When you hear the word “Sieve,” what do you relate it to? Many people see it as only a kitchen utensil because of the widely held notion. But in reality, the kitchen is among many places where sieves are seen in action. From construction to flour mills, all kinds of factories use different forms of sieves.
I’m describing the tool known as a “Sieve.” This tool has been a part of our life either directly or indirectly. It’s one of the most widely used tools in the world, and we don’t even realize how useful it is until we need it. I’m neither a chef nor a construction worker, but I’ve used the tool quite a few times in the last week alone.
What Is Sieve, and How Is It Made?
You may have heard other names such as colander, strainer, or sift. It’s simply a tool to separate elements from a larger and mixed portion of elements. Sometimes it is used to separate solid elements from a liquid solution. For example, in South Asian countries, the sieve is used to separate tea leaves from the tea.
Other times, a sieve is used to separate large elements from smaller elements. For example, in construction sites, sieves are commonly used to separate larger pieces of rock from smaller pieces.
It’s the perforated sheet material or woven mesh that does the job of separating the wanted from the unwanted elements.
How does it get manufactured? The process is different depending on the type of material.
Firstly, sieves are commonly metal. These are made from woven wires or from steel plates that get hole-punched a gazillion times.
There are sieves made from plastic as well. They are made from liquid plastic such as nylon or any other polymer. The plastic is then used to weave a fine mesh.
What Is a Sieve Used for? 12 Most Common Uses
The question should instead be, “Where isn’t a sieve used?”. There are quite a few places where you can see sieves being used. As mentioned before, sieves can be of many types made for different uses. Keeping that in mind, here is a list of common uses,
1. At Home:
Draining Water from a Pot of Noodles/Pasta
You may have done this many times in your life or have seen others do it in the kitchen. A sieve used to separate water from other items is called a colander. Here the water is discarded later rather than being stored.
Saving the Broth
When you boil bones, and vegetables to make a broth, you use a separator or a sieve to store the broth and discard the boiled items.
Making the Smoothest of Purees
Have you ever made a puree that became smooth by itself? No, you didn’t. Even after using a sharpen blender, purees still contain a few chunky pieces that need special attention. That is where a sieve comes in handy. Force the whole puree through the perforated mesh, and the chunky pieces will cease to exist.
Draining Canned Foods
Here’s another use, commonly seen in the west, where people often use canned foods. Canned beans and canned fruit also contain what we call broth or juice. Pour all the contents from the can into a colander or a sieve, and shake it for a while. You can then store the juice in another pot.
One of the vital parts of making cakes is making sure there is no coagulation of flour in the mix. We need to sift the flour using a sieve to ensure there are no large chunks of flour or other items.
Not many people might be familiar with this since it’s most commonly seen in South Asia, the UK, and a few other places. Most places used a paper filter tea bag (which is also a sieve in a sense). But the traditional way of making tea is directly boiling the tea leaves in the water until it releases all the goodies.
And then, you use a woven mesh nylon sieve to separate the used tea leaves.
2. Alternative Uses
As a Steamer Basket
You may not have seen a sieve being used like this. If you are short of steamer baskets, a sieve can be a perfect alternative. Just use a pan large enough that the sieve doesn’t bottom out and wide enough so that you can place the sieve properly. Pour water at the bottom, and there you go.
As a Dish Cover
If you can’t find a dish cover, you can use a nylon or steel mesh sieve as a temporary cover to protect your food from bugs such as fruit flies.
As a Vegetable Holder in the Fridge
Here’s another genius idea of using a sieve. This isn’t only an alternative, but it also brings benefits. By using a perforated mesh as a pot, you’ll be keeping the veggies fresh for longer.
3. Outside Home
Use It As a Soil Sifter Or to Separate Gravel by Size
We’ve ventured outside the home. Sieves of completely different sizes and shapes can be seen on construction sites. They use it to filter the fine gravel from the coarse ones.
You can see sieves in action at any construction site you go to. Just like you see sieves separating different sizes of gravel, it’s also used to sift soil or sand to remove any impurities. In a cement mix, impurities damage the quality. That is why a sieve is vital for sand sifting.
Separating Ground Materials Based on Particle Size in Mills
This is common use in flour mills where you pulverize grains in batches. After each batch is done, they are sifted through to separate the perfect ground powders from the imperfect ones. Then, they are ground again until all of the particles have the same size.
Benefits of Using Sieve
What do you get out of using a car? You get to travel places with ease. It’s the same with any tool or device we use. Here are the benefits of using a sieve:
- Easy separation of elements
- Quick straining of water
- Create the smoothest of purees
- Avoid flour coagulation in cake mix
- Alternative for a steamer
- Emergency dish cover
3 Common Substitutes for Sieve
What if you don’t have a sieve and you need one urgently? Fear not. There are pretty good alternatives that you can use. And these are likely available in your home.
- Cotton fabric
- Fine mesh bag
Cleaning Tips for Sieve After Using
Keeping your sieve clean all the time is 100% necessary if you wish to remain healthy. Since you’re going to use the sieve for multiple items, an unclean sieve will damage the taste of other dishes. Here’s how you can keep your sieve clean effortlessly:
- Clean it as soon as you finish using it. In this way, the items won’t dry up and get hard and stick to the sieve.
- Having a high-pressure water hose is great for these.
- A good old brush is always handy.
- If you forget to rinse and wash the sieve, it means the food and other particles remain stuck to it. Don’t worry. Just use warm water. It should be enough to get those out.
- When that doesn’t work, use a soap-water solution and a brush to clean the particles lodged in the mesh.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is a sift and a sieve the same thing?
The word “sift” is actually derived from the word “sieve.” So they are similar in a sense. But usually, they have different use cases. A sieve is usually used to separate the liquid from the solid. Whereas a sift is used to separate particles by size.
2. What is the difference between a strainer and a colander?
A strainer is anything that is bowl-shaped and equipped with a fine mesh. On the other hand, a colander has a similar shape but has much larger holes.
3. Can you use a shirt as a strainer?
Cotton is a good alternative if you don’t have a sieve. So, if the shirt is made of cotton, you can certainly use it as a strainer alternative.
4. What is the difference between a strainer and a filter?
While the two may have similar uses, they cannot be used interchangeably. Strainers deal with larger particles. But compared to strainers, filters deal with particles that are so small that they cannot be seen through the naked eye.
While the typical sieve with a round shape is primarily seen in kitchens, we’ve successfully dismantled the idea that a sieve is only a tool for the kitchen. As you read, this is a simple tool with so many use cases that you will use no matter where you go.
In many shapes and sizes, we’re using the sifting method to remove impurities. That being said, in the technical sense, it’s not a filter, as some people seem to think.