The Basic Components
Modern food processors come in three basic sizes: full, compact, and mini. No matter what size they are, however, the basic components are the same: a motor, a bowl with a lid and feed tube, and a set of attachments.

Photo courtesy
Cuisinart DLC-2011BC Prep 11 Plus Food Processor

The motor is housed in the base of the appliance, and it is the heaviest part of the device. Full-size machines generally have larger, more powerful motors, and can weigh more than 20 lbs (9 kg). This weight has a utilitarian value: The heaviness of the base gives the appliance stability and ensures that it doesn't move around while the motor is running. Though the first food processor bases were clad only in white, hard plastic, today they are available in a range of stylish colors and with metal and plastic finishes, ensuring that your appliance will fit in with your kitchen decor.

From the motor, a shaft extends upward to power the attachments. The bowl, which is usually made of durable, transparent plastic, fits onto this shaft and locks into position. The lid, usually made of the same material, locks onto the top of the bowl; in many older models, engaging the locking mechanism turns on the motor, but newer models generally have an on/off switch or button.

The lid has a feed tube fitted with a plunger. You can insert food into the device through this feed tube, pushing it down with the plunger. Some models have wider and narrower feed tubes for use with larger and smaller food items. The size of the bowl varies according to the size of the machine:

  • Full-size bowls generally have a capacity of 9 to 13 cups.
  • Compact-size bowls can accommodate 5 to 7 cups.
  • Mini-size bowls can fit 2 to 5 cups.
Some models come with large and small bowls for use with the same base.

The attachments fit over the shaft inside the bowl. Standard attachments for a food processor are an S-shaped blade -- also known as a sabatier blade -- and shredding and slicing discs.

The sabatier blade sits at the bottom of the bowl. It consists of two small, curved blades arranged on opposite sides of a central plastic pillar that fits onto the shaft inside the bowl. The blades of the sabatier are usually made of metal, but are sometimes made of hard plastic. You may find that metal blades are preferable because they retain their sharpness longer.

The shredding and slicing discs are made of metal and sit at the top of the bowl, over the shaft. You push food down the feed tube and it contacts the disc, at which point it is grated or sliced into the bowl. The holes on the shredding and slicing discs may yield fine, medium, or coarse bits of food. You can purchase these different versions of the discs separately if they are not included with your food processor.