What is a food mill?

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A food mill is a hand-crank driven device that home chefs used to use before the food processor became popular.  Their job is essentially breaking food down into smaller pieces without turning it into a puree.  Commercial chefs still use them because of the level of control they provide. 

Professional chefs often use food mills for culinary tasks like breaking down sauces and soups with large chunks (like bolognese sauce), making rougher textured apple sauce, and mashing potatoes.  Food mills make mashed potatoes that are of similar quality to those produced using a ricer, but also can be used to do many other tasks, so many chefs tend to prefer them to ricers unless they’re mashing a lot of potatoes on a regular basis.

Parts of a Food Mill:

1. The base.  The food mill base is usually made of metal, and is shaped like a giant, wide-mouthed funnel.  Better food mills have braces, feet, or clamps that allow them to rest on top of pots and mixing bowls.

2. The die.  Food mills come with multiple dies, which are metal disks that fit (one at a time) into the mouth of the base.  Each die has holes in it that look a bit like a cheese grater, and different dies have different sized holes.  This allows you to better control the consistency of your finished product.

3. The crank & screw.  The final piece of all food mills is a hand crank with a screw-like scraping device attached.  This attaches to the top of the food mill base and presses down on the die.  As you turn the crank, whatever food is sitting in the food mill will be scraped against the bladed holes on the die, breaking it down into smaller pieces by pushing it through the holes.

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