The crank system on a food mill gently pushes the food through a mesh to mash or strain it. This classic piece of kitchen equipment works well for tomato sauce, mashed potatoes and other purees. Whatever you process through it has a smooth, even consistency, without skins or large seeds. But food mills can be bulky and you may not have room for one, and the good ones tend to be expensive. Instead, use other pieces of equipment to strain and puree foods.
Using a Food Mill
Because a food mill removes the skin and seeds from tomatoes, it's traditionally used to make tomato sauces. It also makes silky-smooth pureed root vegetables, including mashed potatoes. Generally, anything that is soft enough to be mashed or pressed by hand can go through a food mill.
Food Processor and Sieve
The food mill is sometimes touted as an alternative to using the combination of a food processor and a sieve. But it's more likely you have the other two pieces of equipment. If you don't have a food mill, process the soft foods until mostly smooth, and then press the food through a fine-mesh strainer or sieve. The food that comes through will have the same smooth, even consistency as food that has been pressed through a food mill.
For smaller jobs, a potato ricer can do the job of a food mill. Ricers work by the principle of extrusion. Food is pressed through one end and forced through small holes the size of a grain of rice. The process removes any skin and seeds from fruits or vegetables and makes a smooth puree. As its name suggests, it works particularly well for making mashed potatoes.
Cheese Grater and Hand Mixer
A cheese grater can sometimes take the place of a ricer or food mill, particularly for preparing potatoes. To make perfect mashed potatoes without a ricer or food mill, grate cooked potatoes with a box grater and puree them using an electric hand mixer or a hand whisk. This method can also be used to easily remove the skins from cooked tomatoes.