Foodservice Equipment Reports

SHORT REPORT: One-Stop Chop Shopping

When it comes to efficient, high-volume food prep, you rely on food processors to slice, dice, chop, puree and shred. Choosing the right unit for the job depends on what foods you’ll be processing, what quantities and who’s going to be operating it. And then there’s your budget. We grilled three manufacturers on countertop food processors to help you make a more educated choice. 

Right-Sizing Your Chopper

The first question you’ll need to answer is what volume of product do you process over how many hours. “Be realistic,” our manufacturers advise. “Spec the machine you need, not the cheapest one available.”

Food processor sizes can be measured in two ways: by power, and by capacity. On the power front, you’re looking at horsepower. Most commercial countertop units have 1-hp (or stronger) motors capable of spinning blades anywhere from 360 rpm to 3,600 rpm.

The capacity figure refers to pounds of product that can be processed per hour. “Each manufacturer rates its machines in pounds-per-hour based on function—usually slicing,” adds our expert. When you compare similar units from two different makers, this is the number to examine.

Just be sure you’re making an apples-to-apples comparison. “Food processors have capacities ranging from 20 lbs.-per-hour up to 1,400 lbs.-per-hour—it all depends on the type of food and the size and configuration of the unit,” one of our manufacturers says.

If you’re wavering between a smaller or a larger unit, err of the side of caution and spec larger. “The fastest way to ruin your food processor is to buy an undersized unit and work it to death,” our manufacturers tell us.

While you’re looking at numbers, consider unit weight, too. The unit should be heavy enough to stay in place during use yet light enough to be picked up and moved for cleaning. In general, units that tip the scales at 20 lbs. to 25 lbs. are a good bet. Some machines feature built-in handles on the base for easier, safer lifting.

Blade Runners

Food processors do their slice-chop-dicing with a variety of interchangeable blades. The three most popular blades tend to be the slicer, dicer and shredder. But you can also invest in specialized blades for mixing dough; whipping eggs and cream; and making julienne, crimped and gaufrette cuts. There are even bowl attachments for juicing citrus and non-citrus fruits.

Some manufacturers offer blades that can be removed for sharpening or replacement, which saves money since you don’t have to buy a whole new cutting plate. Here you’ll have a choice of serrated or straight-edge blades. Serrated edges have the most efficient cutting power—something to consider if you’re doing a lot of pureeing or grinding—but will cost you more to have sharpened. Flat edges do an all-around good job—ideal if you’ll be processing a wide variety of food types.

Other manufacturers build extra flexibility into their discs. One disc lets you adjust slice thickness by turning a knob on the bottom. A second is a reversible shredding disc that gives you two shred sizes in one disc.

Bowled Over

Another decision concerns the style of the unit--continuous feed vs. bowl mixers vs. combination units. Continuous feeds are used mainly for vegetable and fruit processing, and they feature a hopper on top and a chute that feeds into a separate bowl. These units tend to have the highest throughput: once the bowl fills up, simply swap in a new bowl and keep on chopping.

Bowl mixers are used mainly for mixing, chopping, mincing and pureeing. They feature an integrated bowl that locks into place. The bowl can be made of polycarbonate or stainless steel—of the two options, stainless will last much longer on its runs through the warewasher. If you plan to process large volumes of liquid ingredients, some manufacturers offer fully sealed bowls.

Combination units give you the best of both worlds with latch-on attachments for the continuous-feed top or for the bowl top. The benefit is that you get two machines in one. A drawback might be that you may not be able to perform some of the specialty cuts. That said, “Some 65% of our sales are the combi machines thanks to their versatility,” says one manufacturer. “They’re probably the best value for your money, especially since space is at such a premium in most kitchens.”

Longevity, Safety And Maintenance

Since you’ll be investing anywhere from $500 to $3,500 in your food processor, it pays to get one that will last. “A powerful motor in a well-sealed, sturdy base to prevent moisture incursion” will be durable, heat- and chemical-resistant and easy to clean, our experts say.

Safety features are essential in machines that feature high-speed, razor-sharp blades. Most units should have a series of built-in interlocks between bowl or feeder assembly and the base. If it’s not locked-in properly, the unit won’t turn on.

And last but not least, look for machines that are backed by labor, parts and travel warranties. Bonus points if the manufacturer has a widespread service network and a well-trained rep force.

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