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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Stick Blender or Food Mill? (Now I have BOTH!!!)

   
Author Topic: Stick Blender or Food Mill? (Now I have BOTH!!!)
Dagonee
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I am going to take my sauce-making to the next level - I want to make the perfect tomato sauce one day. I have reached the stage in my journey where I need to tackle the texture issue. It seems there are two options for turning chunks of tomatos that have broiled and simmered to perfection into silky-smooth sauce: a stick blender or a food mill.

Pros of a food mill: will remove seeds and skins in one process, can vary the size of the puree and that size will be more consistent.

Pros of a stick blender: Vroooooom (I am a guy, after all). No pouring of hot semi-liquid into a bowl. Fewer dishes. Can work around the skin/seed issue by buying whole canned tomatos and removing the seed portion.

But, really, I want the one that will make the best sauce: smooth, with just the right amount of cling.

Anyone have first hand knowledge of which works better? Also, looking beyond the tomato sauce application, what are the other uses of each device?

[ December 27, 2006, 07:28 PM: Message edited by: Dagonee ]

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rivka
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I have never used a food mill.

But I love my stick blenders. I have an inexpensive one for dairy (I don't use it all that often, although it's wonderful for white sauces that will not behave) and a medium expensive (T-Fal) one for meat. The primary thing I use it for is split pea soup and the like. The dinky one I used to have broke from use (abuse), but this one can handle chunks of meat and grind 'em up right along with the peas, carrots, onions, and lentils.

For those rare occasions where fibers are an issue (as might be with the sauce, with skin/seeds), I keep a small-holed metal sieve.

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ElJay
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I use my stick blender when making soup, and I love it. I originally bought it because I hated the "wait for soup to cool, process in blender in batches" part of my favorite recipes. I have no problems with consistancy, you just have to be careful to make sure you process evenly. If you don't keep going a little longer than you think you should, you'll miss a few chunks.

Also, when making tomato soup, I've never noticed skins or seeds in the final product, and I use fresh tomatoes straight from my garden, roughly chopped. So the stick blender takes care of them just fine, as far as I'm concerned. And it's so easy.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by ElJay:
And it's so easy.

So, so, so true.

I've never used it on fresh tomatoes (don't hate me because I used canned!), but I believe ElJay's testimonial -- assuming one avoids the el-cheapo generic brands.

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ElJay
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And mine was I think a $20 Black 7 Decker, so you don't even need to go too high-rent. [Wink] It also has a whisk attachment, which I can't praise highly enough. I am physically incapable of whisking eggwhites to soft peak stage by hand, and don't like using my mixer for one or two eggwhites. With the stick blender whisk attachment, all you have to worry about is making sure they don't splatter.
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rivka
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My T-Fal was also about $20. This one.

My mom has the Black & Decker, and it's also pretty good.

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ketchupqueen
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According to my Italian uncle, the only correct way is a potato masher, lots of stirring, and cooking ALL DAY LONG.

I use a stick blender, but his does taste better than mine.

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Glenn Arnold
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Rivka and ElJay, you talked me into a stick blender. I'd never thought about trying one, but I love my split pea soup, and I've always done the "wait for it to cool and..." thing.

It also sounds like a lot less cleaning afterward.

As far as sauce is concerned, I agree with the cooking all day long thing, but I like chunks of tomato in my sauce.

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imogen
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I think food mills are *meant* to be better, and they are certainly recommended by many chefs.

However, I think a stick blender and then judicious straining through a very fine sieve (or even cheesecloth) would work just as well.

A note though - stick blenders aren't necessarily less messy. If you don't have enough liquid, or just do something stupid, you can end up with soup all over your kitchen. Trust me on that.

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ClaudiaTherese
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I prefer a stick blender for everything except potato-laden creamy dishes (mashed potato, vicchyssoise). Anything other than mashing of potatoes [most preferably through a ricer] can make them gummy -- the fast whip turns them into glue.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
It also sounds like a lot less cleaning afterward.

Almost always.
quote:
Originally posted by imogen:
If you don't have enough liquid, or just do something stupid, you can end up with soup all over your kitchen. Trust me on that.

I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about.

*whistles innocently*

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Dagonee
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Thanks for all the input. It sounds like a stick blender is very good. I'd still like to hear from someone who's used both and can directly compare, or at least someone who's used a food mill.
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Storm Saxon
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quote:

I am going to take my sauce-making to the next level - I want to make the perfect tomato sauce one day. I have reached the stage in my journey where I need to tackle the texture issue. It seems there are two options for turning chunks of tomatos that have broiled and simmered to perfection into silky-smooth sauce: a stick blender or a food mill.

Pros of a food mill: will remove seeds and skins in one process, can vary the size of the puree and that size will be more consistent.

Pros of a stick blender: Vroooooom (I am a guy, after all). No pouring of hot semi-liquid into a bowl. Fewer dishes. Can work around the skin/seed issue by buying whole canned tomatos and removing the seed portion.

But, really, I want the one that will make the best sauce: smooth, with just the right amount of cling.

