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Food Mills

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2016

How we tested

A food mill simultaneously grinds and strains foods. To use it, you turn a crank, and a spring-loaded blade presses the fruit or vegetable through a perforated disk, extruding a smooth, dense puree and leaving most skins and seeds behind in the hopper. Because you often don’t need to peel or seed produce before milling, the food mill can save a lot of time and effort. We wanted to know which food mill was the most stable, efficient, and easy to use, so we tested five models, priced from $24.95 to $106.05, using them to make mashed potatoes, applesauce, raspberry coulis, and tomato sauce.

Each mill we tested has at least three interchangeable disks with different-size perforations for fine, medium, and coarse purees. While the perforation sizes and patterns varied from model to model, puree quality was not an issue. All five models produced smooth, even-textured purees with each of their disks and handled each type of produce equally well—the tomato sauce, coulis, and applesauce made with each mill were great, although all mills ground some potato skin into the mashed potatoes.

For almost every task, even the slowest models were faster and more efficient than the peelers, ricers, wooden spoons, blenders, and strainers we’d otherwise use for those preparations. It took us 11 minutes to peel 1½ pounds of tomatoes by hand and put them through a blender, making a seedy, aerated sauce, but it took just 2 to 4 minutes in the food mills to process the same amount of unpeeled tomatoes into a skinless, nearly seedless sauce.

Still, some machines worked more quickly than others. The main factor in determining speed was the force exerted by a small spring at the center of the mill. Each time you set up a food mill, you compress the spring by locking the bar it’s attached to into the hopper. When compressed, this spring keeps the rotating blade close to the perforated disk and delivers the force necessary to extrude the produce as you turn the crank. Slack springs didn’t generate enough force to mill the food quickly, but springs that were too tightly coiled pushed unwanted berry and tomato seeds through and required more muscle power to compress, making setting up mills and breaking them down more difficult. The best mills had medium-tight springs that were easy to install and provided just enough force to process produce efficiently without seeds passing through.

Problems also arose in terms of comfort, as larger mills were heavier to lift, which you must do periodically to clear out pureed material that has accumulated underneath. Others had handles that became uncomfortable to grip after just a few minutes.

Stability also proved important. Models with legs that extended out from the bottom of the hopper were the most stable, as they allowed the whole mill to sit securely on top of a bowl or pot. Models that hooked onto the sides of the cooking vessel tended to wobble or rock during use, which required more effort from the user to stabilize them; in addition, they often sank so low within the pot that larger volumes of mashed potatoes and applesauce built up underneath, forcing us to repeatedly clear the purees with a spatula to make room for more.

We liked our winner, the RSVP Classic Rotary Food Mill, for its lightweight, comfortable handles; fast and efficient processing; and stable, three-legged design. And at just $24.95, it’s priced to serve both high-volume home canners and more occasional users.

Methodology

We tested five food mills of different materials and designs priced from $24.95 to $106.05. All models were purchased online and are ranked in order of preference.

PERFORMANCE: We awarded more points to food mills that worked efficiently and held back a higher percentage of seeds and skins when making mashed potatoes, applesauce, raspberry coulis, and tomato sauce.

EASE OF USE: We evaluated how heavy the machines were, how comfortable the handles were, how smoothly the cranks turned, and how easily the machine could be set up, dismantled, and washed.

STABILITY: We awarded more points to mills that sat securely on top of cooking vessels and did not rock, tip, or jerk during processing.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*
Best Buy
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*