Every day, we are confronted with choices. Some choices, like what tomato variety or cheese block to buy, are relatively easy to make and not that costly if you get them wrong. Others, like what kitchen equipment to buy—and from which brand—can end up being costlier in all meanings of the word.
This is as true for small as it is for major kitchen appliances. One of those dilemmas most home cooks face is, “Should I buy a stand mixer or a food processor?”
In this post, I’m going to give you my honest take on the topic.
Can a stand mixer replace a food processor?
A stand mixer kneads doughs and whips up ingredients for you. A food processor can do the blending, cutting, chopping, slicing, and dicing instead of you. Though some models have attachments that allow you to substitute one for the other, the two are not generally interchangeable.
For example, food processors can blend soup, mince meat, or cut vegetables in short amounts of time thanks to the fast speed of their blades. Which might not be what you’re necessarily looking for when mixing and kneading dough.
Some food processor owners report burning their motors with dough that’s simply too tough. Whereas stand mixers are designed to use and distribute power so that (unless the device in question is defunct) this never happens.
Both the stand mixer and the food processor can be highly useful appliances for your home kitchen. But each of them tends to serve a different purpose.
And, unless you’re thinking of buying a very expensive kitchen robot (which I wouldn’t recommend), it’s better to keep it that way.
What Is a Stand Mixer Used For?
A stand mixer is a kitchen appliance that can save you time and manual effort when baking and cooking. It can come really handy when making doughs, creams, and sauces.
Stand mixers typically consist of a fixed stand with a lever-operated arm (also called a tilting head), a removable bowl, and one or multiple mixing heads.
The mixing heads get attached to a gear mechanism that mixes ingredients for you. Most stand mixers have several mixing speeds, which allows you to control the final texture of your food.
To use a stand mixer, simply add your ingredients to the bowl, attach the bowl to the stand and the correct mixing head to the lever-operated arm, and set it to the speed you want.
You’ll notice that some stand mixers are called planetary mixers. This type of stand mixers moves the bowl and mixing head synchronously in a planetary-like motion, which mixes your ingredients more thoroughly. They’re also on the pricier end compared to their alternatives.
If you do a lot of baking at home (bread, pizza, pasta) or make desserts (pastry and creams) often, a stand mixer is the right kitchen appliance for your needs.
A brand new stand mixer made in the U.S. or Europe can cost you anywhere from $499 to $999. Some manufacturers, like KitchenAid, also sell refurbished stand mixers for a discounted price (usually, between ½ and ⅔ the price of a new mixer).
What to Look For in a Stand Mixer
- Buy a stand mixer with at least 250W power. Mixing can be a power-consuming process.
- Multiple mixing speeds are a must if you need the mixer for diverse recipes.
- The most versatile mixing heads are a dough hook, a flat beater, and a wire whip.
- Stainless steel bowls last longer than bowls made of plastic or ceramic.
- The bowl should have sufficient capacity for your day-to-day cooking.
- Extensible stand mixers give you extra flexibility with attachments.
- The stand mixer shouldn’t be too big for your home kitchen.
For you: The Best Stand Mixers for Beginners
What Food Processors Are Good For
A food processor is a kitchen appliance that blends, chops, slices, and dices instead of you. With it, you can mince meat, chop herbs, dice onions, make cream soups, and whip up purees.
Think of a food processor as a blender and knife, combined in one powerful and multi-use kitchen tool. Unlike a blender, it needs little-to-no liquid to work. Unlike a chef’s knife, it does all of the cutting for you—and it does it really fast.
If you prep food daily (or multiple times a day) and cook for a large family, a food processor is most probably the right appliance for you.
On average, a new food processor made in the U.S. or Europe will cost anywhere between $99 in the lower and $300 in the higher end.
Though you can find cheaper food processors from lesser-known Chinese brands or buy a used one on eBay, I wouldn’t really recommend it.
They can turn out less functional than you expected or break much faster than a new food processor from a known manufacturer—and end up costing you more in the long run.
What to Look For in a Food Processor
- The best food processors have a motor with at least 600W of power.
- Multiple blades make your food processor multi-functional and versatile.
- The bowl should have enough capacity for your day-to-day cooking needs.
- The parts that come in direct contact with the food should be dishwasher-safe.
- An extended warranty is always a good thing, especially for the tools you use often.
- Most processors have only two or three speeds. More options than that will turn out to be very useful.
Stand Mixer vs. Food Processor
So how does a stand mixer compare to a food processor? And which one should you pick?
After some online research and number crunching on my end, here’s a table to help you decide:
|Stand Mixer||Food Processor|
|Best For||Mixing and kneading||Blending, grinding, chopping, dicing, slicing|
|Extensible For||Blending, chopping, dicing, slicing, grinding||Mixing and kneading|
|Replaces||Kneading dough by hand and using a hand mixer||Cutting food with a knife and using an immersion blender|
|Dimensions||15″ x 10″ x 12.5″||20″ x 12.5″ x 10″|
|Weight||15 lb||10 lb|
|Capacity||4.5 – 5.5 qt||1.5 – 2.5 qt|
Some stand mixer makers like KitchenAid offer attachments that can turn your stand mixer into a meat grinder or blender. However, a food processor is simply the better tool for uses such as these because it was designed for them in the first place.
Similarly, you can use a food processor to make dough quickly, but nothing will give you the cooking convenience and fine-grained control when mixing the dough as a stand mixer. Especially if the mixing speed and time are essential to the recipe (and, most of the time, they are).
Every now and then, an appliance maker will try to sell you an all-in-one device that they claim can do everything in your kitchen. Don’t get fooled by their marketing messaging. Most of these devices, apart from a few that are ridiculously expensive, do a pretty bad job at the tasks you need them to excel in.
You know I like to be practical and honest. After all, this is a blog for home cooks, by a home cook. So what’s my best advice?
Do your due diligence, just like you’re doing right now. Pick the appliance you need the most and buy it from a brand you (and other consumers like you) can trust. Then use it.
If and when you need the other, you’ll have plenty of experience and information to decide how to approach buying it as well.
Hit me up in the comments and let me—and the rest of this post’s readers—which device you ended up choosing.
Also, I encourage you to share any tips or considerations I missed out on.
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