How to Buy a Sieve

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How to Buy a Sieve

Sieves (in US - sifters) of many kinds are commonly used in both professional and home kitchens all over the world.

About Sieves

A sieve is a generic name for a simple device that uses a perforated surface to separate liquids from solids or small particles from large particles. In the kitchen, it typically refers to fine-meshed metal or plastic implements that serve a variety of purposes, for example, separating lumps from finer grains of sugar, flour, salt, etc., or allowing liquids to pass through into a container while retaining small residues, such as herbs or tiny pieces of meat or vegetables in the making of soups and sauces. Some robust conical versions, which are usually made of metal or stainless steel, can be used to press fruit, so that the juice runs out through the holes into a bowl or jug, while the pulp remains trapped in the sieve. Sieves are very useful implements that are used in kitchens all over the world in the preparation of dishes of all kinds. Today, they’re available in an incredible variety of different sizes, shapes, and materials.

Types of Sieve

There are many different types of sieves that have been developed in many countries over a long time period. The most commonly used types are detailed below.

Silicone Sieves

The larger silicone sieves are essentially colanders, used to drain boiled spaghetti or vegetables or to wash salads and fruit. Many are suitable for small kitchens with limited cupboard space as they are collapsible and can be stored flat. Available in a range of bold colours, these sieves are heat resistant and tough as well as hygienic and easy to clean. They will easily withstand boiling water, and can be used just as effectively as a stainless steel sieves if a boiled pot of vegetables or spaghetti needs to be drained of water. Because silicon conducts heat very poorly, it will protect against scalded hands making it safe to grip even with boiling water running through it.

Stainless Steel and Metal Sieves

Stainless steel and metal sieves are more numerous than any other material, with stainless steel leading metal by almost three to one. They are hard, hygienic, easy to clean, although a brush may be necessary under running water to thoroughly dislodge any blocked perforations, and exceptionally hardwearing. Stainless steel especially is highly resistant to rust and will retain a pleasing silver hue more or less permanently. Although many come with a single handle, which is convenient for holding with one hand while draining a pan over it with the other, it is wise to be careful about the design when draining vegetables such as potatoes. Potatoes soak up a huge amount of water during boiling and can be very heavy when turned out. It’s safer to use a sieve with a base that can be perched in the sink – preferably one with two handles to make lifting easier. Like their silicon cousins, some stainless steel sieves are collapsible and can be folded flat – great if cupboard space is limited.

Plastic Sieves

Plastic sieves really fall under the informal category of cheap and cheerful. They really are cheap, they are exceptionally light, and their meshes are often exceptionally finely perforated, making them especially good for sifting flour or icing sugar. Bear in mind, though, that they can withstand less battering than most other sieves and will tend to have a shorter working life. While they are perfectly safe with boiling water, at higher temperatures they can easily melt. For this reason, take care not to inadvertently place one on the hob just after a ring has been turned off and keep them away from hot pans, or they will be heading for the waste bin. They can also distort and warp at dishwasher temperatures. Other sieves on eBay are made out of materials such as melamine, which are typically available in pleasing shapes and vibrant colours and can look decidedly stylish, enamel (which tend to be mainly colanders), and aluminium.

Specialised Sieves

There are a wide number of specialised sieves available for purchase, all of which have particular functions in the kitchen.


This is a sieve of a conical shape that has a very fine mesh. It is used in kitchens to strain purees, custards, sauces, and soups. It is capable of producing a very smooth texture to ingredients. It is also used by home bakers to apply a sprinkling of fine sugar to the top of pastries.

China Cap

A China cap is a similar but a cheaper alternative to a Chinoise. This sieve takes its name from the conical shape of hats that are often worn in China. The versions available today are usually made from perforated metal. It has larger holes than a chinoise. A China cap is mainly used to remove coarse matter, such as seeds, from mixed liquids and softer types of foodstuffs. The China cap does not produce a very smooth texture. The China cap, and the Chinoise are sometimes used with a wooden cone. The tip of the cone is positioned at the bottom of the strainer, and the cone is then pushed against the sides of the strainer. This has the effect of working softer foods through the holes.

Cocktail Strainer

The cocktail strainer is made of metal and is used to remove the ice from a mixed drink as it is poured into the serving glass. The small holes in this type of sieve only allow liquids to pass through. There are two main types of cocktail strainer, the Julep and the Hawthorne. The Julep is bowl shaped and has a handle. It is designed to fit snugly into the top of a mixing glass. The Hawthorne has two or four prongs around its edge that act as stabilisers. This device has a metal spring that compresses to ensure a tight fit in the top of the glass.


This is sometimes referred to as a strainer rather than a sieve, but technically it serves the same purpose. Usually used for draining rice and pasta as they come out of the saucepan; these bowl shaped items are an essential kitchen tool. Colanders are usually made of a light metal (aluminium or stainless steel) but are also available in plastic, ceramic, silicone, and enamelware.

Tamis (Tammy)

This sieve is known as a Chaini in Indian cooking and also as a drum sieve. It is similar in shape to a snare drum; it can be used for straining and grating food. This device is known to have been in use since the Middle Ages. A Tamis can be made of either wood or metal and the edge is cylindrical. The sieve itself is made of nylon, fine metal or, rarely these days, a horsehair mesh. The mesh is available in various gauges to serve different purposes. In use the implement is held over a bowl and the foodstuff to be strained is placed at the centre of the mesh. A wooden pestle or scraper is then used to force the ingredients through the mesh.

Find Sieves On eBay

Searching can begin by clicking the All Categories tab, which is next to the search box, and then scrolling through the dropdown menu until Home Furniture & DIY appears. Click Search and, on the new page, select Cookware, Dining & Bar from the Categories list on the left and then Food Preparation & Tools on the following page. Scroll down the left-hand list again and select Colanders, Strainers & Sieves. eBay’s complete range will then appear. As soon as the product listings appear, site visitors will see that there is a vertical list on the left hand side of the page. Beneath each heading are a series of options that can be selected or ignored – the more tick boxes that are checked according to customer preference, the more focused the search becomes.


After a little browsing through Colanders, Strainers & Sieves, eBay’s search tools will zoom in on exactly the right sieve for each individual customer in moments. The variety that is available on eBay at any one time can be astonishing – all types and prices can be found.

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