How Food Processors Work

Technology has led to the development of many inventions that aid human labor. One of the most well-loved of these inventions in the kitchen is the food processor.


A Brief Background on the Food Processor

A food processor is a device designed to perform kitchen tasks swiftly and easily. This appliance is available both in manual and electric models, although the most commonly used ones are equipped with electric motors. It comes with various interchangeable attachments which allows it to carry out a versatile array of kitchen functions. The most basic ones can chop, slice, shred, puree, and mix various foods. Other models can also knead dough, juice fruits and vegetables, beat eggs, etc.


Electric food processors gradually developed along with the industrial revolution, which made technology available to the masses. Some date the first food processor to as early as 1919 but most written histories recognize at least two innovations as significant in the development of food processors as we know them today.


They say necessity is the mother of invention. In the 1960s, a catering company salesman, Pierre Verdun, noticed the repetitive chopping, mixing, and shredding that his clients go through. This led him to propose a solution — a bowl with a revolving blade in the base, which would reduce the time spent on these repetitive tasks. This was the beginning of the Robot-Coupe, a company which started manufacturing food processors for professional kitchens. In 1971, a smaller unit called the Magimix was developed for the home kitchen.

A man, by the name of Carl G. Sontheimer, an engineer from Connecticut, was captivated by Verdun’s model when he saw it at a food show and decided it develop it further. He bought the distribution rights for America and brought the technology closer to the home cook. After more than a year of modifications and development, he launched the unit in 1973 at the National Housewares Exposition in Chicago, calling it Cuisinart.


Basic Components of a Food Processor


The basic components of food processors are a motor, a bowl with a lid and feed tube, and a set of attachments. No matter the size and the model, they function the same.

Food processors are equipped with a motor encased at the bottom of the device. Some models have more powerful motors, which allow more heavy-duty processing. The motor is the heaviest part of the device which gives it dual purpose. First of all, it powers a shaft to which the attachments are connected. Food processing is basically the action of the attachment turning in high speed on the food it gets in contact with. Secondly, the motor also serves to stabilize the unit because of its weight.

The bowl, which is normally made with transparent plastic, fits into the shaft. Bowls come in an array of capacities, ranging mostly from 2 to 16 cups although some go as big as 20 cups. The published capacity, however, refers to solids. For liquids, this is reduced by 1 to 2 cups. Some models may come with different bowl sizes to accommodate both your needs for cooking regular portions or in large quantities.

Most models nowadays employ a safety mechanism which allows the food processor to work only when the bowl is properly secured in place. A lid covers the bowl to avoid spillage. It has a feed tube, where food can be inserted into. Some units have wider feed tubes to lessen the need to cut up food to smaller sizes before plunging into the bowl.


The versatility of food processors come from the variation of attachments that come along with the unit. The standard attachments for food processors are an S-shaped blade and a shredding disc and slicing disc.

The S-blade, also known as the sabatier blade, with two curved blades on each side of its central post giving it its S shape. It works to chop, blend, mix, or puree. When the machine is on pulse, the blade will chop and mix; when it is on continuously, it will blend and puree. It is also sometimes known as a multi-purpose blade or a knife blade.

The shredding and slicing disc sits at the top of the bowl and acts as food enters from the feed tube. Food falls into the bowl after it has been shredded or sliced. The shredding and slicing disc may come separately, although they usually come in a reversible disc. You just have to flip the disc to ensure that the right face is utilized. Some models are also equipped with a system to adjust the thickness of the slices. Some models also allow for different shredding sizes, from coarse to very fine, depending on the attachments although most would require that you purchase them separately.

The blades and discs may come in metal or hard plastic, although many prefer the former for its sharpness and durability.

Additional attachments:

  • Some models are equipped with a dough blade. It has a straighter blade compared to the S-blade, which can knead dough for making pastry, cookie, and pizza. The power of the motor determines the kind of dough that a unit can handle. Some models, even though they might come with this blade, may not be heavy duty enough to handle certain doughs. You may want to consider this as you purchase your unit.
  • A whisking or emulsifying disc comes in handy when you need to whip heavy cream or egg whites. It incorporates air to the food, resulting to a fluffy end product. You can also use tit to make milkshakes as well.
  • A julienne disc is used to cut food into long, thin matchsticks. This attachment has short but sharp teeth protruding from the disc protruding from the disc.
  • A French fry disc, obviously cuts vegetables (such as potato) into pieces which look like the french fry. It looks similar to the julienne disc but yields bigger, fatter pieces.
  • Some models come with juicers, which separate the “juice” of fruits and vegetables from its solids/pulp. A citrus juicer is a dome-shaped attachment that fits on top of the shaft and turns to extract the juice from citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, etc. A non-citrus juicer purees fruits and vegetables and then collects the pulp in the middle and strains the juice into the bottom of the bowl.

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