Making the Most of a Food Processor

Food processors are essential restaurant equipment, so much so that any restaurant supply store worth its salt generally has multiple models in several sizes to accommodate the needs of a variety of food service operations. But while there are some obvious uses for this kitchen staple, many people don’t think beyond the essential functions (chopping, grating, shredding). But by looking a little more deeply into what your food processor can really do, you can make even more use out of it, whether in a commercial kitchen or at home.

Some cooks--professional as well as home cooks--have noticed already that food processors, especially newer-generation models, do an excellent job of turning raw ingredients into sauces; not only does the food processor chop vegetables into tiny bits, but the action of so much movement can even pulverize them, emulsifying the raw ingredients into a satisfying puree as well as any blender has ever done--without a need to pre-cook the ingredients first. Some new generation food processors even generate enough heat to cook the ingredients as they chop them, meaning that you can make cold or (in some cases) hot soups easily.

Another little-known function that food processors can accomplish is grinding; while the chopping action of the blades is not as fine as an actual mill, food processors can be used to grind peanuts down into peanut butter, or other nuts into small enough micro-chunks to use them in crusts and other applications. Your food processor can even help you save some money on flour and salt--high end models make it possible to get an artisanal flour from dried grains, and even the most basic models can, with a handful of pulses, transform coarse salts into the same fineness that pickling or popcorn require. Of course, a good food processor is going to function better--and provide more general value--than grain mills for most kitchens, since in addition to being able to process grains down to flour they can also accomplish regular chopping and shredding tasks. A well-made food processor can transform rolled oats into fine flour, and wheat into a product that rivals high-end branded products. You can even use a food processor to make existing flours finer, and it makes a good replacement for finicky sifters in pastry applications, not only aerating but combining flour with salt, baking soda or powder, and so on. Many pastry chefs already understand the usefulness of a food processor in quickly bringing together butter or shortening with flour to quickly create pastry dough while avoiding the risk of a tough final product.

You can also use a good quality food processor to grind meat, especially delicate seafood: while the fine chop that processors accomplish is not exactly the same as what a meat grinder creates, it does provide for a more texturally interesting finished product, and in the case of fish or other seafood, there is less risk of damaging the delicate meat in the process of developing it into something you can form and shape--so salmon burgers, or cod burgers, are an option you can explore much more readily.
Overall, a food processor is a vital piece of equipment for any kitchen environment, with a wide range of possible applications. When choosing a food processor, take a look at a few specific characteristics: volume of the work bowl is an important factor, as well as the quality of the blades and motor. Commercial models, designed for intense use in demanding kitchens, are a great investment--and newer versions can include heating elements in the housing as well as other features that make for a processor that can accomplish complete dishes on its own without any need for pots and pans. Some brands also come with additional work bowls of different sizes, since some applications--which, by nature, produce a small quantity of finished product--need to be brought together in a smaller space than standard.
There is a reason that one of the key inventories of any reputable restaurant supply store includes a range of different food processor brands and types. While it is certainly possible to accomplish much in a kitchen without a food processor at your disposal, there are dozens of ways that you can use your food processor beyond relegating it to quickly chopping ingredients to go into a dish.

Read more