Anyone have first hand knowledge of which works better? Also, looking beyond the tomato sauce application, what are the other uses of each device?

You would not believe how Freudian that all sounds to me.
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maui babe
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I've used a food mill before, but only for very large quantities of food - canning quarts and quarts of sauce, juice or nectar. They work great and can process a lot of food quickly, but they're messy and not worth the trouble for individual batches of food, IMO.
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ClaudiaTherese
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I have used food mills before, but they were older models. I recall them being quite difficult to clean, as the raspberry seeds would get stuck in the holes. Also, the level of pressure applied in the full swoop around had to be relatively constant to process the material evenly, which I recall having some difficulty in coordinating.

Tedious. Tedious and messy, and a lot of the puree seems to cling to the sides and underneath. I hate waste, especially when it is something I put a lot of elbow grease into producing, so that was quite frustrating.

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Dagonee
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Sounds like the evidence is stacking up pretty high now in favor of the stick blender.

quote:
I've never used it on fresh tomatoes (don't hate me because I used canned!)
Unless you can get tomatoes into the pot on the same day they are picked, maybe the next day, canned are generally better than fresh.

You Californians probably have access to more fresh tomatoes than I do, but there's no need to apologize for using canned.

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rivka
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I get fresh tomatoes (preferably grape tomatoes and Romas, but occasionally others) all the time. I use canned purely for convenience factor.

And I would never really apologize for my laziness. [Wink] I was entirely joking.

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ketchupqueen
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quote:
You Californians probably have access to more fresh tomatoes than I do, but there's no need to apologize for using canned.
Mmmm, favorite tomato sauce ever-- I was house-sitting the neighbors' place during tomato season, and got to keep what I picked. I picked a ton of tomatoes from their yard, a ton from ours, walked inside, rinsed them, put them in the already-boiling water and then the ice water to skin them, dropped them in a pot which I had already gotten some butter and garlic and onion going in, mushed them around, slow-cooked them all day with some rosemary and basil from the garden... Mmmm...

I don't usually have enough fresh ripe tomatoes on hand to make a whole big pot of sauce from with absolutely nothing canned, though.

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ketchupqueen
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(Oh, my food-mill experiences line up with what's been said before-- things get stuck, hard to clean, a slightly superior product but not worth the work. My dad uses his for tomatillo salsa all the time, I prefer to just take the skins off manually and blend 'em up.)
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romanylass
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I have a Black and Decker stick blender and I LOVE it.
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Lisa
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I saw part of an infomercial for the Magic Bullet thing last night. I wasn't sure whether it could handle chopping up meat. If I knew that, I think I would have called in. $100 for two sets, plus a blender, plus a juicer. It actually seemed like something I'd use.
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The Rabbit
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I have a food mill and there is absolutely nothing that compares for producing a perfectly smooth texture. It is however not easy to use or clean.
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Kwea
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Lisa, JCPenney sells it now in their home department. That means that if you try it and don't like it you can return it. From what I have heard, they work great. [Big Grin]


My wife loves her Kitchen-Aid stick blender. I bought it on sale, of course, and it is wonderful.

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Dagonee
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quote:
I have a food mill and there is absolutely nothing that compares for producing a perfectly smooth texture. It is however not easy to use or clean.
This why I'm having such a hard time deciding. What CT said about having to maintain even pressure gave me pause - I'm woefully uncoordinated with things like that. But my worry with the stick blender is much the same - that I'll leave chunks or turn it into liquid rather than puree in an attempt to avoid chunks.

Sometimes I like a chunky tomato sauce, by the way. But there's something very appealing about a perfectly smooth texture - it's an aspect of more refined cooking I've never duplicated.

Maybe I can find a foodmill on Craig's list and try it out cheap. Maybe stick blender + sieve can approach the food mill, but then most of the mess of the food mill is there as well, and over-processing is still easy to do.

Maybe I'll ask for both for Christmas and see what happens. [Smile]

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aspectre
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A discussion about making a tomato sauce without mentioning the need for a good egg separator?
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Kwea
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JenniK posting as Kwea because I am too lazy to log myself in. That said, I think you can get the idea that I prefer my vroomm -vroomm (as my friends and I call it since it makes such a lovely sound! - and I am Not a man.) I have used both and find the cleaning part of it all tedious no matter which you use. I simply hate to clean - especially dishes, however I much prefer the use of my stick blender. You can use it for many things including, but not limited to: soups, meringues, and sauces. I also have used it to crush Oreo cookies to make a crust for homemade chocolate peanut butter pie, and also to help make the peanut butter filling and chocolate ganache for the same yummy confection. I have never had much trouble with texture, you just have to pay attention to what you are doing...and test the consistency as you go. Happy cooking!
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erosomniac
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quote:
Originally posted by aspectre:
A discussion about making a tomato sauce without mentioning the need for a good egg separator?

Oh man, that website makes my brain hurt.
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ketchupqueen
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Oh, my gosh.

I think my dad needs that for Christmas.

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Sterling
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On the odd occasions where I actually need to remove tomato skins, I just blanch them and peel them by hand. It's pretty fast.

