Posted in Serious Eats
July 19, 2022

We Tested 8 Fine-Mesh Strainers—These Were Our Favorites

Serious Eats / Eric King

We’d argue a fine-mesh strainer is an essential tool for any home cook or baker. The tightly woven stainless steel basket is great for sifting flour or cocoa powder, making silky smooth sauces like pastry cream, perfecting poached eggs, dusting desserts with powdered sugar, and more.

We tested eight fine-mesh strainers (focusing on models with baskets measuring seven to eight inches wide), priced between $13 and $40 at the time of testing. Here are the ones that impressed us—and which ones we’d avoid—and why.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Fine-Mesh Strainer: Rösle Stainless Steel Round Handle Kitchen Strainer

An ultra-sturdy, practically dent-proof strainer, the Rösle model caught even the smallest particles. With a rounded, ergonomic handle and ultra-stable bowl rest, its smart design makes it comfortable to hold and easy to use.

The Best Budget Fine-Mesh Strainer : Yummy Kitchenware 9-Inch Fine-Mesh Strainer

If you’re looking for a strainer that won’t strain your wallet (and you don’t mind looking past some slight design drawbacks) go with this model from Yummy Kitchenware. It performed *almost* as well as the Rösle in all of our tests, producing strawberry sauce that was just slightly grainier, and was only $16. 

The Tests

  • Sifting Whole-Wheat Flour Test: We sifted 1-cup of whole wheat flour through each strainer to see which ones caught the little brown flakes of bran—and which ones didn’t. To judge each, we weighed, in grams, how much bran was left in each strainer after sifting. 
  • Strawberry Sauce Test: We strained eight batches of strawberry sauce through the eight sifters to see which caught seeds and pulp, and which produced a seedy, lumpier final product. 
  • Pastry Cream Test: Straining pastry cream before it chills catches any strands of curdled egg, overcooked custard, or errant, stringy vanilla bean bits. That’s why we also ran about 1 1/4 cups of pastry cream through each model to see if any made a difference (positive or negative) on the look and taste of the final product. 
  • Durability Test: Do the mesh baskets of some models dent more easily than others? To find out, we banged them on the counter, hitting the top and bottom of the basket 15 times each. 
  • Cleanup and Usability: Over the course of testing, we took notes on which strainers were comfortable to hold, easy to strain or sift with, and remained stable and stationary when placed on top of a bowl. We also hand-washed each strainer (although many are dishwasher-safe) after each test.

What We Learned

Some Strainers Have Fine Mesh…and Some Have Super-Fine Mesh

an upvclose look at the seeds left in a strainer after making strawberry sauce
Top-performing models, like the Rösle one shown here, easily captured strawberry seeds, resulting in a silky-smooth sauce.Serious Eats / Eric King

The two tasks that separated the good strainers from the not-so-good: sifting whole wheat flour and straining a seedy strawberry sauce. Some models—like the ones from Rösle, RSVP, and Yummy—had noticeably finer mesh than the others. They caught more bran from the whole wheat flour and seeds and pulp from the strawberry sauce. For example, seven grams of bran flecks remained in the RSVP strainer after sifting, whereas less than one gram remained in the Cuisinart.

an up close look at a too seedy strawberry sauce
An example of a too-seedy strawberry sauce—the result of a strainer with mesh that wasn’t fine enough.Serious Eats / Eric King

The Rösle, RSVP, and Yummy models also all outperformed the rest in the strawberry sauce test, producing an ultra-smooth texture with no seeds or other debris. (Note: Yummy allowed just a few specks to enter the final sauce, not enough to knock it though.) Meanwhile, the Cuisinart 7.5-inch strainer performed the worst, yielding a grainy sauce with lots of seeds and pulp.

For Straining Pastry Cream, All Models Did Well

Pastry cream being strained through a fine mesh strainer into a stainless steel bowl
It turns out that any strainer is capable of producing a good-textured pastry cream.Serious Eats / Eric King

Surprisingly, there was no noticeable difference between pastry cream batches that passed through different strainers. Any curdled bits of egg, pieces of vanilla bean, or overcooked/congealed custard were caught by all the strainers. If any smaller bits passed through the models with wider mesh gaps, they were imperceptible.

