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Before food processors were commonplace on kitchen countertops, many home cooks relied on a decidedly lower-tech device for making fruit and vegetable purees, from-scratch baby food, wholesome sauces, smooth soups, and more: the food mill. The gadget combines a large sieve with a crank-turned mechanism that forces food through the holes to create an evenly textured puree. If you’re thinking that’s exactly what a food processor or blender is for, think again. The food mill has a special ability neither of those machines has.
“The reason you would have a food mill over an immersion blender or food processor is that it removes seeds, skins, and pits,” says Marisa McClellan, cookbook author and creator of the website Food in Jars.
An avid canner, McClellan turns to one of her five food mills to puree tomatoes and apples in bulk. It takes away a lot of the tedium involved with these home cooking projects, including peeling, skinning, and seeding fruits and vegetables. She adds that using a food mill provides another significant benefit: “Your texture will be very uniform and a lot closer to a product that’s store-bought,” she says. Here, the best food mills for whatever you plan to puree.
For most home cooks, this well-designed model is the only one you’ll ever need. It’s very easy to assemble and disassemble. The clever design includes legs that snap out for resting your mill securely over various sized bowls, lifting the mill up and away from the food you’re processing. When you’re done, those legs flip in for easy storage. A stainless steel bowl makes it suitable for hot or cold foods, and it doesn’t pick up stains from ingredients like tomatoes or beets.
The food mill includes three different milling discs so you can choose the exact texture you want: satiny smooth, chunky and coarse, or something in between. As with most OXO products, the ergonomic design on the crank and handle makes it a pleasure to turn and hold. “This is a really great food mill for whenever you do a single batch of something, say 12 pounds or less,” says McClellan.
If you’re an avid home canner or anyone else with a lot of produce on deck to puree, you want to go for an electric model like this one from Weston. The motorized milling actions means you don’t need to crank by hand—an action that is fine in small doses but can cause major arm fatigue over time.
“Really, an electric mill is best for anyone doing a lot of something. I came to really appreciate it when I started processing more than 25 pounds of tomatoes at a time,” says McClellan. Like manually operated food mills, this one includes three discs that let you select the precise texture you want. It also eliminates the need to strain, skin, or seed your produce. The built-in splash guard prevents a mess as the mill whips through pounds of food more quickly than you could by hand. It’s also an ideal choice for gardeners with bumper crops they want to process, give away, or store for the winter.
This is a handy food mill for turning out fresh baby food one meal at a time. Some people want a food mill to make large quantities of puree. On the other end of the spectrum is a harried mom who wants to quickly and easily make one fresh portion of baby food for her kid. This is the tool for her.
It’s an all-in-one device. The body is made from PVC and BPA-free polypropylene, and the strainer is stainless steel. Instead of milling food into a separate bowl, this mill is designed with a lower chamber for the cooked food. The grinding plate goes over it, and as you turn the handle, the food is pressed upward into the waiting, detachable serving bowl. As with other food mills, seeds, strings, skins, and other undesirable bits are left behind. Its compact size makes it easy to store and even to bring with you on the go.
You wouldn’t know at a glance that this sturdy food mill is the budget pick. It’s made from durable stainless steel. The crank mechanism is well designed and easy to turn. Its wooden handle is both attractive and pleasant to hold. It includes three interchangeable stainless steel discs so you can choose whether your purees are fine, medium, or coarse.
It will turn out apple sauce, tomato sauce, fruit purees, and soups just as well as other, more expensive food mills. Its construction is durable and, with proper care, will serve your kitchen for years. The looped metal pot rests don’t adjust, though they are designed to anchor to just one side of a bowl or pot, so you can certainly use them to hold your food mill up out of your puree. Hand washing is recommended to keep the wood details looking good over the long haul.
If you’re going to be milling purees, you’ll probably want a comfy handle—and this ergonomic design delivers. It’s built for smooth and easy turning to put less pressure on your hand and arm as you mill through pounds of produce. The handle and knob are covered in grippy no-stick silicone.
The food mill includes the typical three grating discs, from a coarse one suitable for mashed potatoes and salsa to a fine one for silky smooth pureed vegetable soups. A generously sized looped handle allows you to rest the food mill on the rim of a bowl, and the silicone cover means it stays in place. When you’re all done with your project, simply put it in the dishwasher for no-fuss cleanup. Cuisinart is known for quality, and this food mill reflects the brand’s reputation. The durable design and quality materials will stand the test of time.
If you want to invest in an upgraded food mill, look no further than this beauty from Rösle. Its gleaming appearance is just the beginning of what sets it apart from less expensive models. The sleek, elegant design is more than skin deep. This food mill’s solid, single-piece construction leaves no welding seams for food to get stuck in. It’s unusually spacious and reassuringly heavy.
The crank turns so smoothly you can mill longer with less exertion. It’s designed with very little space between the blade and the sieve, which speeds up milling and reduces the effort required. It’s sold with only two discs, but others are for sale separately. It works so well that even the tiniest seeds—like those in raspberries—don’t pass through the sieve as food is processed. Affectionately called the Cadillac of food mills, this tool will make all your pureeing projects a pure joy.
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Joy Manning is a food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in many publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post. She’s the author of "Almost Meatless" and "Stuff Every Cook Should Know."