I’ve always been a bit of a home cook, but for a time during quarantine, I took a break and relied on takeout. It was a delightful respite, but at some point I got bored and started cooking again — not just to feed myself but to stock up for my next break from the stove. Now that I’m cooking again, of all of my kitchen tools, the one I find myself relying on most heavily is my OXO food mill.
For the uninitiated, a food mill is the antithesis of a modern kitchen marvel. It has no electronic motor or on-board circuitry. There’s no accompanying app, and it’s not Bluetooth compatible. It’s a simple, hand-cranked tool that’s used to mill (or crush) various fruits and vegetables for creating velvety-smooth sauces, soups, preserves, and purées. It’s easy to use, versatile, and nearly perfectly designed. In fact, the food mill — in form and function — remains virtually unchanged from when it was first introduced in the early 1920s.
A food mill looks a bit like a medium-size saucepan, except that it has a hand crank protruding from the top. The bottom of the mill is perforated to create a sieve. As you turn the crank, a curved blade presses the food, forcing the flesh and pulp through the sieve. When it’s time to clean up, just rotate the crank in the opposite direction to scrape up the unwanted dregs.
Most food mills, including this one, have three hinged legs that fold out, allowing you to set the mill on top of a bowl or pot. Other models have down-facing hooks that simply clip onto the edge of the bowl or pot. I’ve owned both types, and both work well. The only time the three-legged design has been an issue is when I was trying to span bowls larger than about 11 inches in diameter.
There are three interchangeable milling discs, which allow you to choose how fine or coarse you’d like to mill your food. I install the fine-mesh disc when making sauce from either canned or fresh tomatoes; the holes are small enough to catch all the skins and seeds. This disc is also my go-to tool for making jams and jellies, since it strains out tiny berry seeds. The medium-coarse blade is excellent for milling fruit sauces from cooked apples, pears, or cranberries. I’ve also used it to mill boiled butternut squash for soup. And although I’ve never done it, the fine- or medium-coarse disc could be used to make baby food by milling fruits and veggies, such as fresh bananas and apples, or cooked sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash. The coarsest blade is essentially a grater, and it’s great for ricing potatoes (and getting in a quick quarantine workout).
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