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How To Use A Food Mill For Tomatoes

There are different kitchen gadgets that make it easy to blend, grind or whip up food-blenders and grinders, not forgetting food processors.

A food mill is one of my favorite kitchen equipment, as it not only grinds food, it separates the food to keep and rejects the bits and pieces that I necessarily don’t care for, or want to avoid eating.

Think tomato seeds and skin, or fiber and fruit skins. It is a sieve with muscle.

See Food mill substitutes you can use in your kitchen here.

A food mill, sometimes referred to as a rotary food or purée sieve, is a kitchen tool for food preparation, that is designed to grind or purée foods such as soups, sauces, and to mash a variety of foods, like potatoes.

It is also used to sieve foods to the desired consistency. You can use it for both hot and cold foods, and during canning or making preserves, to produce smooth purees without the seeds, skins, or stems.

How To Use A Food Mill For Tomatoes

To puree your tomatoes, there is little or no cooking required. Select fresh ripe tomatoes, preferably with low water content. These should be ripe and going a little soft to the touch. Clean and rinse them off well.

You can also opt for ‘seconds’, which is code for ‘tomatoes with bumps or bruises’. Since these are too damaged to be sold at full price, they will be a great bargain for the sauce.

Raw Tomatoes

If your tomatoes are small, you can chop them into halves or quarters.

Larger tomatoes require more of a chop. Either way, cut them up so that they start to release their juices.

If they have icky bruises, cut off the parts, and if you want extra help to hasten the process, give them a whirl them in a blender.

Set up your food mill over a large mixing bowl or a pot.  Spoon the chopped, or the blender– whirled tomatoes, into the food mill and churn away… The tomato pulp and juice will fall through into your bowl, giving you a smooth puree of tomatoes.

All of the skin and seeds will be left in the food mill. Toss these away in your refuse bin, or better yet, collect them and add them to your compost.

Steamed or Boiled Tomatoes

Here, you will need to do a quick boil or steaming of the tomatoes to break down the flesh and make it easy to remove the skin.

  • Make a thin slice on the peel of the tomatoes, and boil or steam them until the flesh starts to fall off.
  • Alternatively, you could boil them for a longer period, long enough to soften the pulp. You will know they are ready because they will be mushy to the touch.
  • Turn off the heat, and run cold water over them, until they’re cool enough for you to handle.
  • Gently peel the skin, and run them through the mill.
  • You can use the puree for your recipes that call for tomato sauce, or, make yourself a warm, soothing tomato soup, pair it with a cheese sandwich, and curl up on your favorite loveseat.
  • If you have made a large batch, freeze them right away in airtight glass jars.
  • Another great idea to use your food mill for tomatoes is to make a fresh tomato salsa fresca.
  • Pick fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions, and chop them up.
  • Pass these through the food mill, then add vinegar, oil and a little salt and pepper to taste.

Parts of a Food Mill

A food mill is a manually powered device with three parts, a hand crank attached to a metal blade, a grinding plate with a sieve, and a bowl. It is shaped like a wide-mouthed inverted cone, with feet, or projections.

The three corrugated feet on the base of the food mill, or, depending on the design, two ears on the rim plus the handle, help to keep it firmly in place while you rotate the crank.

These fit on the rim of a cooking pot and hold the mill in position over it.

The hand crank on the top is attached to a metal blade or grinding plate, which is perforated. As you turn the crank, it rotates and grinds your food.

The food is initially placed in the plate, and while grinding or mashing your food, it passes forcibly through the plate, is mashed and sieved through the perforated plate, and pours into the receiving bowl.

The bottom plate can be a permanent fixture, or interchangeable perforates sieving discs to allow for different plates to be used.

Similar to how a meat grinder works, the plates with bigger sized holes will give you foods with coarser, compared to plates with smaller holes that give you finer purées.

After using the food mill to extract as much of your food as possible, if you reverse the direction of the crank, you will see that the seeds, skins and other debris are brought up to the top of the grinding plate.

You can then easily invert the food mill over the kitchen trash or compost can and discard the debris.

Types of Food Mills

Food mills will all have the same typical features. However, to enhance performance and safety, look out for the following:-

A handle and hooks or loops for hooking/ latching onto a bowl or pot

These will allow the mill to perch on or hang securely inside a bowl or pot, so that your milled food falls into them, and not onto the counter.

Interchangeable discs

If you plan to use a mill for more than just mashed potatoes, you will need different disc gauges that give varying degrees of fineness.


A deep, generously sized food mill is more valuable, as it allows you to finish your job in less time. Instead of making numerous batches of food, you’ll be grateful to make one batch with less or no food falling out of the mill.

A blade that rides close to the disk

A blade that is sharply sloped and with a high angle that creates a large space between it and the disc is not efficient, as it causes food to be swept round and round the mill, instead of being pushed through the disc.

Look for a blade that is close to the disc, and slopes gently.

Easy assembly

The food mill should be easy to disassemble for cleaning and storage, and easy to reassemble.


There are a variety of food mills made from stainless steel, aluminum, or plastic. Some also have wooden handles.

For a sturdy, safe and healthy option, a stainless steel food mill is the best option, as it will not rust, and will survive your dishwasher.

Find: My Review of the best dishwasher under $700

Those made with plastic are usually smaller models, usually used for making small amounts of food, such as for your baby.

Uses of a Food Mill

You can use a food mill to make applesauce or tomato sauce, with the advantage of being able to add hot, unpeeled or unskinned fruits or vegetables to the mill and produce a puree without the seeds or skins.

This leads to less food waste that would be found with peeling or deseeding.

Food mills can be used to make baby food, or purée for people who are on soft food diets for chewing or swallowing difficulties. Duchesse potatoes or other puréed items can be made with a food mill or a potato ricer.

Why A Food Mill

The benefits of using food mills are numerous. They are simple to use, efficient as they are non- electrical, and can be used with both hot and cold foods. Most of them are also dishwasher safe.

When working with a manual food mill, the grinding process does not introduce a great deal of air.

This is great if you are preparing foods to store for the long term, as you can freeze it immediately after milling instead of waiting for it to settle.

A food mill is effective for straining and ensuring your sauce is free from gritty bits of seeds and skin. This is unlike a food processor, which does not strain out seeds and skins, giving you a gritty texture in sauces and purees.

Because food mills are perfect for pureeing large quantities of tomatoes for tomato-based sauces, we’ll consider how we can use them for tomatoes. You’ll be glad you have one in hand.

Tips When Using The Food Mill

Depending on the volume of foods you are milling, your food mill may clog up pretty quickly.

This material includes plenty of skin and fibrous material from the core and seeds. You can easily compost this material, or trash them.

Be prepared for plenty of purees. Rather than tossing away the excess juices and puree, make yourself a variety of tomato sauces such as you would use for pasta and stew.

You can also collect and store in an airtight jar.

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