Sift bran from whole-wheat flour
Strain seeds from raspberry coulis
Strain vegetable fiber from gazpacho
Suspend 12-pound mortar in each model for half an hour
Bang each model against counter 10 times
Run through dishwasher (or wash by hand) 10 times
Fine-mesh strainers are great for rinsing rice, washing small quantities of herbs or vegetables, sifting flour or powdered sugar, and straining sauces and blended purees. As our favorite model has been discontinued, we set out to find the best new strainer—one that would be stable, durable, and comfortable to hold and would create silky-smooth soups and sauces. We tested six fine-mesh strainers priced from $12.28 to $47.02, focusing on models that were about 8 inches in diameter, which we’ve found is a good all-around size for most kitchen tasks.
One problem emerged immediately: The mesh on some of the strainers wasn’t very fine at all. When we used the strainers to sift the bran out of whole-wheat flour (as we do when making baguettes and fougasse), the coarse, looser weave of two of the strainers let all the bran pass through. Coarser mesh also meant coarser purees; these same two strainers strained out less vegetable fiber from gazpacho and fewer seeds from raspberry coulis, leading to grittier final products. We preferred strainers with very fine, tightly woven mesh.
We also preferred mesh that was stiff to mesh that was loose and floppy, as stiff mesh held its shape better and made it easier to push purees through with ladles or spatulas—a restaurant trick we often employ in the test kitchen. Because the diameters and depths of the strainer baskets varied slightly, the capacities did, too. Strainers with a capacity of at least 5 cups were best; smaller models required us to strain our food in an extra batch or two. And we preferred baskets with a depth of 3 inches or less; baskets that were deeper sank too low in our bowls and pots, sitting in the purees they produced.
Strainers with wide, flat hooks (the stabilizing braces across the basket from the handle) attached more securely to pots and bowls of different sizes; models with smaller hooks were harder to stabilize, rocking back and forth on our cookware when we pressed ladles or spatulas into them. And strainers with dedicated grips were more comfortable to use for extended sessions than strainers with simple wire-loop handles.
We use our strainers a lot, so we needed one that would stand the test of time. To simulate long-term use, we suspended a 12-pound mortar in each strainer for half an hour to see if the mesh would warp or detach from the rim. (Some did.) And we banged each one on the counter 10 times to see if any handles or hooks fell off. (One did.)
Our favorite strainer, the 5.5-cup Rösle Fine-Mesh Strainer, Round Handle, 7.9 inches, 20 cm ($45.00), isn’t cheap, but it’s built to last—it survived our abuse without so much as a scratch. Its very fine mesh removed lots of bran from wheat flour and consistently turned out some of the sleekest purees. Its wide, flat hook made it sit stably on all sorts of cookware, and its metal grip made it comfortable to hold.