Are looking for a chinois and wondered what the best strainer on the market might be. If you have, then this guide is for you.
In this article, we will look at what you should look for in a chinois, what they are, the benefits this type of strainer offers, and give our top choices for the best chinois strainer on the market.
What Are Chinois Strainers
A Chinois strainer, also called a china cap, or shinwa strainer is a type of sieve with a conical shape and wire mesh screens or a finely perforated bowl.
They come in a range of sizes, from small versions that will sit on a teacup to big models well over a foot in diameter that can handle large volumes of food.
Multipurpose cooking tools, shinwa strainers generally have a long handle attached to their top ring with a hook on the opposite side that allows them to hang over a bowl or be suspended on the edges of a sink.
Small versions often have very fine mesh and can be used for steeping tea. Larger models are used to strain soups, sauces, stock, fruit juice, and as a bouillon strainer. A shinwa is also very useful for making jellies and smoother jams and can sift flour and other dry ingredients.
Many models come with a stand or attachable legs, and most allow for a pestle that can be used to force food through the mesh giving it a fine texture that is difficult to achieve with most other strainers.
Before the advent of blenders, food processors, and other electrically powered mechanical food preparation tools, shinwa strainers with their fine holed interiors and ability to withstand high pressure was the preferred method of creating purees in gourmet kitchens around the world.
Even today, in many professional kitchens, these traditional sieves are preferred over more modern appliances due to the superior results they deliver when trying to remove seeds from berries and fruits or solids from broths.
No machine can match the fine texture that can be achieved by pressing ingredients through the mesh of a chinois strainer.
A shinwa strainer will perform all the tasks that you would normally ask of a mesh strainer or a sieve but much more.
Their name comes from the coolie hats that Chinese immigrants commonly wore. In French, the word chinois translates to Chinese, as in referring to people.
Both the strainer that we prize in our kitchens today and the hat that dates back for over a millennium have a cone shape. You will often hear them referred to as a china cap.
Benefits of Using A Chinois Strainer
Due to its conical shape, a shinwa strainer offers several benefits over other types of strainers or colanders. Here are just a few examples.
Being able to force ingredients through the fine mesh strainer means that you can remove bone fragments and seeds from liquids while still retaining as much or little rine and pulp as you desire. This increases the safety of food and drinks and gives you greater control over their texture.
Want fruit juice with loads of fine grains? You can make it. If you prefer more silky results, you have that option also.
Provided you choose a quilty sieve with well-made handles and hooks or one with a stand, they allow you to use both hands for pouring hot ingredients. This increases your control and decreases the likelihood that you will suffer a mishap that could lead to injuries and waste.
True chinois strainers excel at filtering seeds and other solids from soups and juices, but they have many uses beyond these basic functions.
A shinwa strainer with extra fine mesh is excellent for straining away tea leaves or coffee grounds. A china cap is ideal for pounding lobster shells when making lobster bisque or bouillabaisse. It keeps your hand away from heat and lets you extract every bit of the flavor.
You can easily create smooth vegetable purees as a base for other dishes by steaming your vegetables and then using the pestle to force them through the mesh. Best of all, the seeds and skins will be trapped in the chinois strainer. No other kitchen tool can match a chinois strainer for silky results.
Lastly, a shinwa strainer works well in place of a fine-mesh strainer. You can sift flour, powdered sugar, and other dry ingredients. You could even sift salt, but that would depend on the size of the small holes in your wire mesh.
In a professional kitchen, versatility is the name of the game. This is true both for the chefs and the equipment they use. That is why you would be hard-pressed to find a high-level restaurant that doesn’t use shinwa strainers for multiple purposes.
They are the go-to tool that culinary experts rely on day in and day out.
A chinois strainer isn’t just intended to let fluids flow through. They are built to have pressure applied. Even a fine mesh shinwa strainer can withstand forces that would destroy lesser cooking tools.
A quality shinwa strainer will have durable stainless steel construction, and some will be made of perforated steel instead of stainless steel mesh. There is no kitchen tool used for straining that can match the durability of a stainless steel chinois strainer.
Nothing beats the straining quality of a china cap. Their fine mesh and conical shape give you unparalleled control over consistency and the ability to control the texture of your finished products using the pestle.
