My 11 cup Classic Cuisinart is still going strong after 7-8 years. I bought it at Costco & it came with extra blades, a blade holder and an extra bowl. Still available at Costco for about $160, I believe.
The following is what Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen has to say on the subject. Good luck.
The All-Purpose Food Processor—Updated
from the Episode: Summer Fruit Desserts
Some models cost almost $300, while others are sold for relatively small change. Do the big bucks guarantee a better machine? And what about all those attachments?
For related information, see our review of Mini Food Processors.
Updated: September, 2005
The winning food processor from our November/December 2004 test, the KitchenAid Professional 670 (model KFP670, $279.99), has been discontinued. In its place are two larger models--and they cost less. We brought them into the kitchen for a test run. Both the 12-Cup Ultra Wide Mouth Food Processor (model KTA KFP760, $229.95) and the 12-Cup Food Processor (model KTA KFP750, $199.95) performed as well as our discontinued winner--and better than our original runners-up--in core tasks such as chopping, pureeing, and making pie and bread dough. The difference came down to the size of the feed tube. Ironically, the larger tube (that is, the Ultra Wide Mouth) was more limiting in terms of what we could process, thanks to the safety interlock system, a plastic "pusher" that guides the food down the tube and activates the power switch. For example, a large russet potato will fit into the large tube but must be laid on its side for the pusher to engage the slicer. Not a deal breaker, but the regular-size feed tube on the regular 12-Cup Food Processor (which is 2 inches by 3 inches) doesn't have that nagging safety feature; what's more, it costs less.
It has been seven years since we last put food processors through their paces. Although the basic concept hasn’t changed much (plastic bowl with whirring blade), almost all of the models we tested back in 1997 have. Our new lineup included five mid-to-high priced models ($140 up to $280), plus three models at $70 or less. The high-priced models come with various attachments that are supposed to turn the machine into everything from a juicer to a blender. Do the attachments justify the extra cost? Could the back-to-basics models handle most kitchen tasks with ease? Should any food processor cost almost $300? We went into the test kitchen to find out.
Cheaper Models Get a Workout
What should a food processor—at minimum—be able to do? For starters, it ought to chop, grate, and slice vegetables; grind dry ingredients; and cut fat into flour for pie pastry. If it can’t whiz through these tasks, it’s wasting counterspace. The cheaper models failed most of these basic tests.
Using the Black & Decker Power Pro 11 ($48), our testers had to forcefully ram carrots through a grater attachment so dull that the back of the slicer blade, on the reverse side of the disk, was as likely to catch the carrot as the grater. At least one-third of our carrots were torn into mangled slices by the dull back of the blade. Test cooks agreed: We couldn’t use this machine for carrot cake or grated carrot salad.
Another bargain-basement food processor, the two-speed Hamilton Beach PrepStar ($35), runs quieter and is better designed than its predecessor, the 70650. It performed well on the grating test, producing clean shreds of carrot and cheddar that were almost indistinguishable from those produced by machines costing three to four times as much. Slices of potato, however, came out like wedges—paper-thin on one side, up to 1?8 inch thick on the other. The coarse action of the Hamilton Beach slicing blade tore pulp and seeds out of tomatoes, leaving just a thin ring of mangled flesh and skin.
The Oster Inspire ($70) was a tad better than the two other inexpensive models tested, but it still flubbed some basic food processor chores. For instance, this machine was unable to chop onions, carrots, or celery without brutalizing them.
Considering that these cheaper food processors had a hard time with basic tasks, we had little hope that they could manage more challenging jobs, such as kneading bread dough or pureeing soup. Sure enough, the cheaper models lived down to their reputation when it came to making pizza dough. We turned off the Hamilton Beach processor after 51 seconds, when flour and water were barely incorporated, as other cooks in the test kitchen looked up with alarm at the smell of acrid smoke and the horrendous sound of the straining motor. The Oster and the Black & Decker got the job done, but their motors, too, began to grind down as the dough came together, smelling of smoking grease and what we could only guess was melting plastic. After 90 to 100 seconds in these processors, the doughs that emerged were adequate, but we wondered how many crusty pizzas we could enjoy before we’d have to buy a new machine. As for pureeing soup, all three bargain machines leaked soup from the bottom of the bowl. (The puree itself turned out OK.)
