What is the difference between a food mill and a food processor?

In today’s modern kitchens, various tools and gadgets promise to make our culinary lives more efficient. Two tools often discussed in tandem because of their similar functions are food mills and food processors. While both are versatile and can process various foods, their design, mechanics, and ideal uses differ significantly.

1. Basic Design and Mechanism

  • Food Mill: A food mill consists of a round bowl with a handle attached to a grinding disc. As you turn the handle, the disc pushes the food through a perforated base, separating the smooth puree from skins, seeds, and fibers. There are usually interchangeable discs with varying hole sizes for different textures.
  • Food Processor: A food processor is an electric appliance with a motorized base and various interchangeable blades and attachments. The machine rapidly chops, grinds, purees, slices, and kneads the dough, depending on the attachment.

2. Texture and Consistency

  • Food Mill: This tool creates a consistent, smooth puree. It excels at removing unwanted parts like tomato skins and apple seeds, which means you don’t need to peel or deseed certain ingredients before milling. The outcome is often silkier and more refined than a food processor.
  • Food Processor: It’s designed to handle various tasks, from chopping vegetables to kneading dough. Depending on the blade used, it can create chunky and smooth textures. However, it doesn’t separate skins or seeds, so ingredients often need pre-preparation.

3. Versatility

  • Food Mill: While versatile in its own right, a food mill’s primary function is pureeing. It’s ideal for preparing mashed potatoes, tomato sauces, and fruit purees. The different discs allow for fine to coarse milling.
  • Food Processor: It’s arguably one of the most versatile kitchen appliances. Beyond pureeing, it can chop, slice, dice, shred, emulsify, and even knead. With the right attachments, one can make everything from pie dough to shredded carrots to hummus.

4. Cleaning and Maintenance

  • Food Mill: It’s typically easier to clean, having fewer components. Depending on its material, it can be disassembled and either washed by hand or in a dishwasher.
  • Food Processor: It has multiple parts, including the base, bowl, lid, and various blades or attachments. Though many parts are dishwasher safe, the blades should be hand-washed to maintain sharpness. Food particles can sometimes get trapped in crevices, requiring more attention during cleaning.

5. Electricity vs. Manual Power

  • Food Mill: It’s a manual tool requiring physical effort to operate. However, this also means it doesn’t need electricity, making it portable and usable anywhere.
  • Food Processor: Being electric, it’s faster and requires less physical effort. However, it’s tethered to power outlets and might not be as portable.

6. Space and Storage

  • Food Mill: It’s generally compact and easier to store in most kitchens, even those with limited space.
  • Food Processor: It tends to be bulkier, especially models with multiple attachments. They might require dedicated counter space or larger storage areas.

7. Price

  • Food Mill: Typically, food mills are less expensive than food processors. They’re simple tools with fewer components, hence their lower price tag.
  • Food Processors: Given their multifunctionality and electric components, they tend to be more expensive. However, considering their versatility, many find the investment worthwhile.

8. Ideal Uses

  • Food Mill: Perfect for making smooth purees without seeds or skins. Common uses include making applesauce, tomato sauce, mashed potatoes, or baby food.
  • Food Processor: When you need to perform various tasks quickly, a food processor is the go-to. It’s great for making salsas, dicing vegetables for stews, grinding nuts, or even making pastry dough.


Both food mills and food processors have their place in the kitchen. While there’s some overlap in their functionalities, they shine in different scenarios.

A food mill is a classic tool that ensures a smooth, consistent puree without the fuss of peeling or deseeding. It’s simple, efficient, and excellent for making sauces or purees.

On the other hand, a food processor is a jack-of-all-trades. It’s multiple attachments and rapid operation make it ideal for many kitchen tasks beyond just pureeing.

Understanding the strengths and limitations of each tool will allow you to choose the right one for your cooking needs, ensuring delicious results every time.

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