But one kitchen appliance that passes all of these tests: the mini food processor.
Also called mini choppers, these kitchen gadgets have a capacity between 1 and 5 cups (though you’ll probably want a bowl that can hold at least 3 cups for versatility’s sake). The best models let you control the speed and/or direction of the blade (the latter dictates whether the sharp or blunt edge is used to chop or grind the ingredients, respectively), and some are even cordless, so you aren’t tethered to an outlet. (Of course, you then have to worry about whether it’s charged before using.)
Like its big sibling, a mini food processor can chop and puree all sorts of ingredients to make recipe prep easier without having to worry about your knife skills, but its size makes it particularly great for kitchens tight on storage or cooks who typically only feed a few people. In some instances, such as when I’m making a chimichurri or pico de gallo, I always reach for my mini food processor first. While you could certainly do the same in a larger version, it feels inefficient to pull out a full-size machine for a recipe that yields a meager 1 or 2 cups. (One note of caution is that some product testers say you run the risk of burning out the motor of mini choppers when making nut butters — though I’ve done so a few times without issue.)
Dimensions aside, another major difference is the simplicity in construction because of the lack of a feed tube. This chute on larger models is used to add ingredients while the appliance is running, typically to be shredded or sliced with separate accessories that these mini versions lack. Maybe it’s an ignorance is bliss situation from never having had a full-size food processor until recently, but the mini version’s inability to shred or slice never caused me any distress. In fact, it brought joy as minimal parts means fewer things to wash, which is something I always strive for. And while adding ingredients as the motor is running is imperative for certain recipes, some models — such as those from Cuisinart and KitchenAid — have a hole in the lid that allows you to stream in liquids so you can still emulsify all of the mayonnaise and salad dressing your heart desires.
A few more things this gadget can do, on a smaller scale: chop nuts; make pesto; whip up a quick guacamole or salsa; and mix a single-serving smoothie.
How to choose between food processors and blenders for your cooking projects
I was fortunate to receive a mini food processor as a gift many years ago, but they’re affordable enough for many to purchase without needing to dip into their savings account. For example, the latest model from Cuisinart, similar to the one in the photo above, costs $40.
Do you absolutely need a mini food processor (or any food processor at all for that matter)? No, but it’s well worth the investment. And even for those with the means and pantry real estate to have a larger-capacity appliance, the mini version will still make a handy addition to your culinary arsenal.