How to Use a Food Mill for Tomatoes

A food mill speeds tomato sauces by seeding, peeling and pureeing in one step.
A food mill speeds tomato sauces by seeding, peeling and pureeing in one step. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

A food mill is a hand-cranked utensil that purees and strains foods. It consists of a round hopper, with a rotating paddle that forces foods through a perforated disc in the bottom. It is often quicker to process foods in a food mill than to use a food processor and separate strainer. Mills are especially handy with foods like tomatoes, which are time-consuming to skin for sauces and freezing. A food mill permits large quantities of tomatoes to be skinned and seeded in a short time.

Things You'll Need

  • Tomatoes
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Large pot, stainless steel or enamelware
  • Food mill
  • Large bowl or pot
  • Ladle or large spoon

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Rinse the tomatoes under cold water. Remove the stem, if attached, and cut out the core with the tip of a sharp knife. Cut the tomatoes into quarters.

Place the quartered tomatoes in a large stainless steel or enameled pot. Bring slowly to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are very soft.

Place the food mill over a bowl or pot large enough to hold the tomatoes. Ladle or spoon tomatoes into the food mill until it is 2/3 full. Turn the crank to force the tomatoes through the disc, until nothing is left but the skins and seeds.

Remove the skins and seeds from the food mill, and fill it once again with tomatoes. Repeat, until all the tomatoes have been processed.

Can or freeze the tomato puree, or use it to prepare your favorite tomato-based sauce or condiment.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use the ripest tomatoes you can find, for the richest flavor. During peak season it is often possible to buy a large quantity of very ripe tomatoes at a good price, because the retailer wants to be rid of them before they spoil.
  • Use a fine disc in the food processor for pureed tomatoes. For salsas and pasta sauces that are intended to have a fresh-tomato flavor, use a coarse disc to leave the tomatoes in larger pieces with more texture.
  • Do not cook tomatoes in an aluminum pot, which will react with the acid and cause discoloration and a metallic flavor.


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