Little Oskar is no longer alone. Its envied reign--winning big for being little--might be almost over. Last year Sunbeam struck gold with this small food processor, which opened the door for compact but highly efficient machines.
Now it's time to meet Emmie, Herbie, Shortcut and High Performance, some of the newcomers competing in little Oskar's arena. In optimistic pursuit of the pioneer machine's runaway success in the business, the contenders offer some improved features from the original product. For example, most manufacturers developed a better way to easily lock and unlock the work bowl from the motor base. This is a problem with the Oskar (a twist-the-bowl operation), often encountered when hands are slippery.
'13 Ways Better'
Hamilton Beach Inc. introduced the Emmie with the campaign logo "13 Ways Better." In testing and comparing the product with the other machines, we particularly liked the following:
Equipped with a handle for easier pouring, the bowl locks into place quickly with the handle always positioned in front. The transparent cover has a small handle that smoothly turns with very little pressure. When the cover is rotated clockwise, the machine switches on and when turned counterclockwise it shuts off. It pulses by turning on and off.
The steel blade is larger than that of the Oskar, as is the bowl with a four-cup dry capacity and two-cup wet capacity. When the chopping blade is used, the machine performs comparatively more quietly than other units. Chopping or grinding is consistent. The manufacturer has designed ribs in the inner bottom sides of the bowl, which bounce the food into the blade. The only drawback with this feature is that scraping the food out of the bowl is not achieved quite as easily as with a smooth-sided bowl. The Emmie has a heavy-duty reversible slicer/shredder disc, which is used with the continuous feed cover. When used, the cut ingredients are ejected into a separate bowl via a built-in discharge chute in the feed cover. A plus for the Emmie is that, by inserting a "gate" into the continuous feed cover, one has the option to keep the cut material in the work bowl, thus eliminating the need for the extra bowl.
An original design point in the Oskar is the continuous feed feature, which is convenient for processing larger food quantities. However, in the Emmie since the feed cover is twisted to turn the machine on and off, it's possible to end up with a mess on the counter as the discharge chute changes position and misses the bowl placed under it. A sharp slicing disc, a cord storage and base feet for firmer counter grip are some of the other improvements offered by the Emmie.
Resembling the Emmie in design--a stark white base and transparent larger ribbed bowl with handle (which is, however, on the side)--is Black and Decker's Shortcut food processor. Like the Emmie, the motor in Shortcut has been geared down to prevent food from being overprocessed. (The Oskar is great for its high speed but is hard to control at times, particularly in slicing.)
The Shortcut is unique for its easy-to-manage touch control switch. It eliminates awkward twisting and loading of food while processing. The machine is quieter, and an improved blade and bowl design ensures even, more uniform results. For slicing/shredding tasks, Black and Decker settled for an in-bowl processing and got out of the continuous feed idea entirely. They justified it with no extra bowls to clean. In addition to this, there is no continuous food chute to clean, which can often be a messy chore.
Another new feature from Shortcut is the "feed fingers," a metal fork that clips onto the food chute to keep the food being processed steady and to minimize tilting of single food items.
Both the Emmie and Shortcut, although priced to sell slightly below the Oskar, are in the higher cost bracket for these down-sized machines. Lower-priced alternatives include West Bend's High Performance and Equity's Herbie. Beige in color with a smoked bowl the size of Oskar's, West Bend's unit has a bowl handle and a base handle. To lock the bowl in place, both handles should be aligned. There is an on/off button by the bowl handle with a lock button for continuous "on" operation.
The High Performance food processor also features the continuous feed chute and reversible slicer/shredder disc. It produces even slices and shreds, which are rounded and smaller than the Emmie's or Shortcut's. Since it is high powered for heavy-duty processing, West Bend's unit tends to be a little noisy.