The Insider: Call in the choppers for grate cooking results

Food processors

More of us have been discovering the delights of home cooking and baking recently, as eating at home replaces dining out in the battle to cut costs. Mini-choppers have also benefited from the so-called "Delia effect", with sales of a Kenwood model soaring after it was endorsed on Delia Smith's latest series, How to Cheat at Cooking.

The Kenwood in question performed well in Which? tests, but depending on your needs you might find that a food processor or kitchen machine is more suitable.

"Think about what food you typically prepare, how much space you've got, and what budget you have available," says Martyn Hocking, editor of Which? "You can pick up a basic mini-chopper for under £20, but a top-of-the-range kitchen machine with lots of accessories can set you back up to around £500, so do your research to find the machine that best suits your needs."

If you want to chop, slice, grate, shred or purée large batches of food, then you should plump for a food processor. Some come with a wide range of accessories and blades, which can be used to mix cakes, whisk cream or eggs, make mayonnaise, knead bread, and make milkshakes or smoothies.

For smaller quantities of chopping or puréeing, a mini-chopper is a cheaper and more compact alternative, and can do the job in seconds. However, it can't slice or grate, and it's not usually recommended to process liquids.

If you've got more money to spend, and make large batches of cakes, batters, dough or pastry, then a kitchen machine may be the better option. It can't slice or grate, unless it comes with a specific attachment, but it really excels at whisking and whipping and takes the hard work out of making cakes. Some come with a liquidiser which can be used to make mayonnaise, milkshakes and smoothies.

In Which?'s latest test, the highest scoring kitchen machine was the Krups KA950, which costs £320. Which? gave it a test score of 74 per cent and was really impressed by the way it performed all its main tasks – egg whites were whisked so stiffly you could cut them with a knife, and it was excellent at cake mixing, too. It wasn't quite so good at making purée, though.

For those on a budget and simply looking for a machine that will help with chopping, the Magimax Le Micro 12245 mini-chopper, £49, was also a Which? Best Buy, with a test score of 79 per cent. Testers thought it was excellent at chopping and made good mayonnaise with the emulsifying blade attachment.

Where to buy

High street retailers such as Argos, Comet and Currys stock a wide range of food processors, kitchen machines and mini-choppers, as do department stores such as John Lewis and Debenhams and online retailers such as Amazon. You can check stockists and compare the latest prices using Which?'s price comparison service www.whichcompare.co.uk.

Five questions to ask...

What's the blade like? The size and sharpness of the blade, and the distance between the blade and the bowl, will make a difference to how well the machine chops or slices food during the preparation process. Small blades, or those that don't reach as far to the sides of the bowl, won't be as effective.

What speed settings does it have? Some have just one speed, while others have as many as a dozen. Pulse settings allow you to process in short bursts for more control, and soft start features will start the machine slowly so you don't end up in a cloud of flour.

What capacity is the bowl? A large-capacity bowl means you'll be able to make bigger batches, but a mini-chopper, which is a smaller version of a food processor, is useful when you only want to process a small amount of food, such as herbs or nuts.

Is it dishwasher-safe? Some manufacturers advise against washing parts in temperatures above 40°C, and some advise avoiding the drying cycle altogether.

What attachments does it come with? It's possible to get a variety of blades, whisks, beaters, juicers, spatulas, dough hooks, grinders or mills, mincers, liquidisers or jug blenders or additional mini-bowls.

The Insider is written by 'Which?', the independent consumer champion. For more information go to www.which.co.uk/foodprocessors. To get three issues of 'Which?' magazine for a special price of £3, call 01992 822800 and quote INADVICE.

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