Chinois Strainer Buyer’s Guide
To help make sure you get the best chinois strainer for your needs, here are a few essential items you should consider before deciding on the best fine sieve to buy.
A chinois strainer is not the cheapest piece of kitchenware you will likely ever buy. Their price can range from the upper teens to over one hundred dollars, with most falling in the thirty to sixty dollar area. For one of decent quality, you can expect to spend a minimum of thirty and should be prepared to part ways with half a Benjamin.
As is the norm, the more you can spend, the higher the value you will get for your money and the more options you will have available.
This might seem a little pricey compared to a regular strainer that you can pick up for a quarter of the price, but for the service life a good china cap provides and the many functions, they are still a bargain.
After all, it is cheaper in the long run to buy one high-quality shinwa sieve built to last than to save a few pennies today and have to buy again tomorrow.
It is not unusual to find home cooks using a shinwa strainer that belonged to their grandparents, and you can reasonably expect one of fine quilty to outlive you. This is, of course, provided you don’t abuse it and give it proper care.
You can buy a chinois strainer made from exotic materials such as exoglass. The vast majority will be made of stainless steel or tin-plated stainless steel, which dissipates heat faster.
You may see some cone-shaped plastic strainers offered, but these are not true shinwa and will not stand up to the wear a true chinois strainer is built for.
Likewise, you should only consider a shinwa strainer with stainless steel mesh. It can be fine mesh or coarse mesh. That choice is yours, but, in all practicality, only consider buying a stainless steel chinois strainer.
A stainless steel chinois is rust-resistant, stain-resistant, and generally dishwasher safe. More importantly, the strength and durability of stainless steel are difficult to beat.
There are many different size chinois strainers on the market, with most falling somewhere between three and fourteen inches. This gives you a lot of options to choose from, and without knowing what your intended use is, it is impossible to recommend the best chinois strainer size for you.
If you want to make tea, then one of the small models with an extremely tight mesh stainless steel bowl would be the ideal strainer.
For large jobs, like processing berries into a year’s worth of jam, you will want to look at a commercial-sized strainer that can handle large volumes of food at one time.
Beyond the width of the strainer’s mouth, you will also want to consider the depth of the strainer bowl.
A shallower strainer will let you sit it over shorter pots and bowls but can make it more difficult to press ingredients through the stainless steel mesh. A taller strainer with steeper sides will better keep foods concentrated in the bottom and make it easier to press and pound them through the fine holes in the stainless steel mesh of the strainer.
Handles and Hooks
Most shinwa will have a handle and a hook. In most cases, the handle will be of the same material as the top ring of the strainer, but there are some exceptions at the upper end of the price scale. These are high-tech materials intended to stay cool or have hardwood handles.
The main things to consider with chinois handles is that they should provide a comfortable grip, are strong, and are properly attached. The handle of a chinois should be welded, riveted, welded, and riveted, or an integral part of the top ring.
Hooks should be as strong as the handle. When suspended over a pan, they will be supporting half of the weight.
If the hook is made of too fine a material, it could flex or break, leading to spills. An even worse risk is that if the material is to then and properly polished, they can dig into your hand, making the strainer uncomfortable to use and possibly causing injury.
Fine Mesh or Coarse Mesh
The size mesh that will work best for you will depend on your intended use. Larger holes will allow liquids to drain faster and be easier to clean. With more holes per square inch, the fine mesh will deliver smoother products and trap fine particles.
Your options are almost limitless when it comes to choosing the mesh that will best suit your needs, and only you can know how you will use your chinois strainer.
Is sifting flour and catching tea leaves a priority for you, or are you only concerned with removing bone fragments with your bouillon strainer? Do you want to remove the seeds from blackberries, or is making traditional applesauce with its grainy texture more to your taste?
These are the questions you may want to ask yourself before purchasing a sieve in your kitchen. Then again, if your budget can stand the strain, you may wish to purchase more than one.
Our Picks for Best Chinois Strainer
New Star Foodservice 42566 3-Piece Stainless Steel China Cap Strainer Set
If you are an experienced sieve user, you know that they can be invaluable tools that perform many functions. You also probably know that how much use you get from one is greatly impacted by the quality of its build and the accessories that come with it.
