Free standard shipping on U.S. domestic orders $150+

7 Great Uses for a Fine-Mesh Strainer (Besides Straining)

Posted on

Foolproof Poached Eggs

Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt

Before I learned this never-fail technique, I would've told you that there's no guaranteed way to make a perfect poached egg every single time. I'd stirred up vortexes, added vinegar and salt, and even accumulated a drawer of various poaching contraptions. But no matter what I tried, I couldn't seem to get away from messy, wispy, flattened eggs that looked more like boiled sunny-side-ups than the elegant, restaurant-style staples I was after.

The Smoothest Purées

A blender or food processor will go a long way toward making your blended soups, smoothies, and purées creamy and delicious. But unless you've shelled out hundreds for a high-end blender, no amount of puréeing is going to pulverize your ingredients enough to yield a truly silky-smooth, velvety texture. A quick pass through a fine-mesh strainer, helped along with some pressure from the rounded base of a ladle, will separate out any of the gritty or pulpy components. It's the secret to our easy gazpacho and wide range of creamy vegetable soups. With a little extra muscle, you can even use it in place of a food mill, like we did for this tomato coulis.

Citrus-Squeezing, Simplified


This one's such a straightforward, borderline "that's just straining" tip that it almost didn't make my list. But since it was an aha moment for me, I'll share it with you in good faith. I spent years without a handheld citrus press, reamer, or juicer, so I'm all too familiar with the infuriating process of trying to pinch a slippery stray seed out of a salad dressing or cocktail. Nowadays, though, I just reach for a strainer and balance it over my bowl or glass—the juice goes through and the seeds stay behind. Sure, it may be a no-brainer, but it's saved me from countless accidental bites of bitter, pithy seeds. May it do the same for you.

Airy Sifted Flour

While we definitely don't recommend sifting flour for measuring purposes (you'll want to use a scale for that!), the process has its uses. Sifting aerates flour for faster and easier incorporation into delicate batters, and prevents clumping or pilling in soft doughs. Think: everything from light and tender potato gnocchi to fluffy, springy angel food cake. Instead of investing money and space in a bulky sifter, I just add my desired amount of flour to a fine-mesh strainer and tap the side with one hand or, for higher volumes of flour, stir it with the base of a ladle to help pass the flour through. You'll wind up with a snowdrift-style mound of perfectly aerated flour in no time. A strainer also comes in handy if you need to dust a countertop for rolling out a pie crust or fresh pasta and don't quite have a knack for sprinkling (or "throwing," in baker-speak) evenly by hand.

Fancy-Looking Cookies and Cakes

Step 7: Cool, then Sugar Top Cookies

Ever try to get an elegant powdered effect on cakes and cookies, only to wind up with uneven patches and clumps of sugar or cocoa? You don't need a fancy tool or magic sprinkling powers to make it happen—just load some confectioners' sugar, cocoa, or your garnish of choice (almond meal, for instance) into your fine-mesh strainer and, holding it a foot or two above your dessert, give it a gentle tap. The mesh and extra height help with wide, even distribution and careful volume control, so you don't wind up overdoing it or dusting only a small, concentrated area.

Quick and Easy Fresh Cheeses


 Cheese-making can be a mystifying process to the uninitiated, so it's easy to assume that it takes a lot of know-how, special equipment, and proper storage facilities to do it at home. But if you love fresh cheeses like ricottafarmer's cheese, and mozzarella, you're in luck. Making these cheeses at home can take as little as five minutes and requires nothing more than a gallon of milk heated with an acid like lemon juice or vinegar (or, in the case of mozzarella, citric acid and rennet). Then it's just a matter of extracting and resting the curds in your—you guessed it—fine-mesh strainer. No cheesecloth? No problem: Our mozzarella recipe doesn't call for any at all, and a couple of layers of paper towels in your strainer will do just fine when it comes to ricotta and queso fresco. Best of all, the results are practically guaranteed to be vastly superior to the prepackaged supermarket stuff.

Perfect Steamed Vegetables


I'll be honest: There's no love lost between me and steamed vegetables. But every now and then, steaming is a thing I need to do, whether it's for recipe testing or because I want to make a quick and easy meal with minimal cleanup (or cooking fats) required. In any case, my expandable metal vegetable steamer was lost in some long-ago move, and I've never bothered to replace it, since setting a strainer of chopped vegetables over an inch of simmering water and slapping a lid on top does the job just as well.


text by