It was Biba Caggiano whom I first saw use a food mill. She had a show on Discovery Channel a long time ago and, when making tomato sauce, she always pureed fresh tomatoes with a food mill. I don’t puree tomatoes with a food mill (I use the blender for that) but I have discovered that the food mill is the ideal tool for making the fluffiest and smoothest mashed potatoes. Just cut up the hot potatoes, drop into the food mill, start turning the crank going ’round and ’round. The potatoes will be forced out of the sieve leaving the skins behind.
The skins will be left behind? There’s no need to peel the hot potatoes? Correct. Let me explain.
What is a food mill?
A food mill is an old-fashioned kitchen tool for pureeing soft food like tomatoes, bananas, apples and cooked potatoes. It is NOT a meat grinder.
A food mill has three parts.
1. The bowl;
2. The bottom plate which is fitted on the bottom of the bowl;
3. The metal blade to which a bent crank (like a handle) is attached.
The bottom plate is like a strainer. Yes, it has holes. With some food mills, the bottom plate is permanently attached to the bowl. With others, including the one we have at home, there are interchangeable bottom plates with varying hole sizes.
How to operate a food mill
To use the food mill, choose the proper disc (the smaller the holes, the finer the grate), drop it in then clip on the metal blade. Place the food mill over a larger bowl to catch whatever comes out of it. You drop the food into the bowl of the food mill and start turning the crank.
Truth be told, we didn’t get a food mill just to make mashed potatoes. Speedy bought it for Alex when she was starting out with her food selling business. She doesn’t use it very often anymore so, one time, I decided to try it. I so loved the result that, ever since, I have been making mashed potatoes with it.
When making mashed potatoes, you have to mash the potatoes while hot. Otherwise, the starches clump making it harder to mash the potatoes. Worse, the mashed potatoes will be dense rather light light and fluffy. Because it’s best to cook the potatoes uncut and unpeeled, it’s a headache peeling hot potatoes just so you can mash them before they cool.
But, with a food mill, the peeling part is taken care of. So, just drain them the hot potatoes, poke with a fork so that each potato falls apart into pieces then drop into the bowl of the food mill. Then, grip the end of the crank start turning it. Once the metal blade presses the potatoes, the soft flesh will be forced out through the holes of the bottom plate and fall into the bowl underneath the food mill. Because the potato skins do the soften the way the flesh does, they will get trapped between the bottom plate and the metal blade. Ergo, the mashed potatoes are free from potato skin.
Pros and cons of a food mill
The size — The food mill takes up storage space.
The weight — Our food mill is stainless steel and it is heavy. Assembling and disassembling is an effort. Know, however, that there are food mills with plastic bowls which will make the total weight considerably less.
The cleaning process — Prior to washing, the food mill has to be disassembled. Each part has to be washed separately to make sure that there is no trapped food anywhere. When you’re talking about a tool that weighs a lot, well, disassembling is not that simple.
If you’re thinking of getting a food mill just to make mashed potatoes, forget it. A ricer which is smaller and less expensive will do just as good a job. But if you make mashed potatoes in large amounts and quite often to, if you like making jams and if you hate tomato seeds and skins getting in your tomato puree for cooking tomato sauce, then, the food mill may be just the right tool for you.