This three-piece strainer set sits at the top of our list because it delivers everything you could ask and more. It comes with the stainless strainer, obviously, but also a chromed three-legged stand and includes a pestle. You often half to buy this last item separately and at an increased cost.
The build quality is outstanding, and the attention to detail in its fit and finish is a testament to the care New Star Foodservice puts into its products. From their choice of materials to taking the extra step of adding a layer of chrome plating over the sieves, including stainless steel stand screams, we care.
Adding chrome on top of stainless steel may seem like overkill to many but shows the attention to detail that goes into this strainer’s production. Chrome is even more rust-resistant than stainless and provides a slick finish that will help prevent the strainer section from sticking inside the stand even after applied pressure and heat.
If you have ever had to wiggle and pry to free metal parts that have gallded together, then you know what a wonderful feature and the time and frustration it can save.
Without a pestle, the usefulness of a shinwa strainer is more than cut in half, and we love that one is included in this set. For many people, us included, it is the ability to use a pestle to force the material through the mesh that defines a shinwa.
The maple pestle that comes with this strainer is contoured to match the angles and curves of the strainer, so no effort is lost and fatigue is minimized. It helps assure that every bit of flavor is extracted from ingredients and waste is minimized.
The last item that comes with this set is the stand, and we would be remiss if we didn’t at least mention the importance of it being included.
As mentioned above, the stand with the 42566 is chrome plated, making it a joy to work with. Using a stand for a sieve is much safer than hanging one of the lips of pans or over a sink.
While most quality models will sit steady, there is always the possibility of them tilting or rolling over. Most people have experienced this when draining pots of pasta or similar heavy products.
Like the one included in this package, a stand provides a stable base for your strainer and makes it safer to use. It can’t tilt and roll, and using it keeps both your hands free, which is a definite plus when handling large or heavy pots.
This is our top pick if you want a strainer for making stock, fruit compote, old-fashioned applesauce, or any other purpose.
Fine mesh for smooth textured food
Sturdy stainless steel construction
Tall stand for suspending over a bowl
Some buyers have complained the finish inside the bowl area could be smoother.
Users have expressed concerns that the maple pestle is subject to wear
Legs can slide on countertops and in a sink
Helper hook tends to flex
Met Lux 14.75 Inch Cone Strainer With Hook
Convenience is what this strainer is all about
Designed to handle larger quantities without becoming uncomfortable to handle, this stainless steel strainer has an ergonomically designed handle and hook for long food processing sessions that could become overly tiring with other strainers.
With a 14.75-inch sieving depth, this sieve is super easy to pour into without the need to take careful aim of spending all day supporting the weight of a heavy pot, and its larger than average mesh lets it drain very quickly. This makes the process even faster and less strain on your arms.
Many people feel that a seven-inch shinwa is perfect for home kitchens where cabinet space may be limited and working areas tight. It is large enough to handle family-sized portions yet small enough to be easy to maneuver and tuck away neatly and conveniently.
If space is at a premium and you need a cone sieve, then this offering from Met Lux is an ideal choice.
Buyers have noted that it works exceptionally well for processing maple syrup and honey and tomato sauce and vegetable-based soups. This gives us the impression that this is an excellent strainer for the household that needs one chinois to perform all duties.
It should be noted that this strainer does not come with a pestle or stand, but the hook does provide a firm grip on bowls or sinks, providing for hands-free use.
Ergonomically designed handle and hook for easy handling
Sturdy stainless steel construction
Medium holed strainer
Cone only, doesn’t come with stand or pestle
Flat bottom can gather debris, making food difficult to remove
Large mesh holes allow more pulp in fruit juice (could be a plus or minus depending on taste)
New Star Foodservice 34172 18/8 Stainless Steel China Cap Strainer, 12-Inch, Fine Mesh
Users have reported that this is a true do-it strainer. From home cooks using it to strain bouillon for making stock and broth to a food professional that uses it for everything from straining sauce to filtering his fryer oil, The 34172 from New Star Food Service appears to deliver sterling service.
