A sieve, or sifter, separates wanted elements from unwanted material using a woven screen such as a mesh or net. However, in cooking, especially with flour
Flour is a powder which is made by grinding cereal grains, other seeds or roots . It is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for many cultures, making the availability of adequate supplies of flour a major economic and political issue at various times throughout history...

, a sifter is used to aerate the substance, among other things. A strainer is a type of sieve typically used to separate a solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

 from a liquid
Liquid is one of the three classical states of matter . Like a gas, a liquid is able to flow and take the shape of a container. Some liquids resist compression, while others can be compressed. Unlike a gas, a liquid does not disperse to fill every space of a container, and maintains a fairly...

. The word "sift" derives from sieve.


Sieving is a simple and convenient technique of separating particles of different sizes. A small sieve such as that used for sifting flour has very small holes which allow only very fine flour particles to pass through. The coarse particles are retained in the sieve or are broken up by grinding against the screen windows. Depending upon the types of particles to be separated, sieves with different types of holes are used. Separating tea leaves from tea is not considered to be sieving.

Mechanical vibratory sieving

Mechanical vibratory sieves also commonly referred to as gyratory separators or screening machines, are a traditional part of processing dry bulk powders. They classify materials by separating them by particle size through a screen mesh. Using a combination of horizontal and vertical movements by means of a vibratory motor, they spread the material over a screen in controlled flow patterns and stratify the product. There are three main functions a vibratory sieve or separator can achieve:
  • Check/safety screening: used for quality assurance by checking for foreign contaminants and oversized material and removing them from the product.
  • Grading/sizing screening: used to grade or classify material into different particle sizes.
  • Recovery screening: used to recover valuable materials in the waste stream for re-use.

Most machines vibrate at 1400 rpm, but by separating the motor from the rubber suspension in this type of design, it became possible to increase the operating speed of the machines up to 2800 rpm with high out-of-balance forces. This development led to increased efficiency of the sieve, enabling smaller diameter machines to be used without adversely affecting performance. For example, a 22” diameter machine operating at 2800 rpm can significantly out-perform a 48” diameter machine operating at 1400 rpm on materials which are traditionally difficult to screen.

Types of sieves used in cooking

  • Colander
    A colander is a bowl-shaped kitchen utensil with holes in it used for draining food such as pasta or rice.The perforated nature of the colander allows liquid to drain through while retaining the solids inside...

    , a (typically) bowl-shaped sieve used as a strainer in cooking
  • Chinoise, or conical sieve used as a strainer, also sometimes used like a food mill
    Food mill
    A food mill is a food preparation utensil for mashing and sieving soft foods...

  • Tamis
    A tamis is a kitchen utensil, shaped somewhat like a snare drum, that acts as a strainer, grater, or food mill. A tamis has a cylindrical edge, made of metal or wood, that supports a disc of fine metal, nylon, or horsehair mesh. To use one, the cook places the tamis above a bowl and adds the...

    , also known as a drum sieve
  • Zaru
    A is a draining basket made from bamboo used in the preparation and presentation of Japanese cuisine. It can be used in a similar fashion to a sieve or colander, both of which are common in western cooking. Additionally, well-designed zaru are used to present food directly, as for example zarusoba...

    , or bamboo sieve, used in Japanese cooking
  • Flour
    Flour is a powder which is made by grinding cereal grains, other seeds or roots . It is the main ingredient of bread, which is a staple food for many cultures, making the availability of adequate supplies of flour a major economic and political issue at various times throughout history...

     sifter, used in baking
  • Mesh
    Mesh consists of semi-permeable barrier made of connected strands of metal, fiber, or other flexible/ductile material. Mesh is similar to web or net in that it has many attached or woven strands.-Types of mesh:...

     strainer, or just "strainer", usually consisting of a fine metal mesh screen on a metal frame
  • Spider
    Spider (utensil)
    A spider is a type of skimmer used in Asian and Dutch cooking in the form of a wide shallow wire-mesh basket with a long handle, used for removing hot food from a liquid or skimming foam off when making broths...

    , used in Chinese cooking
  • Tea strainer
    Tea strainer
    A tea strainer is a type of strainer that is placed over or in a teacup to catch tea leaves.When tea is brewed in the traditional manner in a teapot, the tea leaves are not contained in teabags, but rather are freely suspended in the water. As the leaves themselves may be distasteful, it is usual...

    , specifically intended for use when making tea
  • Cocktail strainer
    Cocktail strainer
    A cocktail strainer is a metal bar accessory used to remove ice from a mixed drink as it is poured into the serving glass. A type of sieve, the strainer is placed over the mouth of the glass or shaker in which the beverage was prepared; small holes in the device allow only liquids to pass as the...

    , a bar accessory


At many college and high school hockey games, fans refer to the visiting goalie as "sieve", This is a reference to the holes in sieves and implies that the goalie cannot stop the puck from entering the net. Don Cherry
Don Cherry
Don Cherry may refer to:* Don Cherry hockey player, coach, and commentator* Don Cherry , trumpeter* Don Cherry...

 famously dubbed Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies (NHL)
The Colorado Rockies were an American professional ice hockey team in the National Hockey League that played in Denver, Colorado, from 1976 to 1982. They were a relocation of the Kansas City Scouts, a 1974 expansion team. The franchise moved to East Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1982 and was...

' goalie Hardy Åström
Hardy Åström
Hardy Åström is a retired Swedish professional ice hockey goaltender who played three seasons in the National Hockey League for the New York Rangers and Colorado Rockies....

the "Swedish Sieve".
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