Design and Durability Made a Difference

A fine mesh strainer straining strawberry sauce
Our favorite fine-mesh strainer had it all: An ergonomic handle, a bowl hook, and a durable basket that didn’t dent.Serious Eats / Eric King

Some handle designs offered more comfort and control; we overwhelmingly preferred models with rounded handles (like Rösle) or ones that were covered in silicone or plastic (like the OXO). Models with flat or wire loop metal handles were uncomfortable to hold and offered less control, especially when full.

All the models have a hook on one side for resting the strainer over a bowl or saucier. Our favorites had an extra-wide hook which could also function as a handle if you needed to use two hands for heavier cargo. Strainers with this style of hook included the Yummy, KitchenAid, and Rösle. This extra wide hook also helped keep the strainers stationary and stable—there was no wobbling when pouring and straining the pastry cream and strawberry sauce. The Winco stood out as the only model with two smaller hooks placed on either end on the rim of the strainer, making it near-impossible to tip over. 

We also tested durability, since you might whack your strainer on a trashcan or compost bucket to dislodge pulp or other debris. The Cuisinart Set and Winco were both very flimsy and we wouldn’t trust them to carry very much. They also dented easily when whacked against the counter. The Rösle and KitchenAid were the sturdiest of the bunch, and their baskets didn’t dent at all when hit on the counter. KitchenAid’s unique mesh was so flexible that it was almost more like a fabric, while Rösle’s mesh was so strong that it barely lost its shape at all when put under pressure. 

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Good Fine-Mesh Strainer

The most important aspect of a fine-mesh strainer is how well it strains, and a key factor in this is mesh-size: the smaller the mesh, the finer the strain. Strainers with holes under 1-millimeter performed the best, while models with holes between one and two millimeters didn’t perform as well. 

Other important questions to ask of any potential strainer: Does the handle make it comfortable to hold and easy to control? Do the hooks on the opposite end keep the strainer steady when you’re resting it on top of a bowl? Is the strainer well-constructed and sturdy—or does it bend and dent with little effort?

The Best Fine-Mesh Strainer: Rösle Stainless Steel Round Handle Kitchen Strainer

What we liked: This strainer makes you feel like a better cook just by holding it. It’s by far the most sturdy and well-constructed of the bunch. Its hook was wider than all the other models, which kept it stable when placed on top of a bowl. The cylindrical handle also offered much more comfort and control.

And that’s all without mentioning that it tied for first (with the RSVP) in the strawberry sauce test, producing a smooth, seed-free final product. It came in second place in the whole grain flour test, sifting out six grams of bran, whereas RSVP sifted out seven grams. Still, that’s no small feat with something so fine. 

What we didn’t like: The biggest drawback is the price tag; at $40, it was the most expensive of the lineup. Though we’d have to really nitpick to find other flaws. The only one that comes to mind is the handle would be even more comfortable if it was wrapped in silicone.

Key Specs

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Strainer basket diameter (not including rim): 6 1/2 inches
  • Basket depth: 3 1/4 inches
  • Handle length: 7 7/8 inches
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe
Rosle fine mesh strainer
Serious Eats / Eric King

The Best Budget Fine-Mesh Strainer : Yummy Kitchenware 9-Inch Fine-Mesh Strainer

What we liked: The Yummy Kitchenware strainer performed very well in all the tests. It tied for second place in the flour sifting test, catching six grams of bran. And when straining the strawberry sauce, it performed almost as well at the top models, letting through just a few seeds.

It featured the widest mesh basket of any of the models and, thanks to its extra-long resting hook (that also acted as a second handle) and flat handle, it was extremely stable and wobble-free. It was also one of the sturdiest models in terms of durability. 

What we didn’t like: We have to take some points off for the handle design, which is little more than a bare strip of bent metal. It’s not super comfortable to hold for longer periods of time, or when it’s carrying heavier cargo, like two pounds of strawberries. The handle and large size of the strainer also made it slightly unwieldy and hard to control. 

