One of the more unique kitchen tools you might come across during your cooking adventures is the food mill. Understanding how to use this three-piece mechanical tool can come in handy when making everything from ground meat to bean dip.
A food mill is a mechanical sieving and mashing tool. You insert food into the bowl, choose a bottom plate, and then begin cranking to change the consistency of the food.
If you’re eager to learn more about food mills, this article will tell you everything you need to know. Ahead, I’ll explain in more detail what a food mill is and how it works. I’ll also go in-depth on which recipes you can make with one!
Food Mills 101: What They Are and How You Use Them
What Is a Food Mill?
Food mills go by many other names, including passe-vite, mouli legumes, moulinette, puree sieve, and passatutto.
As I touched on in the intro, a food mill will sieve, mash, and grind soft ingredients and food.
A food mill has three components.
- The first is the bowl, which is where you put the food before grinding. The bowl is wider at the base, and its width tapers towards the bottom.
- Next, there’s the bottom plate or grinder plate, which sits on the bottom of the bowl. Across the plate are a series of holes, the size of which can vary.
- The third and most important part of a food mill is the crank. The crank is attached to an angled blade.
Food mills are durable kitchen appliances, usually featuring aluminum or stainless steel parts. Some components might be made of other materials such as plastic, but the hand crank will almost always be metal.
For small kitchens like those found in college dorms and apartments, a smaller food mill can be a great addition to kitchen tools without taking up too much space.
A full-sized or larger food mill has the capacity to grind more ingredients, making it suitable for larger kitchens.
Food mills occupy a unique place in the hierarchy of kitchen tools. They are more effective than a sieve but not quite as modern as a food processor.
If you’re not familiar with a meat grinder or food processors, I’d recommend reading the article I wrote titled: Meat Grinder vs. Food Processor: Complete Comparison Guide.
How to Use a Food Mill
I’m sure you’re very eager to know how a food mill works, right? Since there’s nothing to plug in, figuring it out isn’t too hard.
The bowl of the food mill has built-in legs that support the tool so it doesn’t weeble or wobble as you hand-crank. The legs are usually slim but long, and there should be at least two of them.
You can switch out the bottom plate for finer or coarser grinding, which you should do ahead of cranking the food mill.
Now it’s time to get started.
Insert food or ingredients into the bowl. Then begin rotating the hand crank over and over until the food passes through the perforations at the bottom of the bowl.
How much elbow grease is this going to require? That depends on what you’re trying to puree, the size of your food mill, and the grinding plate you select. The age of your food mill is also a factor, as older mills likely don’t turn as smoothly as newer ones.
You might work up a bit of a sweat using a food mill, but you shouldn’t be physically exhausted by the time you’re done. Maybe you’ll just be a bit sore.
Here’s a useful tip. If you’re working with ingredients that have skins, seeds, or pulp, you can prevent those from getting into your mashed or pureed food.
Simply begin cranking in the opposite direction once your ingredients are sufficiently ground. The food mill will pull up the seeds or rinds to the top of your grinding plate.
Then you can either remove the seeds manually or tip the food mill into your garbage can to dispose of the food debris.
When you’re done using your food mill, you can detach its components and wash them by hand or in your dishwasher. That’s right, most food mills are dishwasher-safe, but do double-check that yours is before loading it onto the top or bottom rack.
What Can You Make with a Food Mill?
What exactly can you use a food mill for? The list is quite extensive, so let’s dive right in.
According to pricing resource CostHelper, the average family spends between $83 to $130 per month on baby food. That’s $996 to $1,560 a year!
Raising a baby can be extraordinarily costly. If you can save money in any way, then why not do so? With a food mill, mom or dad can make homemade baby food using fresh ingredients that may be more appealing to your baby’s tastes.
You can feel better about what you’re feeding your growing child too, as homemade baby food has none of the preservatives and other junk. You can also cut down on sugars and carbs.
Spätzle or spaetzle is a dumpling or noodle dish with egg. This Swabian meal is popular in parts of the world such as Slovenia, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany.
Although you could always rely on a spätzle maker to work the dough and slice it into thin strands, unless you make pasta often, that tool has limited use. A food mill is much more versatile and can make spätzle just as well.
The key to delectable spätzle strands is to use a bottom plate with wider holes.
Although tomato sauce is a savory food, the store-bought stuff often contains 10 grams of sugar in a cup. That’s right, 10 grams!
The recommended sugar consumption limit by the American Heart Association or AHA is 24 grams of sugar per day, so you’re at almost half that amount in a single cup of tomato sauce.
Pureeing your own tomatoes for fresh-tasting tomato sauce is one of the top uses of a food mill. You can invert the crank to catch leftover tomato skins if you don’t like your sauce chunky.
Authentic tomato sauce tastes better than store-bought any day, and it’s far less sugary too. You can add just a pinch or two of sugar rather than 10 whole grams per cup!
Another dish that always tastes better when homemade is mashed potatoes. Once you begin using a food mill to grind taters, you’ll realize how useful this kitchen tool can be.
Rather than save this dish only for the holidays, you’ll pull out your mashed potato recipe all the time, much to the delight of your friends and family!
Do you buy packaged applesauce? It’s convenient to grab a pack and go, but think of how much sugar you’re ingesting.
A cup or 246 grams of sweetened applesauce contains up to 36 grams of sugar. As you’ll recall, that exceeds the recommended 24 daily grams of sugar by more than 10 grams.
Not anymore! Even if you do like your applesauce on the sweeter side, you can control the amount of sugar by going homemade with a food mill. You’re doing your health a favor.
Crushed Graham Crackers
Okay, it’s fun to beat a bag of graham crackers with a rolling pin when you’re making cheesecake or key lime pie, I’ll admit that.
The problem with that method though is that the graham cracker consistency can be all over the place.
By crushing your graham crackers in a food mill, you’ll get consistently-sized pieces that will make an appealing pie crust or cheesecake crust.
You’ve always wanted a meat grinder, but you’ve never had room in your budget nor space on your counter.
Like spätzle makers, meat grinders can only do so much whereas a food mill can tackle both tasks and many more.
Try experimenting with the bottom plates of your food mill to get thicker or thinner strands of ground meat. You’ll save so much money on your grocery bills by making meat at home.
If you read my post on making hummus in a food processor versus a blender, you might remember how blenders aren’t the best appliance for grinding chickpeas. A food mill can do it much better.
Use a bottom plate with a finer grind so you don’t have any chickpea residue in your creamy hummus.
In the same vein as hummus is bean dip. This tasty party food is that much more delectable when you take the time to lovingly make it yourself.
For tomato soups and vegetable soups especially, the food mill reigns supreme. Fans of this kitchen tool say that vegetable soups have a richer texture when run through a food mill than they do in a food processor.
You’ll have to try making some soup yourself to find out!