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What Is a Sieve?

A kitchen colander drains excess water from hot pasta, freshly washed greens, and other foods requiring preparation that requires immersion in liquid.
Sieves have wide application in industry.
A chinois is a cone-shaped sieve or strainer used in cooking.
Industrial-sized sieves are used in water treatment plants to remove large contaminants from the water.
A person using a kitchen sieve.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2014
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Sieves are devices that make it possible to separate different elements from one another. They may be used in the preparation of food, the sorting of grains, and even in the filtering of different types of building materials. The type of sifting that takes place helps to define the size and general configuration of the device.

One of the most common examples of a kitchen sieve is the everyday colander. Colanders have a body that is perforated with a series of uniform holes. It is possible to use the colander to separate solid foods from liquids with relative ease. The device is also used to wash raw fruits and vegetables by placing the food in the colander, then running water over the food. As the water washes over the food, it picks up tiny contaminants and carries them away from the raw foods by expelling the water and the contaminants through the perforations.

The flour sifter is another example of a sieve used routinely in the kitchen. It makes it possible to sift flour so that only the finest flour particles are used in baking. Most flour sifters are equipped with some type of beaters that help to pulverize the larger particles, making them usable in the baking process.

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Sieves are also used outside the kitchen. Industrial-sized versions are used in water treatment plants to remove larger objects from the water before it is run through a filtration process. Many factories use large sieves to sort products by size, making it much easier to grade and package the finished goods. Farmers make use of them as well during the process of harvesting different types of grains, effectively separating the grain itself from an chaff or other undesirable elements that may have also been captured during the harvesting process.

A sieve may be created using just about any type of material. Some are composed of stainless steel bodies that are perforated with a series of holes to allow sifting to take place. Others are composed with the use of mesh, an approach that is often used when there is a need to finely sift different products. Today, many simple ones are constructed with different types of plastic, or a combination of lightweight metals and plastic to create a sieve that is easy to clean as well as to use.

Most types of kitchen sieves can be purchased at discount retail stores as well as kitchen shops. Industrial versions are available directly from manufacturers as well as from building and industry supply vendors.

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indigomoth
Post 5

Colanders are actually really good to use as planters once they get to a certain age and you need to recycle them. There's a few websites out there that will show you how to do it, but they are particularly good for plants that love drainage and I've seen them hung up as hanging planters.

I've also seen them be re-purposed as lamp shades although that might be a bit more technical.

pleonasm
Post 4

@JackWhack - Just be aware that making the cake seem fluffier doesn't actually make it healthier. It makes it a better texture, which is part of the art of cooking and all, but wheat flour in general is fairly unhealthy to eat in large quantities, so whether it is fluffy or not is kind of beside the point.

The main reason I always try to sieve is that if you don't the baking soda or powder tends to clump up and leave little bitter sections in the cake. I don't really mind about the texture of the cake most of the time, but I really don't like it when the baking soda clumps up like that.

OeKc05
Post 3

@shell4life – My mother uses a mesh sieve for canned vegetables, too. I like to use a colander instead, because it is much bigger.

I can place it in the sink and run the water over the food. I like not having to hold up the sieve.

A colander is big enough to hold a pot of pasta while the water drains off of it. I also love using a colander to wash fresh produce, like grapes, blueberries, and strawberries. I lift the colander out of the sink when I'm done and pour the fruit onto a paper towel to dry thoroughly, and the good thing is that the water is almost totally gone at this point.

JackWhack
Post 2

I like shopping at my local home supply store for things like sieves. They have several different sieve sizes. Some are for people who work in bakeries and will need to sift a lot of flour, and others are for people like me who just use them for small batches of cupcakes.

Flour that has been sifted with a sieve produces much fluffier, lighter cakes than flour that has not. I love this light texture, because it makes me feel like I'm eating a little bit healthier.

I pour the flower into the sifter, and I turn the handle on the outside around and around until all the flour has passed through the sieve into the bowl beneath. Sometimes, I have to tap on the sides of the sifter to get all the flour to go into the sieve.

shell4life
Post 1

I often use a mesh sieve when washing the salty goo off of canned vegetables. I pour the vegetables into the sieve and run water over them, and the goo washes through the mesh.

I have also used a mesh sieve for things other than straining food. I had a bunch of seashells that were covered in sand, and I put them in the sieve to wash the sand of off them without letting any of the small shells go down the drain.

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