In the end, then, we cannot recommend any of the three cheaper food processors we tested. It was time to open our wallet and check out the more expensive machines.
Spending More Money
The two stars of the food processor world have always been the KitchenAid (we tested the Professional 670, $280) and the Cuisinart (we tested the relatively new Prep 11 Plus, $200, as well as the original Pro Custom 11, $160). We also checked out the Bosch 5000 ($139) and the Bosch 5200 ($200).
The two Bosch machines made an interesting pair in the testing, as the less expensive machine sometimes stood up to its brawnier cousin. When it came to chopping vegetables, the cheaper Bosch 5000 did a better job. Both models have the same bowl size and blade design, but the 4-speed motor in the 5200 didn’t seem to cut the vegetables at all; it just kind of flogged them around the bowl. The 5000’s simpler 2-speed motor was more effective. However, when it came to pureeing soups, both models were standouts. The rounded bowl and cone-shaped blade attachment enabled both models to puree 5 cups of mock soup perfectly, without leaking a drop. Cup measurements on the side of the workbowl perplexed us, however. According to these markings, a 5-cup measure of liquid would be equivalent to 2 pints. In terms of other tasks, neither Bosch machine was great at making pizza dough or pie pastry.
One selling point of the 5200 is the attachments it comes with, several of which received high marks (see
"Attachment Disorder PDF"). We concluded that the 5200’s failure with vegetables could not be overlooked, despite its top-notch pureeing performance and its array of useful accessories. As one tester put it, "If the machine can’t slice potatoes, who cares if the juicer works?" The 5000 received a higher score because it is cheaper and because it’s able to handle vegetables—a core activity—handily.
The Big Guns
It was now time to move on to the big guns: KitchenAid and Cuisinart. After even a cursory examination, it was clear that more money does buy a better, more heavy-duty processor. The KitchenAid and Cuisinart blades are among the sturdiest and appear to be the sharpest. Their motors had more weight, ran quieter, and did not slow down under a heavy load of bread dough.
Speaking of dough, the dough-mixing features included with the newer Cuisinart Prep 11—a special blade and a separate speed for dough—proved well conceived. At the dough-mixing speed, the motor purred; it was quiet enough to allow for normal conversation. The original Cuisinart model, the Pro Custom 11, produced a result of equal quality but took a little longer to get there. (As with the KitchenAid and Bosch processors, this task put an audible strain on the motor.)
The Pro Custom 11, however, did the best job with pie pastry, as the blade stops spinning almost immediately once the pulse button is released. Other blades took a second or two to spin down. Because it usually takes about 10 pulses to cut fat into flour, a 2-second spin-down after each pulse can make a significant difference in the finished texture of the dough. Other machines, especially the Cuisinart Prep 11 and KitchenAid, did a good job with pastry, but the Pro Custom 11 yielded perfect pie dough.
When it came to pureeing soups, neither the KitchenAid nor the two Cuisinart models could compare with the Bosch food processors, which handled twice as much liquid and did not leak. The KitchenAid leaked slightly under the blade and has a small bowl capacity. The two Cuisinarts didn’t leak, but they produced imperfect purees and their bowl capacities are even smaller.
What, then, should you buy? If you are partial to Cuisinart, it turns out that the classic (and somewhat cheaper) model, the Pro Custom 11, is a better value, clearly outperforming the newer Prep 11 Plus in the vegetable tests and slightly outperforming its successor in the pie pastry test. Bread bakers, however, might want to go with the newer, more expensive model, which mixes bread dough superbly. And what about the KitchenAid, priced an eye-popping $280, a full 40 percent more than the top-of-the-line Cuisinart? First off, it is the hands-down winner with vegetable preparation; the Cuisinarts really don’t measure up in this regard. But the KitchenAid was only second-best compared with the two Cuisinarts when making dough.
And what, then, have we learned since our last rating of food processors? Seven years and about a thousand dollars later, we have concluded that KitchenAid and Cuisinart are still the machines to beat. If vegetable prep is important to you, buy the KitchenAid. If you don’t care too much about vegetable prep, the Cuisinarts perform all other tasks as well as (or better than) their pricier competition.