Quality is the byword of New Star Foodservice, and it shows how this shinwa strainer is put together. Everything from their choice of 18/8 stainless steel to the details of its fit and finish tells you this company is serious about providing commercial quality products at a price that even home cooks can afford to buy.
This strainer’s wide mouth will greatly simplify pouring hot foods without the risk of getting burned or creating a mess. And its short height to width dimensions and solid hook make it usable on bowls that might be too shallow for other strainers.
Its massive capacity makes it possible to handle the largest volumes of foods quickly and easily. Working-up larger batches of fruits can greatly reduce the time needed for making jam, and this stainless steel monster can drain enough pasta in single cooking to meet the needs of the largest family gathering or church social.
As an added bonus, if you have no need for a strainer this large, it also comes in: 7″, 8″,9″, and 10″ models. All of them are built with the same durable stainless steel construction and smooth finish that makes the 12-inch such a dream to handle.
If you have a need for a large stainless steel sieve that can handle serious food preparation needs, this would be our first choice. It can handle cooking tasks for large groups of people and is built to a level that will never leave you wondering if it can handle the load.
As with some other models on this list, it should be noted that this strainer does not come with legs, a stand, or included pestle for mashing food through the mesh.
Workes well with shallow bowls
Large mouthed strainer
Quad welded hook
Finely perforated steel mesh bowl
Some buyers complain that it is too large and should have bought a smaller size.
Packaging is rather flimsy for such a heavy-duty stainless steel strainer
Fine Mesh Sieve Strainer Stainless Steel Cocktail Strainer Food Strainers Tea Strainer
From the largest stainless steel strainer on our list to the smallest. Some may argue that this strainer shouldn’t be on our list, but if you are an English tea lover, you will find this very fine wire mesh strainer handy in the kitchen, and it does have the requisite cone shape long handle and hook.
Yes, this stainless steel mesh strainer is perfect for steeping tea, but its size also makes it the ideal strainer for a single glass of fruit juice or a cocktail. With the densest per square inch hole count on our list, you’ll never have to worry about pulp.
This little jewel is a dream come true for concerned parents who worry about artificial ingredients in baby food. At just 3.3-inches wide, it fits neatly on cups and jars, and its mesh is sturdy enough for you to mash foods through to create smooth, healthy meals your baby will love.
Don’t judge this tiny stainless steel strainer by its size. It delivers big performance in a small package.
Finest stainless steel mesh strainer
Works well even with a small bowl or glass
Stainless steel construction
Excellent for dusting pastries
Helpful in making homemade baby food
Too small for most strainer jobs
Difficult to clean
The hook is relatively flimsy
HIC Harold Import Co. Pour-Over Permanent Coffee Filter
The HIC Harold Import Co. has a sterling reputation for providing top-shelf quality tools to professional chefs and home cooks alike. For over 50 years and three generations, this family-owned and operated company has remained dedicated to providing the highest quality kitchen gadgets at discount prices to cooks around the world.
While this HIC Harold Import isn’t technically a stainless steel chinois strainer, it is ideal to use as one when all you need is to cook or drain a small portion of food.
Extremely stout and with only a four-cup capacity, it can come in handy for straining a small batch of fruit juice or a small bowl of soup.
Built of rugged micro-perforated stainless steel, it is extremely strong and can outperform many mesh units many times its size. It can stand up to heavy use without folding up, and micro-perforations create smooth, creamy products that would make the finest French chefs blush.
Rugged stainless steel construction
Quality Hic Harold Import Co is known for
Lite weight for less fatigue
Must be hand-washed
Difficult to clean
Matfer Bourgeat Professional Bouillon Strainer/Chinois with Exoglass Handle
The most expensive if not the best chinois strainer on our list, the Matfer Bourgeat Professional Bouillon Strainer is a commercial grade strainer intended for food professionals coming to us from the land of gourmet food, France.
Considered by many to be one of the best on the market, they are expensive but generally considered more than worth the money.
The extremely tight weave of the mesh in this stainless steel chinois strainer delivers ultra-smooth textures no matter what mixtures you push through it, and its Exoglass handle provides a comfortable grip while keeping your hand cool even when handling steaming foods for long periods.
