Let’s be real for a second: Even seasoned cooks have to phone a friend with a culinary question every now and again (Alexa: How many ounces are in a cup?). So for newbie chefs, learning to navigate the kitchen can be confusing and downright intimidating. Starting with figuring out the proper tools to use.
When a recipe calls for a perfectly smooth purée or super finely chopped walnuts, you know it’s time to call in reinforcements. “Multi-use kitchen essentials like blenders and food processors can simplify food prep and expand what’s possible, allowing you to enhance flavors and achieve precise textures,” says Adam Wilson, senior culinary manager at Vitamix.
Keep reading to learn the key differences between these two similar appliances—and when to use which.
Consider the state of your dish
The blender vs food processor debate can usually be settled by answering one simple question: Is your final product more of a solid or a liquid? “A food processor has sharp blades to quickly and easily chop, slice, and shred through solid, dense ingredients like cheeses, veggies, nuts, and seeds,” Wilson says. But “if a recipe calls for uniform purées or any other type of smooth liquid texture, it’s best to use a blender. Blenders are also best at crushing ice.”
Christian Boscherini, the marketing coordinator for Smeg USA (who also happens to be an avid cook), agrees that blenders are particularly great for making winter-ready soups, but a food processor will do the heavy lifting when creating your mise en place. “Food processors are really useful for preparing ingredients for larger recipes, and can be a major time-saver when it comes to making a complex dish in less time,” he says.
The takeaway here is that if you’re whipping up a dish with a variety of textures, a food processor may be what you’re looking for. But if you’re more of a smoothie-and-go kind of person, you’d probably be fine with just a blender.
When in doubt, choose one that can do double duty
Want to free up some counter space? Invest in an appliance that can both chop and blend. “A Vitamix blender can also serve as a food processor,” says Wilson. “You can whip up smoothies and fresh juices, hot soups, hummus and pesto, create batters and doughs, prepare dressings and sauces, and even make your own nut milks and nut butters…all with one machine.”
While Wilson is understandably biased towards the Vitamix brand (and recommends the Vitamix E310 Explorian blender), Ninja, Oster, and others also offer options with the two-in-one functionality. Just keep in mind: With each additional setting, the cost of your gadget will likely increase. So if you love a post-workout smoothie but rarely make a recipe with more than three steps, a simple blender should do the trick.
Speaking of, here are the 5 best blenders for every budget. And before you put your new purchase to work, make sure you’re washing your fruits and veggies the right way.
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