with metal hubs instead of the usual plastic.

Combo units can’t compete. Consumer Reports also tested some food processors that work double-duty, converting to blenders, but none was a top performer. Subpar chopping and grating kept one DeLonghi model off the list. A Wolfgang Puck model has a reamer for juice, but it scored only fair for grating.

Mixed results for TV choppers. Test results on some “As Seen on TV’’ products varied. Ads for the Ninja QB1004 ($60) say it incorporates “ancient Asian metal-working secrets.’’ It delivered superb grating and very good chopping and pureeing. But the Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus DLC-2A ($40), a Consumer Reports Best Buy, is nearly as good for $20 less.

The Magic Bullet Express ($50), another infomercial standby, didn’t perform quite as well. It struggled with basic tasks, despite promises that it zips through “any job in 10 seconds or less.’’

Processing principles. Incorporating a food processor or chopper into meal preparation could be a step toward more healthful eating. Some models come with additional features, like a minibowl, juicer attachment, or interchangeable blades. For best results and easier cleanup, keep these tips in mind:

■To prevent spillage, pour in less and make soups and sauces in smaller batches.

■Safety locks are now standard on food processors. A wide feed tube saves you the trouble of cutting up potatoes, cucumbers, and other large items.

■A liquid “max’’ line helps prevent overfilling, which can cause leaks.

■Touchpad controls are easier to wipe clean than paddles.

■A storage case keeps accessories organized.

■A dough blade is a great accessory for kneading dough for bread and pizza.

Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.