Key Specs

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Strainer basket diameter (not including rim): 7 3/4 inches
  • Basket depth: 3 inches
  • Handle length: 7 1/4 inches 
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher-safe
Yummy Kitchenware fine mesh strainer
Serious Eats / Eric King

The Competition

  • OXO Good Grips 8-Inch Double Rod Strainer: With its impressive straining and sifting capabilities, this model was so close to being our budget pick. The Yummy strainer just edged it out, catching three more grams of bran in our flour sifting test. However, the OXO still performed admirably when straining strawberry sauce, only letting through a couple of rogue seeds. With comfortable, silicone padding, its handle was one of the most ergonomic. 
  • Winco Strainer with Single Fine Mesh: This model produced lumpy, seedy strawberry sauce and only caught 1-gram of bran. And, with its wooden handle, you wouldn’t want to run it through a dishwasher, making it the only one of the bunch that was not dishwasher-safe. Its only plus were its dual bowl hooks, which helped it sit very stable on top of a mixing bowl. In the end, however, this wasn’t enough to make up for its otherwise flimsy, bendy construction.
  • Cuisinart Set of 3 Fine Mesh Strainers: We only tested the largest size of this set and it performed mediocrely: it caught only two grams of bran and produced a lumpy, seedy strawberry sauce. It was also flimsy, and the mesh easily dented. The bare-bones, two-pronged handle was uncomfortable to hold, and the hook may have helped it sit atop the bowl, but it didn’t prevent it from wobbling and shifting. 
  • KitchenAid Classic Strainer: What made this strainer stand out was its small profile and a mesh basket that was so flexible, it was almost like fabric. We would recommend this one for anyone who is short on space in the kitchen and needs something that can lay flat-ish and not take up a lot of room. It performed well in the flour sifting and strawberry sauce straining test, picking up four grams of bran (two grams less than our the Rösle) and allowing only a couple of seeds into the final sauce. Plus, the rounded plastic handle was comfortable to hold and made the strainer easy to maneuver.  
  • Cuisinart 7.5-Inch Strainer: Like the Cuisinart Set, this model was one of the worst performers. It barely caught any bran In the flour-sifting test—our digital scale couldn’t even register a number. And it totally failed the strawberry sauce straining test, producing the lumpiest and seediest sauce with an almost gritty texture. The one feature this model had going for it was its rounded, silicone handle, which was comfortable and ergonomic.
  • RSVP International Stainless Steel Mesh Strainer: This model could have won the overall top spot if it weren’t for one crucial design decision: its cone-shaped basket. At 5 1/4 inches tall, it wouldn’t fit on any standard-sized mixing bowl, let alone rest stably on the bowl’s rim. In the flour-sifting test, the cone basket compacted the flour at the very bottom so much that it stopped sifting. The one pro of this conical shape was it strained strawberry sauce very quickly and well. We also didn’t like its two-pronged handle; it was uncomfortable to hold and hard to control.

FAQs

What’s the difference between a fine-mesh strainer, colander, and sieve?

This answer is going to be reminiscent of “all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.” Colanders are big footed bowls with holes on the bottom and sides. The holes are just small enough to stop things like beans, pasta, or other small foods from getting out, while still letting excess water drain. Fine-mesh strainers, on the other hand, have baskets made of finely woven steel mesh and usually sporting handles and resting hooks. These are great for both straining out solids from liquids (like when making stock) as well as sifting dry ingredients (like de-clumping and aerating flour for baking). 

They are also commonly referred to as sieves, which can also come in a conical shape or squat, cylinder shape (called a drum sieve).

What can I use instead of a fine-mesh strainer?

For some tasks, using a cheese cloth placed over a colander over a bowl can have the same effect as a fine-mesh strainer. We would only recommend this for something very liquidy — for instance, this is a great trick for getting crystal clear, homemade chicken stock. Or, if you’re really in a bind, items such as coffee filters or even (clean!) tea towels can work. 

For other techniques like de-clumping and aerating flour, baking powder, powdered sugar or cocoa powder, you could also use a flour sifter. These are basically big measuring cups that, by squeezing a trigger on cranking a handle, pass powder through layers of fine mesh.

Eric King July 19, 2022 at 02:13PM

Comments & Reviews

Your email address will not be published.

*