Sifters vs strainers -
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Are Strainers and Sifters the Same (The MOST Important Differences!)

You invited the girl you had a crush on over one night for dinner. You’re no chef, but you know how to follow instructions really well. As you’re going through the recipe, it’s asking you to sift the flour.

You don’t have a sifter, but you do have a strainer. Are strainers and sifters the same?

Luckily you found us! Here’s what you need to know and what you can do.

Are strainers and sifters the same?

A strainer and a sifter are not the same thing. A strainer has very large holes and is often made of hard metal that does not have any give or very little give. A sifter is made of very fine mesh and does sometimes have a handle that helps to force the flour or whatever you are sifting down through the mesh.

What are strainers?

The word “strainer” is used when referring to kitchen tools that are used to separate solids from liquids.

Strainers are usually made of a mesh metal that allows liquids to pass through but not solids. A strainer has holes in it that allow liquid through but not solids.

A strainer is used in cooking when it comes time to remove excess water from ingredients like pasta or rice or even soups or sauces.

The strainer has holes in it that allow liquid through but not solids.

What are sifters?

A sifter is also used for separating solids from liquids, but it does so by shaking them through a mesh screen or perforated plate rather than pouring through holes like with a strainer.

The word “sifter” is used when referring to kitchen tools that are used to evenly distribute dry ingredients. A sifter has a fine mesh screen and is used in baking when it comes time to combine dry ingredients like flour, sugar, etc.

Sifters are typically made from metal or plastic with a handle at one end and an open container at the other where all of your ingredients go before being shaken back and forth inside the box until everything has been separated evenly throughout (like how flour gets evenly distributed throughout sugar).

What is the difference between a strainer and a sifter?

A strainer and sifter are both tools that you can use to separate particles from your food.

The difference between them is that a sifter will let you remove all of the fine particles from your food, while a strainer only lets larger pieces through. A strainer is commonly used to strain the liquid from solids, whereas a sifter is used to separate larger particles from fine particles.

A strainer is used to separate any particles that are present in a liquid, catching them into a basket. A strainer typically has much larger holes when compared to a sifter.

A strainer has holes that allow water to flow through but are too small for your ingredients to slip through. These holes are smaller than the size of the solids you want to strain out, so it catches them while allowing the liquid to pass through.

A sifter is used to remove lumps and impurities from dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, or cocoa powder.

Sifters have mesh screens with very small holes that allow the fine powdery ingredient to pass through while trapping any lumps or impurities in the screen.

A sifter is made with holes that are large enough that only fine particles can pass through them, while larger particles will be caught in the sifter’s mesh.

Can you use strainers as sifters?

While a strainer can be used as a sifter, the two are not interchangeable.

The mesh on a strainer is not as fine as the mesh on a sifter, so it will not catch all of the smaller particles in dry ingredients.

In addition, hitting a strainer with your hand in order to sift powdery ingredients will likely result in clogging the mesh and making it difficult to use the strainer for its intended purpose.

Can you use sifters as strainers?

A sifter, on the other hand, is a kitchen tool that is used to break down ingredients that are too fine to be removed by a strainer.

While a sifter can be used as a strainer, it is not as effective as a strainer because of the meshwork.

The process will be slower because of the meshwork, but it will be effective.

How to choose the right strainer or sifter for your needs?

There are a few factors to consider when choosing a strainer or sifter, such as the mesh size, material, and sturdiness.

The mesh size is important because you want to be able to strain or sift smaller particles.

The material is also important because you want something that is durable and will last for years.

Finally, the sturdiness of the strainer or sifter is important because you don’t want it to break easily.

When to pick a strainer

There are some instances in which you need to choose a strainer to help get the job done.

You most often use a strainer when you are working with liquids. If you are straining pasta, soup, or rinsing veggies and fruits, these are instances in which you would be using any liquid.

A strainer has much larger holes than a sifter so it is not going to be ideal for things like flour or other dry ingredients.

