Welcome to ‘Kagoo Explains’ - a series of short articles de-mystifying some of the confusing terminology used to describe tech. Today we’re looking at a particularly confusing issue - the difference between mixers, blenders and food processors.
Differentiating between these appliances is something that has confused a lot of people - myself included. They look very similar, serve similar roles, and have overlapping accessories and functions. It doesn’t help that the names are often used interchangeably - you can blend ingredients in a food processor, or process them in a blender. It’s all rather confusing…
Well worry no more: we at Kagoo have spent long hours wearing lab coats and standing around holding test tubes for no apparent reason, and can finally reveal the difference between these 3 different types of appliances, and what they can/can’t do.
A blender consists of a set of sharp blades that rotate at very high speeds, reducing ingredients to a liquid. They normally take the form of a tall lidded jug with the blades at the bottom - you put your ingredients in, close the lid and the blades reduce and mix the ingredients into a smooth liquid. You also get immersion blenders, which function the same, but the blades are attached to a handle, and the blender is placed directly into the food.
Blenders are best at creating soups, smoothies and other liquid foods - a popular example is the ‘Nutribullet’ smoothie maker, the favourite of gym-enthusiasts the world over. Unlike mixers and food processors - which aim to automate tasks normally done by hand - blenders far outperform anything that a human could do. This makes them very valuable in the kitchen!
However they are the most limited of the 3: the sharp blades and high speed mean they can only really blend soft, wet ingredients. Harder ingredients (such as bones or frozen food) may damage the blades, while overly-starchy or thick ingredients will clog up the mechanism. Blenders also aren’t capable of more subtle operations like kneading or mixing - like a biker refusing to face middle-age, they only know how to go fast.
When buying a blender, pay attention to how much the jug can hold, and consider whether you’ll use it for smaller jobs (like individual smoothies) or bigger tasks (like batches of soup). Blenders tend to be fairly cheap, so you may be able to pick up a good blender alongside a mixer or food processor, to cover all the bases.
Excellent at reducing ingredients
Great for soft and liquid foods
Some harder ingredients can damage blades
Perfect for making soups, smoothies and cocktails
Mixers - as the name suggests - are primarily used for mixing ingredients. A standard mixer consists of a rotating mechanism held in place above a bowl. When an attachment (such as a beater) is slotted into this mechanism it will rotate, allowing it to quickly and effectively complete a number of tedious kitchen tasks. These include mixing together ingredients, whisking cream, beating eggs - basically anything that involves a repetitive motion with an implement. This means they are exceptionally helpful for bakers, though a good mixer will help with pretty much any recipe in some form.
Mixers are far more versatile than blenders or food processors, mostly because they are capable of holding many different attachments. Many mixers will come with a selection of specialised attachments - wire whisks, dough hooks and flat-edge beaters all help in different cooking tasks.
However that isn’t the limit of their usefulness - top-level mixers have several external slots on the top or side of the machine. These expansion slots can hold any number of gadgets: manufacturers have made meat mincers, pasta rollers, and even whole blenders or food processors that bolt onto the side of the mixer! Therefore a good quality mixer is good for far more than just mixing - with the right attachments it can replace large amounts of the appliances in your kitchen!
As you would expect though, such flexibility and power comes at a cost. A high-quality stand mixer will set you back several hundred pounds, and the attachments themselves are frequently quite costly. Stand mixers are also quite hefty objects - they are heavy, and take up a large space on the worksurface. However even if you are only aiming to use the mixer for baking, it is still a real timesaver, and an absolute necessity for the busy cook!
Excellent for baking tasks
Lots of different attachments
Useful in many different situations
Attachments sold separately and can be costly
Heavy & bulky
Designed for bakers, but the breadth of attachments make it a helpful all-rounder
Food Processors can take a lot of different forms, but at their core they all have the same aim - multi-purpose devices designed to help simplify repetitive kitchen tasks. In principle they are similar to blenders - a covered bowl, with an electric motor powering a set of spinning blades to process ingredients. However while blenders were only capable of reducing wet food to a puree, food processors are capable of far more. Food processors are designed to help with a large number of tasks, including:
To achieve this, food processors come equipped with a number of different attachments and blades. The range is less far-ranging than with mixers, but no less helpful - some are placed inside the bowl (grinding and chopping), and some are placed below the lid (shredding and slicing). Food is added to the processor via holes in the lid - so you could fit the slicing disc, then push a cucumber through to slice it into even pieces, or use the grinder attachment to grate carrots or potatoes.
Food processors are available in a wide range of sizes, so it’s important to think about how much capacity you’ll need when choosing. Smaller food processors like Magimix's ‘Le Micro’ are perfect for cutting onions or creating sauces (especially pesto), but will struggle trying to process enough ingredients for a family-sized meal. Alternatively enormous 4 litre food processors like KitchenAid's Artisan allow you to blitz a massive amount of ingredients, but creating a 1-person serving of sauce will be difficult because of the sheer size of the bowl.
Food processors also focus on a different area of cooking than mixers - while there is some overlap (some food processors come equipped with a dough hook for kneading), food processors concentrate on the preparation of ingredients, while mixers handle bringing these prepared ingredients together into a whole. They are extremely helpful additions to any kitchen - saving you large amounts of time that would otherwise be spent chopping onions or grating carrots.
Excellent for chopping and preparing ingredients
Lots of different attachments
Variety between models requires careful research
Not as flexible as a fully-specced mixer
Helpful in all manner of food prep tasks, a good food processor will save you countless hours of boring chopping and grating!
Hopefully that's helped shed some light on the differences between blenders, mixers and food processors. To summarise:
Blenders: Used to reduce soft ingredients for soups/smoothies
Mixers: Used to mix together doughs & batters, while attachments offer far more functionality
Food Processors: Used to chop, grate and other standard kitchen tasks