Food mills are simple and versatile kitchen tools that are very useful for preparing large batches of food such as mashed potatoes, jams and apple sauce.
The way food mills work is fairly straightforward. A food mill consists of a a large bowl with a crank on top and two grinding discs at the bottom of the bowl. The top disc catches food and pushes it against the bottom disc, which has holes similar to those on a cheese grater.
Depending on the size of the holes in a food mill, they can be useful for separating skins (such as with potatoes or peas) or even filter out seeds if they’re small enough (such as with apples and berries). That's what sometimes makes a food mill a better choice for the job at hand over an immersion blender or a traditional hand masher — which are designed to perform similar tasks but cannot filter items out.
A good food mill can help you shave several minutes or sometimes even over an hour from your cooking process. For example, to make mashed potatoes, you normally need to peel them first and then mash them by hand (after boiling them, of course). That can easily add 15 minutes or a half hour to the process, depending on how many potatoes you're preparing. A food mill, however, will peel and mash the potatoes in one go, drastically speeding things up.
Other labor-intensive foods are also made simple with a food mill. Jams, jellies, applesauce, homemade tomato sauce and other mashed-up or mildly blended foods can be made in a handful of minutes thanks to the perforated grinding discs that help peel and seed foods, leaving behind only the pulp. Because of their large capacity, food mills are especially useful for anyone who has a home garden and enjoys making canned foods.
Food mills are very affordable too. Though there are expensive models that can cost well over $200, a basic $40 model generally works just as well.
Food mill buying guide
There are two main factors to consider in a good food mill. First, you want to make sure you can get a solid grip while turning the crank. The second key factor is the number of included grinding discs, and their sizes. Larger holes in the discs are good for tough foods like potatoes, while smaller holes work best for small seeded ingredients like strawberries, apples and the like.
If you’ve decided that you just need to have a food mill in your kitchen, make sure to consider the following key features when shopping around:
• Size. Because food mills are great for making large quantities of foods like mashed potatoes and jams, some models can be larger than what most home cooks will need. A food mill with a capacity of at least 2 quarts will suit the needs of casual cooks while still allowing for larger batches for special occasions.
• Milling discs. Food mills use milling discs to mash, grind or puree food into a pulp. The size of the sieve holes on the milling disc will determine what type of food you can effectively mill with it. Smaller sieve holes are great for seeded foods while larger sieve holes work better for potatoes and the like. You also want to pay attention to how many milling discs are included with your food mill, which determines the gadget's versatility. Many models include three by default, but some, like the Rösle, only include two with the option to purchase more separately.
• Materials and design. While most food mills are made of stainless steel, the overall design of the food mill itself determines how easy and comfortable it is to operate. For the optimal grip and comfort, choose a food mill with rubberized handles. If you’re choosing a model made entirely out of stainless steel, look for gently curved designs that make it easier to hold while operating.
Best food mills
1. Best overall: Cuisipro Deluxe Food Mill
The Cuisipro Deluxe food mill strikes a balance between cost, performance and durability. For around $80, you get a stainless steel food mill with a similar design to more expensive models like Rösle, but the Cuisipro also features non-slip grips on the handles like with the OXO Good Grips. The included milling discs offer a good range of sizes (2mm, 3mm, 4mm) so it can handle most foods with little issue. Tougher items like raw potatoes should be boiled first for best results.
The Cuisipro Deluxe is fairly easy to take apart and put back together, which makes swapping milling discs and cleaning relatively painless processes. Cuisipro also offers a 25-year warranty on this model, which is a boon for an appliance that is likely to see heavy use over time.
2. Editor's pick: OXO Good Grips Food Mill
Since all food mills have the same function at heart, what matters most is their design, construction and quality of the materials. The OXO Good Grips food mill combines a non-slip rubberized grip with additional base clamps to make sure your food mill is as secure as it can be while you’re pureeing or mashing food.
The OXO Good Grips include three different milling discs, which have sieve holes of different sizes for different foods (potatoes, apples, strawberries). The discs are spring-loaded for easy removal, which is handy both for milling different foods and cleaning up afterwards. While it performs reliably and stores easily, users have sometimes reported that it has trouble mashing potatoes thoroughly.
The design also makes it prone to more food residue, which means it may need thorough cleaning more often than similar models. Yet the fact that it’s dishwasher-safe, like most food mills, makes this a minor concern.
3. Best for low prices: Weston Stainless Steel Food Mill
The Weston food mill is a functional and affordable model for no-frills home cooks. For just under $40, the Weston includes three grinding discs, one of which has sieve holes that are 8mm wide, making it a great choice for tough, firm foods such as potatoes. Its stainless steel construction also means that it will last a very long time and handle heavy usage.
Being a budget model, there are some drawbacks. The handle’s design makes it uncomfortable to operate for long periods of time, and its overall construction (lack of proper balancing and non-slip handles) means that keeping the mill steady during operation can be a chore. Still, for the practical-minded cook on a budget, the Weston remains a solid choice.
4. Best single piece food mill: Rösle Stainless Steel Food Mill
Home cooks who want to splurge a little will want to look into the Rösle stainless steel food mill. This model is crafted from highly polished stainless steel, giving it a very aesthetically pleasing sheen. It’s also built as a single piece, meaning that there are no seams, nooks or crannies where stray bits of fruit or seed can get stuck. So it’s a cinch to clean most of this dishwasher-safe food mill; the only issue is that the hand crank can't be put in the dishwasher and should be cleaned by hand.
The Rösle has a very low clearance between the blade and sieve, which helps cut down on the time and effort needed to fully mill an ingredient.
However, unlike other food mills on this list that come with three straining discs, the Rösle only includes two, which are suitable mostly for small, seeded ingredients such as strawberries, but additional discs can be purchased separately.
At just over $140, the Rösle food mill isn’t cheap, but certainly well worth the investment for some chefs.
5. Best for baby food: Green Sprouts Fresh Baby Food Mill
Because of how they work, food mills are great tools for making baby food. However, the large portions that most food mills produce are unreasonable for babies, even if you're making enough to last a day or two.
The Green Sprouts’ Fresh Baby food mill is the solution. It's a tiny model that can make a fresh, single portion of baby food that can be eaten straight out of the appliance.
Operation is simple and straightforward, since you only need to remove the grinding disc, place the food you want to puree (peas or apples, for example), and place the grinding disc back. The sieve holes are small enough that you can puree most seeded foodstuffs such as apples, and the bowl is large enough to comfortably fit safety spoons, so you can feed your baby as soon as you’re done.