Get the story
These handy tools are useless unless they live up to their names.
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.
We tested six strainers priced from $12.28 to $47.02, focusing on models that were about 8 inches in diameter. We used the strainers to sift the bran from whole-wheat flour and to strain the seeds from raspberry coulis and the vegetable fiber from gazpacho. To test durability, we suspended a 12-pound mortar in each model for half an hour, and we banged each model on the counter 10 times. We also washed each model by hand or in the dishwasher 10 times. Models were evaluated on performance, ease of use, and durability. All strainers were purchased online, and they appear in order of preference.
PERFORMANCE: We gave more points to strainers with fine, tight mesh that did a better job of filtering out coarse material from flour and purees.
EASE OF USE: We awarded more points to roomy, medium-depth strainers with stiff mesh, comfortable handles, and long, wide hooks that attached easily to medium and large pots and bowls.
DURABILITY: We gave more points to strainers that didn’t rust, warp, or break apart over extended use.
With a roomy, medium-depth basket of very fine, tight, stiff mesh, this strainer removed lots of bran from whole-wheat flour and produced silky purees. A long, wide hook allowed it to sit securely on a variety of cookware, and while its rounded steel handle was a bit less comfortable than some, it was still easy to hold. This strainer’s sturdy construction makes it worth its high price: It looked as good as new even after serious abuse.
This strainer did a great job of sifting out bran and producing smooth purees. It had a relatively comfortable handle and a long, wide hook that attached securely to different bowls and pots. But its capacity was a touch small, and the hook flew off when we banged the strainer against the counter twice.
With ultrafine, stiff mesh, this strainer produced some of the silkiest purees and sifted out the most bran. But it had the smallest capacity in our testing, and testers found its wire-loop handle hard to grip. Its small hook also made it a bit less stable when attached to bowls and pots. And it must be washed by hand; that same fine mesh proved a bit of a nuisance when we had to pick seeds or vegetable bits out of it.
This strainer had a nice rubbery handle—the most comfortable in our lineup—and its slightly coarser mesh still did a decent job of straining purees and sifting out bran. But that mesh was floppy, deforming easily and making us work harder to push those purees through. And the basket itself was way too deep, sitting soggily in the purees as we made them. Worst, its small hook made it wobble a bit during use.
We had high hopes for this inexpensive strainer, which came in a handy set with two additional small strainers. But its floppy, easily bent mesh was coarse, allowing through all the bran and producing slightly gritty purees. Its wire-loop handle was uncomfortable to hold, and its small, slanted hook failed to stabilize it, making it slip annoyingly into the bowl or pot.
This strainer had a reasonably comfortable plastic handle, but that’s where the fun stopped. With the coarsest mesh in the lineup, this model let through all the bran and produced unacceptably rough-textured purees. The mesh was floppy, too, warping after we weighed it down. And a small hook failed to stabilize it adequately, making it rock during use.