Man vs machine: do food processors really save you time in the kitchen?

By
Imogen Denny and Eve O'Sullivan
Added
02 March, 2016

When it comes to chopping, mashing, slicing and blending, does a food processor really save time, or does the faff outweigh the benefits? Cooked editor Eve O’Sullivan and writer Imogen Denny decided to go head to head to find out.

The recipes: A mix of sweet and savoury, and a mix of techniques; treacle scones for incorporating butter into flour, a caramelised onion, cream and stilton quiche to make light work of a pile of onions, and simple Thai fish cakes to see how chopping by hand measures up to blitzing.




Treacle scones


Eve’s cook’s notes

Equipment used: Chopping board, wooden spoon, knife, mixing bowl, baking tray.

Prep time: Around 10 minutes. As to be expected, the majority of that was spent rubbing the butter into the flour once the ingredients were measured out. No bad thing, as getting to know exactly what ‘fine breadcrumbs’ looks like is helpful… but I would say that with only elbow grease to help me.

Clean up time: About 7 minutes washing up, 5 minutes getting the butter and flour out of my nails.

The result: 25 minutes from start to finish. A food processor will shave off 5 minutes or so I imagine, but where’s the satisfaction in that?




Imogen's cook's notes

Equipment used: Stand mixer, dough blade, baking tray, wire rack, scales, spatula, measuring jug.
Prep time: If I hadn’t had to chop the ginger or weigh the ingredients these could have been named six-second scones. Without the Magimix on my side, I could have been there for a while. Instead I could focus on cleaning up while I prayed the dough would rise in my draughty flat…
Clean up time: No more than 6 minutes, mainly chasing down the inevitable drips of treacle.
The result: About 10 minutes work, although 22 minutes if you include time spent watching them in the oven... They were delicious, best eaten very soon after they come out of the oven, with plenty of butter. 




Caramelised onion, cream and stilton quiche


Eve’s cook’s notes

Equipment used: Chopping board, knife, mixing bowl, saucepan, tart tin, baking beans.

Prep time: A while. To be fair, it’s a process-heavy recipe, but slicing the onions took at least 10 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of cooking, and making the pastry took a good 10 minutes too.

Clean up time: Luckily, that 30-minute wait for the onions to caramelise gives you a good window to tidy as you go along, so I’d say around 20 minutes in total. Washing a chopping board and a knife takes considerably less time than blender attachments. I hope.  

The result: In total, 2 hours 10 minutes. There is no quick way to slice that amount of alliums.




Imogens cooks notes
Equipment used: Stand mixer, dough blade, scales, rolling pin, tart case, 2mm slicing blade, mid-sized food processor bowl, measuring jug, knife, bowl.
Prep time: Making the shortcrust pastry in the food processor wasn’t quite as successful as I’d hoped. Some of the flour at the edges didn’t get worked in so I had to do that by hand, but it gave me a head start, I hope! The real winner here was the slicing of the red onions, once they were peeled I whizzed them through the machine and straight into the saucepan in about a minute, totally worth a bit of extra washing up for this shortcut.
Clean up time: While the pastry was baking and the onions were caramelising I had plenty of time to clean up. Lucky, because this recipe made the most mess. I was at the sink for about 25 minutes all in, I used lots of bits and pieces and the remnants of pastry dough can get pretty sticky.
The result: Once everything was chilled and baked and cooled and assembled I think this took a total of 1 hour 40 minutes. But now I have plenty to use for packed lunches all week!




Thai fish cakes


Eve’s cook’s notes

Equipment list: chopping board, knife, mixing bowl, frying pan, spatula.

Prep time: I was grateful for the serving size. After finely chopping my veg and coriander, I realised that I would need to repeat this twice more to make the ingredients anywhere near paste-like. Next came the fish; my first attempt involved a fork, and why I thought that would work is a mystery. Once I’d abandoned that, I chopped the raw fish as finely as possible, but it’s a dull task, and life felt to short to continue after a while. The dipping sauce, however, was a doddle.

Clear up time: Not long, around 10 minutes, but I deserved some kind of pay-off for the after my fish mashing.

The result: I'd say it took 40 minutes. It’s only right to confess that as a result of my lack-lustre chopping, the fish cakes fell apart, the lumps too big to stick together properly. I added another egg to see if that helped, but it was more mini-fish omelette than cake. Visually disappointing, but a big hit when it came to flavour - I’m taking the credit for inventing fish hash.


Imogens cooks notes
Equipment used: mid-sized food processor bowl, rough grater blade, knife, chopping board, saucepan, measuring jug, main food processor bowl, standard blade, knife, chopping board, frying pan, spatula.
Prep time: Very speedy, 5 minutes, whizzing the fish into a paste took seconds. The Magimix made light work of these ingredients and left me with a beautifully smooth mixture.
Clean up time: About 15 minutes, there were lots of moving parts for this recipe. When it comes to the sauce I’d rather have spent more time chopping and less time washing, plus I’d already got the knife out to deseed the chilli and chop my cucumber in half, so I don’t think it was worth making the dipping sauce in the blender.
The result: In total, 30 minutes. The frying was a bit of a faff, is there a Magimix attachment that can help with that? 

WIN a Magimix Compact 3200XL food processor

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