Chinois Sieves

Published July 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.

For straining stocks or sauces, we reach for a bowl-shaped fine-mesh strainer, but would a chinois, a traditional conical French sieve with ultra–finely woven mesh, give smoother results?

Overview:

When a stock, sauce, or puree needs straining, most of us reach for a bowl-shaped fine-mesh strainer. Many restaurant chefs, though, prefer to use a conical, ultrafine-mesh sieve called a chinois, a traditional French kitchen tool. Would a tightly woven chinois (also called a bouillon strainer) give us smoother results? We chose three cone-shaped sieves priced from $33.78 to $118 and pitted them against our favorite round-bottomed model, the CIA Masters Collection Fine-Mesh Strainer ($27.50). We used all four to strain seeds out of pureed berries for raspberry sorbet and separate solids and bones from hot chicken stock. We soon learned that the small differences in mesh gauge didn’t matter—all were able to strain stock to a clear finish and eliminate seeds and solids from raspberry puree. What the best bouillon strainers offered were capacity and stability. 

Though it was easy to use, the round CIA strainer (2 inches deep) was too shallow to strain all of the chicken stock at once—as was the smallest chinois, which had a… read more

When a stock, sauce, or puree needs straining, most of us reach for a bowl-shaped fine-mesh strainer. Many restaurant chefs, though, prefer to use a conical, ultrafine-mesh sieve called a chinois, a traditional French kitchen tool. Would a tightly woven chinois (also called a bouillon strainer) give us smoother results? We chose three cone-shaped sieves priced from $33.78 to $118 and pitted them against our favorite round-bottomed model, the CIA Masters Collection Fine-Mesh Strainer ($27.50). We used all four to strain seeds out of pureed berries for raspberry sorbet and separate solids and bones from hot chicken stock. We soon learned that the small differences in mesh gauge didn’t matter—all were able to strain stock to a clear finish and eliminate seeds and solids from raspberry puree. What the best bouillon strainers offered were capacity and stability. 

Though it was easy to use, the round CIA strainer (2¼ inches deep) was too shallow to strain all of the chicken stock at once—as was the smallest chinois, which had a short, 6-inch cone. The other two conical sieves, at 7 and 8 inches deep, allowed us to strain the whole batch of stock in a single pour. As we pressed on raspberry puree in each strainer to extract the solid particles and seeds, we discovered another advantage of the bouillon strainers, which all came equipped with L-shaped hooks opposite their long handles: The hookless CIA fine-mesh strainer had to be held still or it would shift around on top of the pot as we pressed down; the bouillon strainers, stabilized by the hooks latched onto the pots’ sides, all stayed in place, freeing both hands for pressing. The Matfer Exoglass Bouillon Strainer, which has two hooks spaced 6 inches apart, was the most stable model of all, but $118 is more than we’re ready to spend on a tool we aren’t likely to use every day. Our winner was comfortable, stable, and reasonably priced. We won’t be throwing out our more versatile and easier-to-store round strainers, but if you prepare large amounts of stock, jam, or sorbet, a roomy chinois can make the work much easier.

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  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Recommended - Winner

    Winco Reinforced Extra Fine Mesh Boullion Strainer

    This stainless steel sieve had a large capacity and comfortable rounded handle that didn’t dig into our hands. The only thing it lacked was the two-hook design that kept our second-place winner even more stable, but its much lower price earned it the top spot.

    • Mesh ★★★
    • Handle ★★★
    • Capacity ★★★
    • Stability ★★

    $33.78

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Matfer Exoglass Bouillon Strainer

    The two hooks on this well-constructed sieve latched onto containers to prevent it from rocking or slipping, an advantage when pouring hot liquids and heavy chicken bones. It had the finest mesh, the largest capacity, and a comfortable ergonomic handle with a nifty thumb rest.

    • Mesh ★★★
    • Handle ★★★
    • Capacity ★★★
    • Stability ★★★

    $118

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    CIA Masters Collection Fine-Mesh Strainer

    With just a flat metal tab opposite the handle, our favorite round fine-meshed strainer tended to slip and fall more readily than the sieves that had latching hooks. Its relatively shallow bowl worked perfectly well, but its smaller capacity required straining chicken stock in batches. Its shape, though, can be a plus at times: It fits neatly into smaller bowls better than conical bouillon strainers can, and it’s much easier to store.

    • Mesh ★★★
    • Handle ★★★
    • Capacity ★★
    • Stability ★★

    $27.50

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Paderno World Cuisine Reinforced Bouillon Strainer

    This sturdy stainless steel sieve was heavier than the rest, with two extra hooks below the long handle that allow it to steadily latch onto bowls of varying sizes. But at 6 inches deep, it was the smallest bouillon strainer and it couldn’t strain an entire batch of chicken stock in a single pass.

    • Mesh ★★★
    • Handle ★★
    • Capacity ★★
    • Stability ★★

    $85.50

    BUY NOW Amazon
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