A food mill is an incredibly useful kitchen utensil to have if you’re a frequent and committed chef, either domestically or professionally. It’s perfect for those who want to expand the variety of foods that they can produce. The main functions of a food mill are to mash and sieve soft foods, such as tomatoes and potatoes.
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What is a food mill?
A food mill will typically consist of three parts. The bowl is where a soft food is initially placed. There’s also crank attached to a metal blade that rotates, which mashes the food in the bowl.
Perhaps most importantly, there’s a bottom plate with a sieve at the base of the bowl. When you turn the crank, food is forced through the sieve. The bottom plate can be a permanent fixture or removable, so that different plates may be used. Plates with bigger holes produce foods with different consistencies than those with smaller holes. It’s a bit similar to how a meat grinder works.
Typically, a food mill will have three feet to keep it firmly in place while you rotate the crank. At the rim of the bow are usually two ears and a handle, as with your standard cooking pot.
Types of food mills
Food mills are usually made from stainless or aluminum, making them sturdy utensils. However, smaller versions are often constructed with plastic. These smaller models are often intended for making baby food.
Do make your own baby food in large batches? Then check out this post on the best ice cube trays for freezing baby food!
Why food mills are a better choice.
The food mill has bridged the gap between the sieve and the food blender, making for a highly efficient and useful piece of kitchen equipment. Some of the most common uses of the food mill include removing the seeds from cooked tomatoes for a tomato sauce and removing pulp from certain foods (such like applesauce). You can also use them for making mashed potatoes or spätzle.
Do you love pillowy, potatoey gnocchi? Learn about how to make gnocchi with a potato ricer!
What should you look for in a food mill?
When you set out to purchase a food mill, you need to consider what you’ll be using it for. They may not be as versatile as a food processor or a blender, but there are many specific jobs for which a food mill is the absolute best option.
A food mill is much more efficient than pulsing foods and putting it through a strainer. They do both of these jobs in one action! The ability to purée soft foods whilst simultaneously straining the pulp, fiber, seeds, and skins, is very useful indeed.
Focus on the material, size, and the discs. The best food mill will also be easy to clean. For example, plastic can leave a slight taste to sensitive palates, and it’s certainly not machine-washable. A plastic model won’t last as long as a stainless steel food mill.
Are your stainless steel appliances looking a little dull? Check out my how-to on cleaning the outside of a stainless steel refrigerator (and other stainless steel kitchen fixtures).
Consider buying a large food mill
A professional chef will always insist that you purchase a large food mill. It makes the most sense, as most of the foods you’ll put through it (and most of the foods you produce) will be in large batches. If it’s too small, you’ll have to make several batches of a smaller quantity. Once you have a food mill, you’ll never mash potatoes any other way. Potatoes can get pretty big, and you’ll want to be able to fit more than just a few into the mill.
How to make mashed potatoes with a food mill
Craving garlic mashed potatoes? For that, you’ll need a large food mill. First, boil your potatoes and garlic until tender. Many chefs would use a blender at this point, but a blender can’t create the light, airy texture you get with a food mill. Plus, with the mill, mashing and blending is all done in one easy motion.
Next, choose the hole size of the bottom plate. Which you choose depends on your preference. Small holes give you puréed and soft mashed potatoes. Larger holes, on the other hand, will produce chunky, thick mashed potatoes. For garlic mashed potatoes, I recommend picking a bottom plate with small holes. Otherwise, you’ll be left with large chunks of garlic in the potatoes.
(Mashed potatoes with another ingredient)
For mashed potatoes with chunkier additional ingredients, such as green or red onions, you’ll want to mash the potatoes separately using the food mill.
First, boil the peeled potatoes until soft. Now add your milk or butter to the food mill. Churn the potatoes using the crank. Again, I suggest using plates with smaller holes for a light, smooth texture. Stir in some salt and pepper. Then, once you’re potatoes are mashed, add in your finely chopped onions.
With this method, you get a smooth mash with nice chunks of onion. If you use a bottom plate with holes large enough to accommodate the onion, you’re not going to get a creamy texture. Of course, if you prefer chunkier mashed potatoes, then use the plates with large holes. You do you!
Freeze your left over mashed potatoes for another day. Here’s my guide on successfully freezing potatoes.
