Published September 1, 2002.
The best food mills should produce perfectly smooth puree with little effort.
Food mills were popular with our grandmothers but were pushed aside as electric food processors and blenders appeared on the scene. Yet neither of those highfalutin contraptions can perform quite like a food mill. A food mill is a cross between a food processor and a sieve. You turn the handle and an angled blade presses the contents of the mill through a perforated disk, keeping any pesky remnants like seeds or skin safely out of your puree. Unlike a food processor or blender, however, a food mill does not incorporate air into the puree, thereby altering its texture.
The result is a denser puree that is ideal for foods like applesauce or tomato sauce. Many of today's food mills are cleverly designed to fit snugly over a vessel that catches the puree, doing away with the need to awkwardly hold the mill in place with one hand while simultaneously cranking with the other.
We gathered five models, ranging in price from $15 to $90, and tested them by making applesauce in each. Surprisingly, all of the models produced a similar puree: fine, smooth, and free of unwanted material. Our tests thus focused on the food mill itself: how easy it was to crank, how efficiently it processed the apples, and how snugly it fit over a bowl or pot set beneath. One feature we found to be very important was interchangeable disks (fine, medium, and coarse) to adjust the fineness of the puree. The models with a fixed disk not only performed less favorably than their multidisk counterparts but were significantly more difficult to clean.
Our top performer was favored for its "perfect puree in relatively few turns" and the fact that it was "way easy to crank." That it was the best looking of the bunch, with its sleek stainless-steel design, was a bonus. The cheapest model, however, was a strong third-place finisher. It yielded "gorgeous puree" and was thought "very easy to turn." Though the plastic is not as durable as the stainless steel, for occasional use this one is certainly the best value. Ranking at the bottom of our tests were two models. The first lost points for bouncing around on the bowl and for having a fixed disk that made it difficult to clean. The second was deemed "very inefficient," mostly pushing the food around on top of the sieve rather than through it.