What Is a Drum Sieve, and Do You Really Need One of These Tools in Your Home Kitchen?
Have you ever eaten at a restaurant where the mashed potatoes were so silky and smooth, you were momentarily transported to some kind of heaven? A drum sieve probably had something to do with it. Known as a tamis in France and a chalni in Indian cooking, this ancient tool is used frequently in professional kitchens around the world. At times, the terms strainer and sieve are used interchangeably, but officially they serve two very different purposes. A strainer is designed to separate liquids from solids (such as when you drain your perfectly al dente pasta in a colander). A sieve can work as a strainer, but its true purpose is to change the texture of the food you pass through.
Drum sieves are made up of two rounds that are connected by a fine mesh disc at the bottom; it resembles the shape of a springform pan (or a snare drum, if you're musically inclined). Sizes range from a petite six inches in diameter to 18-inch behemoths (though those are usually best for professional kitchens that need to prepare a gallon of potato purée at a time).
A drum sieve will swiftly transform lumpy confectioners' sugar, chopped nuts, and all kinds of flours into a fine powder that will result in lighter, more aerated baked goods. Using it couldn't be easier, either: Set it over your work bowl, pour your ingredients in, and give it a few taps on the side to get things moving.
If you are a frequent bread baker—passionate to the point of wanting to buy a grain mill to make your own flour—then a drum sieve should be near the top of your shopping list. This is because a batch of freshly-milled flour still retains the bran and germ which make it whole-wheat. You're going to want the drum sieve on hand so you have the option to remove most of the bran for recipes that call for all-purpose or high-extraction bread flour.
The Main Strain
This is where the smart design of the drum sieve really comes into play. Because of its generous surface area, it can strain out the pulp and seeds from a tomato sauce or raspberry purée with just a few quick swipes from your spatula or plastic bench scraper. And while the cylindrical or bowl-shaped sieves are the dominant style, a drum sieve works much faster and easier because the foods won't get plugged up at the bottom.
Before You Buy
Ultimately, you would want to add a drum sieve to your kitchen tool collection if you want an easy way to level up the refinement factor of what you cook. You simply won't believe the smoothness you'll get by passing your favorite recipe for chocolate mousse or chicken liver paté through a drum sieve.
When shopping around, know that drum sieves can be made from aluminum, stainless steel, or wood; but we recommend purchasing a stainless-steel version if you plan to use it for more than sifting dry goods—it will be much easier to clean and the finish won't rust or dull. The mesh insert comes in different levels of coarseness that are classified by how many holes per square inch. The higher the number, the finer the mesh will be. For sifting the bran out of homemade flour, anything between 40 and 60 will be fine enough. Our pick is the Falytemow Flour Sieve ($17.99, amazon.com). For other uses, opt for a mesh that is a tiny bit larger so it is more versatile for fruit and vegetable purées like the KitchenCraft Fine Mesh Tami/Drum Sieve ($11.95, amazon.com).