How to make tomato sauce with a food mill
Many of us would claim that making tomato sauce is an easy task, but talk to anyone from Italy about making tomato sauce and they’ll tell you differently.
Tomato sauce should taste like it was made from fresh tomatoes. It should have a vibrant color and a fresh and fruity flavor. Otherwise, you may as well just use canned. It should also have a sauce-like consistency, with sweet notes. This means cooking off much of the tomato’s natural water content and caramelizing its natural sugars to produce a natural sweetness. If you don’t, the sauce will be thin and tart.
The best way to make a good tomato sauce is to boil the tomatoes for 10 minutes, or long enough to soften the pulp. The quick boil method allows pectin to make the sauce thicker and thus requires less reduction overall. This process preserves the fresh flavor of the tomato, creating a fresher-tasting sauce.
Once the pulp is softened, put your tomatoes into a large food mill and pass them through the bottom plate. What makes the food mill so useful for making tomato sauces is that it removes the seeds and the skin, leaving only the desired flesh-turned-sauce of the tomato.
For tomato sauce, use a bottom plate with small holes to prevent the seeds from falling through. The seeds will add bitterness and tartness to a tomato sauce, which takes away from the freshness and sweetness developed during the cooking process. Add your top secret herb and spice blend, and enjoy the best tomato sauce you’ve ever made!
How to use a food mill for canning
Canning at home is a great way to save or make money with bulk batches of our favorite homemade sauces, and a food mill makes it that much easier. Many of us can our tomato sauces at home and then use them later, or give them out as gifts.
Another great kitchen time-saver? The mandoline. Here’s my review of the best.
Why can in large batches?
Canning is a bit of a process, so always can in large batches to reduce the amount of work involved. Making a quality tomato sauce takes time and precision. It’s not worth canning just one jar, so commit and go all out! Get a large food mill and several pounds of tomatoes. Go through the aforementioned steps to creating the perfect, fresh-tasting tomato sauce and run it through the large food mill.
Looking for the perfect pressure canner to get started on canning at home? Find out what features make the best pressure canner for beginners!
How to can applesauce or jam
Depending on how you like your applesauce, you might want to consider a food mill that comes with a bottom plate featuring larger holes. Such plates produce a slightly thicker, chunkier applesauce. The same goes for jams.
To make applesauce or jam, prepare your fruit by boiling. The goal is to soften the pulp, the same as you would when making tomato sauce. Once sufficiently soft, add your sugar, spices, and other seasonings to the whole fruits before you put it through the food mill. This will save you from mixing in the additives and preservatives after you’ve churned up the fruit.
The food mill thoroughly combines the ingredients, and removes skins and bitter seeds from the mix. Awesome, right?
Sick of spitting out cherry pits? Find out about the best cherry pitter for small cherries!
The best food mill
A great food mill for potatoes and tomato sauces is the Weston Stainless Steel Food Mill. The Weston is definitely a versatile machine. It has a generous two-quart capacity and it’s very easy to clean. This model is crank-operated and features a steel milling disc. You get fine, medium, and coarse discs, so you’ll be able to process a variety of foods in a variety of ways!
And, for those of us who love a good-looking appliance, the stainless steel finish means it blends in beautifully with any style of kitchen, modern or traditional. This mill works hard for you, and looks good doing it!
You might like this post on the best mixing bowls to use with hand mixers.
What will you make with your food mill?
So, consider what you plan to create with your food mill. Only interested in making sweet sauces, jams, or meat sauces? Opt for a food mill with larger holes to impart a nice, chunky texture. For smooth and savory sauces like tomato, or for mashed potatoes, you need a mill featuring a bottom plate with smaller holes.
Of course, most of us will use the food mill for all of the above, and more! The Weston Stainless Steel Food Mill is the best option for the habitual and versatile chef. It’s functional, durable, easy to care for, and aesthetically-pleasing. For the money, this the best food mill on the market!
Do you use a food mill? Tell me about what you make with it in the comments below!
If you liked this post, check out some of my other kitchen appliance reviews. Find out which dishwasher is best for pots and pans, see the ultimate home margarita machine, and learn all about my favorite indoor grills for Korean BBQ!