The invention of the food processor in 1973 may not have resulted from dire necessity, but it sure saved restaurant chefs and home cooks alike from vast amounts of tedious prep work. These days, food processors are fixtures in most well-equipped kitchens thanks to their ability to chop and slice vegetables, mix pizza dough, and emulsify eggs and oil into mayonnaise--all with the push of a button. Still, pick the wrong processor and suddenly this great convenience leaves you worse off than when you started. Flour flies around instead of mixing in; herbs get mashed into a sticky paste; and onions turn out partially liquefied, the rest of the vegetable stranded in huge, overlooked chunks.
Those stark differences have made us picky consumers, and we've gladly paid top dollar for our favorite food processor, a large-capacity machine that can handle a wide variety of tasks with ease. It slices and chops as evenly and cleanly as an expertly wielded knife--only much faster--and boasts a compact, intuitive design. That said, store shelves are constantly being replenished with new contenders, and we wanted to see if any could beat our champ. We returned from our shopping spree with seven models, including the test kitchen winner and a top-selling 14-cup model from its biggest rival. Two models were bargain bets that didn't crack $100; the other two were high-end challengers, one of which topped out close to $350. And just to see what all the fuss was about, we threw in a shockingly expensive machine ($872.49), long the darling of restaurant chefs and food-service professionals
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