Also, since the holes are larger, you are going to be better off using them with things that have very large particles or pieces that you are trying to sift out instead of very small things that you would need to sift out like small pieces of hardened flour.

When to pick a sifter

If you are looking to use a sifter, you would most likely be sifting out dry ingredients like sifting dry ingredients together for baking.

This might also be used if you are sifting flour for instance and you want to make sure you get all the pieces of flour out and that the flour is smooth.

It is best for helping to sift out chunks that might change the overall texture of what it is that you are cooking. Sifters are not something that you can use with liquid, as they may end up catching larger chunks and getting clogged.

With a sifter, you do not want to try to use liquids or strain liquids out.

With a sifter you would ideally be sifting things like flour to get rid of any chunks or to help break up larger pieces, to help sift ingredients together to help ensure that they are evenly distributed and to ensure that everything is smooth.

Are there any special tips for using strainers or sifters?

There are some tips that you can use to help determine what you need and if you are going to do better with a sifter or a strainer.

  • What are you trying to do? If you are trying to make sure that your flour or other dry ingredients for baking are smooth and that there are no lumps, you are going to do better with a sifter. If you are going to try to remove solids out of a liquid, you are going to do better with a strainer.
  • You also want to consider what you have on hand. If you have a sifter but not a strainer, you may be able to use it to strain depending on what you are trying to strain out and what type of sifter you have. If you have a sifter with a handle that you crank to push the items through, you are not going to be able to use them for anything other than sifting dry ingredients. If you have a strainer but you need a sifter, you may be able to use it as a sifter if you are not worried about smaller bits making their way through.
  • When it comes down to it, you do not have to have a sifter and strainer. It might be better if you are trying to get things done quickly and you do not want to have to improvise. If you are willing to do a little more work, you can use them interchangeably with a bit more effort.

Other kitchen tools for separating ingredients


A sieve is a basket that is typically made of a metal fine-mesh weave with a handle attached.

The sieve helps to aerate and separate dry ingredients like flour, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar. On a sieve, you’ve got these handles that allow you to tap on the rim or mesh using vibration and gravity to push particles through the tiny little holes.

The sieve will help you to separate, aerate and break up particles or clumps of different sizes in dry ingredients such as flour or sugar, before finally combining all the uniform particles together.


Compared to a strainer which is often used to separate solids from liquids, a sifter is a kitchen tool that is used to separate and break up clumps in dry ingredients such as flour, as well as to aerate and combine them.

You may be wondering, what’s the difference between a sieve and a sifter? For all intents and purposes, a sifter is technically the same as a sieve.


A strainer is a wire-mesh silicone or metal kitchen sieve that chefs and home cooks use to separate liquids from fine solids in cooking, often in situations where small solids or pieces of sediment (like tea leaves or fruit seeds) require finer filtration.

Strainers come in different sizes, from the size of a teacup to a large-sized cooking bowl, and many have long handles or hooks that allow them to rest over the top of a bowl.

In both appearance and use, strainers significantly overlap with two other kitchen gadgets—sifters—which you can use for sifting flour, powdered sugar, or other powdered solids in baking; and a chinois, a conical sieve for making custard and straining soups and sauces.


A colander is a kitchen tool used to strain foods such as pasta or to rinse vegetables. The perforated nature of the colander allows liquid to drain through while retaining the solids inside. It is sometimes also called a pasta strainer or kitchen sieve.

A colander can be either round or oval in shape and is made of metal, plastic, or silicone material.

A colander has two handles that allow for easy gripping and carrying around the kitchen. The holes in a colander are designed to allow water and food to drain easily and quickly from the ingredients being cooked or boiled in it.


A chinois is a sieve with a round, cone-shaped bottom and a conical top. It’s used to strain liquids and purees and is made from stainless steel or nylon.

The word “chinois” is derived from the French word for China (where these sieves were originally made).

The name refers to the fact that the original sieves were made using porcelain, which was imported from China at the time.

In French cooking, chinois is used to strain stocks and sauces—especially those made with fruits or vegetables.

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