Food preparation buying guide

Hand mixers, juicers and blenders
With so many food preparation products on the market the important question you must ask yourself before buying is: what do I want the machine to do?

If it’s a matter of whipping cream then a hand mixer will suffice, but if you regularly bake cakes and bread then a freestanding processor will be more up to the task.

If your culinary ambitions extend to lavish entertaining, then it’s worth looking at a top-end machine with lots of attachments. It may seem an expensive option, but in the long run its longevity and versatility will prove good value. View our range of food preparation appliances and watch our Fabulous food prep gadgetry video.

Making your choice

Motors

Common sense might dictate that the bigger the wattage the more powerful the machine, but this isn’t necessarily the case: sometimes it is more important to look at the type of motor the processor has.

  • Series motor
    This is a belt driven motor, which can handle variable speeds. It’s a noisier machine and hence they tend to be installed in the more basic models.
  • Induction motor
    Used in commercial machines, these produce the one, optimum speed for the job required. They automatically sense if the task requires a bit more ‘oomph’ and will compensate as such. They also tend to be quieter.
  • Drive motor
    Similar to the induction motor, its direct transmission takes the load off the motor so less wattage is needed.
  • Wattage: wattage tends to be important if you need the machine to ‘multi-task’. If you’re intending to prepare anything from baby food to crushing ice then this is important.
  • Pulse button: standard on most machines, this gives a quick burst of speed when you need a top-up. It’s particularly good for mixing fruit cakes; for example, when you don’t want the blades to mash all the fruit and nuts to pulp.

Capacity

For family meals or grand dinner parties look at a bigger bowl (some exceed 4-litre capacity). Some processors have a series of bowls depending on the task. These are great if you’ve lots of processing to do. Smaller machines may be limited to what they can do, but of course they do take up less room.

Hand mixers, juicers and blenders

Hand mixers

These are fine for whisking eggs, whipping cream or gentle mixing. Some come with attachments for preparing soups or puréeing baby food.

Choppers/Grinders

A useful gadget around the kitchen, some are merely for grinding coffee beans but others are good for finely chopping herbs or ground spices.

Juicers

Juicers vary from the simple hand-operated contraptions to ‘use the whole fruit’ machines. Some can only handle citrus fruits so watch out if carrot juice is your favourite tipple. A citrus juicer may look like an old-fashioned option, but you’ll find the two-directional operation will squeeze every last drop out very effectively.

Centrifugal juice extractors work like a washing machine and are even more ruthless. Fruit and vegetables spin in a basket, with the juice falling through, leaving all the pulp behind. It’s great for drinks like apple juice. Some even have a ‘coulis’ function, perfect for putting that finishing touch on a pudding!

Blenders

Hand and stick blenders make a useful addition to any kitchen and can do everything from whisking up milkshakes to puréeing soups and crushing ice. Price tends to be dictated by capacity, speed and power. More powerful blenders can crush ice easily but cheaper models might struggle. They also have a choice of speeds for puréeing baby food or soups for example, with some boasting a built-in sensor that automatically adjusts to the correct speed for the task required

Choppers and grinders
 
Juicers
 
Blenders and smoothie makers

Food processors and mixers

There is a wide assortment of these on the market. Prices range from around £10 for a simple processor to just under £1000 for a highly sophisticated food mixer, depending on capacity and functions. Many have incorporated juicers, grinders and blenders so you may not need to buy anything else for your needs.

  • The bowl: smaller bowls for simple dishes, small cakes or baby food; larger ones can handle Christmas cakes with ease.
  • Mixing action: depending on the manufacturer, ingredients are mixed either with very sharp stainless-steel blades whizzing round or a ‘planetary action’, with the tool rotating in an opposite direction to the motor. Either way they require minimum effort on your part compared to mixing by hand.
  • Safety features: modern machines are very safe. They won’t work unless lids and attachments are firmly in place. Be careful, however, when removing or hand washing the blades.
  • Dishwashing: most removable parts can be put in the dishwasher but you should use a lower heat setting – less than 50°C is recommended.
  • Speeds: series motors have a selection of speeds, inductions just one. There’s also usually a Pulse button, for short, sharp bursts of speed.
  • Longevity: Manufacturers declare they’re built to last so they often come with a long guarantee period.

Food processors

More compact than mixers, food processors are nevertheless immensely versatile machines. Basic models have a series motor but higher priced ones, favoured by TV chefs, are fitted with induction motors.

Models are supplied with a series of attachments for shredding and slicing (some even for chips or julienne), whisking, blending, citrus juicing, mixing dough or grinding. Usually price dictates what they are supplied with. You feed ingredients through a tube at the top. Often they’re calibrated for easy measuring. Many models are supplied with a handy storage unit for all the attachments, a spatula and a recipe book.

Food mixers

Clearly much larger than food processors, food mixers offer even more food preparation capabilities and possibilities. You’ll often see them in catering establishments, where they’re much valued.

You can still mix away but with a selection of attachments you can prepare fresh pasta, mince meat for sausages – even peel potatoes! Most machines are supplied with a whisk, dough hook and beater as standard, for mixing, mashing and whisking, but the other tools usually need to be purchased separately.

The attachments are simply locked onto the mixer. You may need to adjust the speed, depending on what you’re doing: high speed for crushing ice, or extracting juice; low for making sausages.

Food processors
 
Food mixers