So many kitchen widgets, so little counter space.

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Dagonee
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OK, I made tomato sauce today using the actual blender.

It was a take-off on Alton Brown's pantry tomato sauce. I used whole, peeled, canned tomatoes which I cut in half, seeded, and dried.

I saved the juice from the cans and used it to make a syrup with vinegar, dried herbs, crushed red pepper flakes, and sugar (basically reducing this by half).

I sweated onions and garlic in olive oil for about 20 minutes, then mixed them with the tomatoes, tossed to coat in the oil, and broiled on the middle rack turning every five minutes. The tomatoes were just starting to brown and some of the bots of onion had just burnt a little when I took them out. I added some wine, cooked it for about 5 minutes to reduce the wine, then added the tomatoes to the blender with just enough of the juice syrup to fill in the gaps.

Then I blended. It took about four three-second bursts to turn it into puree. There were a few chunks left, so I hit it again.

This is when the blender burped. I didn't know blenders burped. Not a huge mess, but it was really hot still.

I added the puree to the rest of the syrup and let it cook on low heat until the whole-wheat pasta was done.

Aside from too much hot pepper, it was great. Good, clingy texture, nice and rich. The blender is definitely not as consistent as what I've seen from food mills, but I'm not sure it really matters much.

With the stick blender, I won't have to pour into the blender or food mill, and it shouldn't burp as much in a broad pot as in a narrow blender. I would like that super-consistent texture of a food mill, but the pouring is tedious and messy. With the canned tomatoes, I can remove seeds before cooking, and skins aren't an issue at all. Plus, this is WAY too much work for the amount I made, so I'll be making at least twice as much next time. This will make the stick blender even more efficient.

If I ever see a $5 food mill I'll pick one up, but I think it's the ol' stick for me.

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ClaudiaTherese
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You can often get a ~$5 food mill at a thrift store. Not top of the line, but it does for those rare times when you really want it.

Hot thick stuff burps when it get stirred at high speed (I think) because of release of steam in that "underneath" layer where the blades are whirring. Cover well, short bursts of blending (like you did), and generally be careful.

I still get some burpage (actually, more "sigh-age") with stick blending, but the volume of space affected by the whirring blades is so much smaller relative to the surrounding area that it is less of a problem. (Wish I could draw this. It's interesting. Picture how much of the three-dimensional space is taken up by the rotating blades in a blender -- to maximize efficiency, they are designed to not leave much unturned stuff at the bottom. That means the pocket of air created by the released steam is pretty much an entire layer at the bottom, so when it rises, it's like an earthquake. Contrast this to the small space ocupied by the blades at the end of a stick blender -- usually you are sticking it in a pot, so there is just an isolated bubble of steam, not a full layer. Note, though, that if you really want to incorporate air -- such as for whipping cream -- with a stick blender, you should use a narrow, tall cylinder. Often these come with the stick blender.)

---

Edited to know: I know you already know this. I'm just perseverating. [Smile]

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Dagonee
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Good stuff, CT. That makes perfect sense.

This also explains why the carafe blender was so much faster than what I had read about a stick blender. But since marital harmony is inversely proportional to the amount of tomato sauce on the cabinets, the extra time will be well worth it. [Smile]

edit: I knew that narrower containers were more likely to burp, but I hadn't formed that picture in my head as to why.

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Dagonee
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OK, I had an extra cup of cream and an extra 4 oz bar of semi-sweet godiva chocolate. Heat the cream to just boiling, pour over broken chocolate bar in stainless steel bowl, whisk vigorously in icewater bath until hardened.

Am I right in thinking a stick blender could make this even lighter and fluffier?

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rivka
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Yeah, but a hand mixer with a balloon whisk attachment will do a much better job.

And if you've never had a blender burp on you before, you don't make nearly enough milkshakes. [Big Grin]

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Dagonee
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I now own both. Eve got me a KitchenAid stick blender for Christmas. Detachable, so the business end can go in the dishwasher. I got it early so I could make my tomato sauce for Eve's study group. Big hit. I did, however, pull the blender up too high once and left a fine spray of tomato pretty much everywhere within five feet of the stove. I need to get a Frisbee and make a cheap splatter screen. All in all though, very successful. I do see what ElJay meant about blending longer than you think you need to.

Eve's father got me the food mill. I haven't tried it yet. I think I'll use it for squash soup first.

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rivka
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The detachability of the bottom half is indeed a wonderful thing. Almost all of them have that feature now -- even most of the cheap ones.

Enjoy your new toys. [Smile]

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fugu13
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I've received a gift certificate to Inner Chef ( http://www.letyourinnerchefout.com/ ), a local high end/unusual cooking store, and with some of it I will be getting a stick blender (to go with the marble cheese slicer and meat thermometer I have already acquired with some of the certificate).
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Kwea
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Pampered Chef stuff is nice, but I love the knives from Rada myself. [Big Grin]
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ClaudiaTherese
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Congratulations, O Sauce Maker. [Smile]
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