Here we are going to look at different sieves. What each one does and whether they are worth the money in a home kitchen. What I hope to do is by sharing the information you can then make an informed decision about your purchases without feeling like you have another kitchen gadget you may never use taking up space.
Sieves also known as a sift or strainer. You find then in pretty much every kitchen in the world in different shapes and sizes and each one built for a different purpose. This doesn’t of course mean you need all of them that would be a little over the top, but having a couple of different options is always useful. Knowing which ones would be best for you is important and helps with efficient purchasing.
Sieves come in several varieties, Wire mesh, nylon mesh, wood or bamboo, colander or basket sieve and finally the brewers bag. They all have a purpose and depending on your needs knowing those differences can save you lots of frustration, worry and in the worst of circumstances illness.
Wire Mesh Sieves
One of the most common of sieves. Wire mesh has its origins in the paper making industry well before the 17th century but a clerk in a paper mill in France in 1798 who came up with using the wire mesh in a continuous form in paper production. However the actual patent for the sieve was awarded to W.L. Pratt of Boston Masachusetts for a “Sieve-Holder” on September 26th,1865.
Whatever it’s history, wire sieves have become one of the most common items in most kitchens in one form or another.. Due to it’s sturdiness and ability to cope with most foods. the wire mesh sieve is one purchase most won’t have to make more than once or twice in a lifetime if purchased sensibly.
Wire mesh sieves in many forms is at it’s heart the same item from size and shape all except the size of mesh. Any of you with a kitchen garden may be familiar with a garden sieve with its much larger mesh. Kitchen sieves however tend to move towards a much finer mesh for 2 reasons: 1. To seperate liquids and solids. 2. to remove solid unwanted particles from another solid. More recently however this ability to create such a fine mesh that only the finest of ground flours etc can get through has found favour with cooks as a way to produce the smoothest of purees and pastes. For example pureed potato.
For many of us the sieves you see in the picture on the left are what we are most familiar with and due to thier nesting ability are much easier to store and give us options when dealing with smaller jars or bowls. They are a cheaper option but looked after properly can last a lifetime.
The sieve on the right is known as a drum sieve. It is popular with professional chefs, bakers and more advanced home cooks and bakers. It has a wide base which when filled with flour is an efficient and quick way to sieve out unwanted particles and allows much more air between the flour particles. Turned over the drum sieve is perfect for purees and creams. Many TV cooks are now pulling out the drum sieve more often as it’s incredibly fine mesh makes for a much creamier and smooth end product. It is cumbersome though and for the home cook with a small kitchen I would suggest storing this on top of a cupboard or on the wall.
The only downside really to Metal Wire Mesh Sieves is their inability to cope with acid. So keep them away from acidic fruit and cheesemaking.
NYLON MESH SIEVES
In this more “modern world we live in plastics have been made into pretty much everything including the common mesh sieve. Not as durable as its metal counterpart the nylon wire sieve does have it’s own uses in the kitchen and they are just as important.
The Nylon Mesh Sieve is the perffect option for highly acidic foods like fruits also vinegars, cheesemaking and eggs. Whereas these kinds of food preperation could cause a wire mesh sieve to corrode the nylon mesh sieve won’t. They are more delicate to clean and need to be treated carefully as they aren’t as durable as the wire mesh sieves.
If you do decide to get involved with preserving food like canning and jam making, then these beauties will be a perfect for your kitchen.
WOOD AND BAMBOO SIEVES
There are many parts of the world that still use these beautiful handmade bamboo and wood sieves/colanders. Many who live in more rural areas still make thier own. Here in the western world people are starting to realise that these kinds of sieves are incredibly brilliant. They are completely biodigradeable, made using sustainable resources and if sourced responsibly they are also Fair Trade.
I have to admit when I first was awoken to what these actually were, not just fancy fruit baskets I was mortified. Not only was I embarressed not to have the knowedge of what other cultures use but I had shown my ignorance by not bothering to find out. Worse than that I had worked in Hong Kong and Vietnam as a professional cook for 5 years and STILL believed them to be “fruit baskets”. As professional cooks we have a responsibility to learn better and to then pass on that knowledge to others.
Colanders are a bigger sieve. They allow larger particles of solids to be seperated from liquids quickly. For example: washing salads or draining pasta or steamed veg. No matter which one you choose it is up to you.
The cone shaped colander is known as a “chinois”, it is used predominately in stock making. It means you can squeeze out every last drop of that precious liquid you’ve worked so hard to achieve without sqeezing the solids hard and creating a cloudy stock.
The metal one is a good deep one meaning it can take alot of pasta and gives you the ability to rinse off the contents and toss it around to cool off quickly. Having feet or a ring foot on the base gives these colanders a much more stable base.
Plastic colanders are perfect for rinsing rice and veg or using in cheesemaking. Nylon doesn’t retain heat either so if you want something to cool off quickly that needs tossing in running water then this is a very good option.
Bamboo colanders can be used for anything pretty much. It isn’t effected greatly by acidic foods, it doesn’t retain heat and its biodegradable so when it does finally have enough you can either fix it or it can be broken down and composted.