When readers ask about a potato ricer or food mill, they rarely acknowledge the other as a viable alternative. As you will see, both products do about the same thing.
Let’s take a look at definitions of each and examine the similarities and differences.
What is a potato ricer?
A Potato Ricer is a long handled device with a small can or cylinder at one end and a plunger attached to the other. The cylinder end has large holes through which cooked potatoes or other vegetables are pushed by the opposing plunger. They are sold as in 1 and 2 cup sizes.
Potato ricers are generally held in the air by hand over a bowl or pan. However, some models now come with little hook attachments by which the ricer can be set firmly on a pot or small bowl. Most ricers have a fixed bottom but some have companies include interchangeable disks – Kuhn Rikon and the RSVP SPUD for example (see profiles at the bottom of the article).
By design potato ricers create a smooth puree and keep skins from getting into the finished product. Potato ricers are best used for cooked tubers, squash and dense fruit like apples. They will not work well with tomatoes or other juicy fruits. Some alleged experts claim ricers and food mills create gummy purees, but I have not found this to be true.
Brands are differentiated by the size or shape of the basket and the materials used. I prefer metal ricers but heavy duty plastic will work just fine. The metals used in potato ricers are either stainless steel or aluminum.
Functionally, you load the open basket with cooked food you intend to mash and press down on the plunger arm. The food is then forced through the holes into a bowl or pan. After pressing, you scrape the outside clean with a spatula and add your seasonings.
Positives: manual operation, effective and easy to use, less effort required to puree or mash cooked vegetables, won’t over process the food like a mixer or food processor
Negatives: small container capacity, limited number of uses
What is a food mill?
A food mill looks like a tapered saucepan without a bottom. It has a tension based crank handle that pushes soft or cooked food through interchangeable disks with varying size holes. Some have “legs” or supports to help add stability while in operation over a bowl or pan. The holes in the disks are intended to mash the food and keep seeds, cores and skins from reaching the end product. Most models I am aware of are made of some form of stainless steel. The stainless steel is vital on the inside to prevent foods from staining and hot foods from damaging it.
People most often think of food mills when making tomato sauce, apple sauce, pureed cooked pears and homemade baby food. However, food mills will accomplish the same results as a potato ricer with larger capacity and more options on the degree of puree. Food mills provide a gentler action to purees than an electric food processor. For instance, a gazpacho made with a food mill will not have excess air whipped into it that would occur if using a food processor or blender. In other words, no air bubbles on the surface and a better flavor.
Positives: manual operation, sturdy, stable, large bowl capacity, serves many functions
Negatives: heavy (normally 3 to 4 pounds), large (storage issues)
Which is better?
In my opinion, if you have to own only one, choose the food mill. While both reduce our home electricity needs thus reducing the dreaded carbon footprint, the food mill does everything a potato ricer does, plus much more. In addition to having the ability to process more food in less time, there are more uses for it.
The food mill can also serve as an impromptu double boiler. I place the main bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water and rest the mixing bowl inside. Obviously, you will not use the disks or crank arm when performing this operation. Not all models would be well suited to the task and the inside crank handle notches don’t allow the bowl to sit flat and perfectly still, but it does work – plus you don’t have to spend money buying more tools and finding a place to store it.
What to look for in a Food Mill
You want a very sturdy construction of high quality stainless steel. If it is too light weight, it won’t last as long and may may not function as well when you are pureeing firmer foods.
The crank arm press should be somewhat difficult to insert into the mill. The tension on the spring will determine how well the mill pushes food into the disks. You will develop a technique to more easily insert the crank arm press.
Most models have a design issue that causes the bottom tapered portion of the mill to sit low in the pan or bowl (see photo above). This is only a problem with shallow pans, and requires the last additions of food to be pureed holding the mill in the air. Not a huge problem, but can be awkward to handle. You can improvise a solution using a chinois or seafood stand to provide separation.
One company has solution to this problem, the OXO Food Mill. The leg design on the OXO ensures the bowl is elevated above the pan or bowl (see photo below). However the OXO has a smaller capacity, and a non-metallic exterior. I also wish the OXO crank arm press was positioned closer to the bottom which would improve its overall performance. Conversely, the traditional shape of the other models allows you to use them on a wider range of bowls/pan.
The Cuisipro, like the Rosle, is built like a saucepan using heavy duty stainless steel. Both have nice large bowl size, great crank arm blade tension and good performance in pushing food through with little assistance. The Cuisipro has silicone “no slip” additions to the handle. The Cuisipro has 3 disks and a unique attachment which scrapes food from the bottom of the disk (see photo below). The hole sizes on the disks are 2mm, 3mm and 4mm. The Rosle has only 2 disks: a 1mm superfine disk and a 3mm disk. You can buy more disks for the Rosle (even an 8mm disk perfect for spatzle), but for the price, it should come with 3 blades. Interestingly, the Rosle disks will also work in the Cuisipro. So you could buy the 1mm superfine or 8mm disk for your Cuisipro.
Early on, there were some problems with the Cuisipro crank arm knob coming off, but this has been corrected.
Both the Cuisipro and the Rosle come with amazing warranties. Cuisipro has a 25 year and Rosle a lifetime warranty, which would ensure that any defective models would be replaced for as long as you own it. However, these two models are also the most expensive both selling for over $100.
Another high priced model is the Paderno. It does have finer disk holes, 1.5mm, 2.5mm and 4mm. It has a very large capacity and is also a well constructed very durable food mill, but it has no extended handle to hold on to and has the same depth issues of the others. It sells for more than Cuisipro and Rosle at around $160.
The RSVP Endurance Food Mill is another well made product. It has a good price, good blades. It is on the smaller side, like the OXO, so would require processing larger volumes in multiple batches. It has a wooden handle which prevents it from being put in the dishwasher.
The Mirro/Foley Food Mill is an old classic in the realm of food mills. It comes in 2 sizes – a 3.5qt and 2qt. However, the current version of the Foley is not what it used to be back in the day. The workmanship and quality are often flawed.
For food mills, the best combination of value and feature function is the OXO. You won’t be able to use it on a pan as large as OXO claims and the aforementioned “complaints” aside, it is a good model.
If you would use a food mill frequently, you may want to spend more money and get the Cuisipro. It is heavy duty, built to last and very effective. The scraper element on the bottom is great, the warranty is terrific; add to all that the ability to use Rosle disks and you have a great tool.
If you remain unconvinced about food mills and want a potato ricer, I would say that either of the RSVP Endurance models will work well. The less expensive RSVP model, the SPUD ricer, is made mostly of plastic but has interchangeable disks like the Kuhn Rikon. Both RSVP SPUD and Kuhn Rikon have pan/bowl rests on the end, with the RSVP having the better design of the two. The Kuhn Rikon has a nice feature – built in storage for the disks.
Overall, the best value to function is the RSVP International SPUD Potato Ricer.
All links in this post are associated with affiliate partners who pay a commission to this site if you purchase products from them.