The handle is cast in place and permanently melded to the mesh, so you’ll never have to worry about it pulling free or separating at inopportune times. This offers a level of safety that is unparalleled.
This Matfer Bourgeat sieve has a dual hook design that provides extra safety and safety by preventing the strainer from tipping or rolling no matter what size bowl you use it on or how heavy the ingredients you pour into it.
Durable stainless steel basket
Cast in place handle for unparalleled strength
Dual helper hooks to prevent tipping
Exoglass handle for a comfortable, cool grip
Tight mesh for extremely smooth results and clean straining
Excels for making yogurt and nut milk
A tightly woven stainless steel basket can be hard to get free of small debris.
It doesn’t come with a pestle or stand
Drains very slowly
The Difference Between a Chinois Strainer and Colander
A chinois and a colander are very different kitchen tools. They can serve similar purposes and sometimes be substituted for one another but differ greatly in design and perform their best at differing tasks.
Shinwa is great for fine straining jobs like filtering the seeds out of blackberry or raspberry purees and tomato juice. They are also wonderful for creating ultra-smooth liquid textures like soup and sauce.
Colanders have larger mesh than sieves and are mainly used to drain fluids from foods quickly. They are a top choice for draining pasta or washing fruits and vegetables.
A Chinois has a cone shape with at least one helper hook on one side and a long pan-style handle on the other. They are designed to allow you to force ingredients through their mesh with a pestle or spatula breaking them down while filtering out seeds, bone chips, and the like.
Colanders are shaped more like bowls and usually have hoop-style handles on each side. They almost universally have short legs and are intended to sit in the bottom of a sink.
A bouillon strainer will often come with a stand or detachable legs that hold it fairly high to suspend it over a bowl or pot. If a stand is not available, their handles and hooks are intended for them to hang over bowls, pots, or the edges of a sink.
A china cap will often have a fine mesh screen to act as a strainer, while most colanders are plate material with much bigger holes to drain off liquids quickly.
Today, bouillon strainers are almost all made from stainless steel. Colanders can be formed out of stainless steel, plastic, or sometimes aluminum.
As a rule, a chinois strainer will be much more sturdy than your average colanders. They are designed to allow you to press food through their fine mesh with a pestle. A colander is intended to drain water away from food like cooked pasta or boiled vegetables and is not intended to have heavy forces applied to them.
You could say that a china cap is intended to be a strainer and colanders drainers. They are far from being the same thing. Chinois excels as a strainer and for creating ultra-smooth soups and sauces. They can also be used to filter pulp-free fruit juice or sift flour.
Colanders are wonderful for washing foods and draining liquids from boiled vegetables, cooked pasta, or to use as a basin when washing produce.
Frequently Asked Chinois Strainer Questions
What is a Shinwa strainer?
Depending on where you look, ‘shinwa’ translates to mythical, magical, or universal. It is a Japanese word that has no direct translation.
It would seem the last suggestion is probably the most useful for our purposes.
In reality, there is no difference between a shinwa strainer, a bouillon strainer, or a chinois. They are all the same cooking utensils.
It is a commonly held belief that the Japanese gave the name to the fine mesh strainers because of their universal usefulness when preparing food.
Why is it called a chinois strainer?
The name chinois comes to us from the French word for Chinese. It was given this name by chefs in Europe because the cone shape of the strainer resembles the coolie’s hat worn by Chinese immigrants.
The name had no disparaging intentions and was just an acknowledgment of the shape of the strainer.
They are also referred to as china caps for this same reason.
In some regions, you will hear them called shinwa strainers. Shinwa is a Japanese word that is best translated as mystical or universal. It is a widely held belief that this moniker was bestowed on these sieves because they can be used for almost any straining or draining purpose and can be used in place of many other kitchen utensils.
Can I use a sieve instead of a chinois?
Whether you can use a sieve instead of a chinois depends on what you are trying to accomplish. For sifting flour or straining juices, then a sieve will likely work as well as a china cap. These functions require little or no pressure to be applied.
The exception to this is if you are juicing items like berries that will need to be crushed to extract the juice. Most basket sieves and light handheld strainers are not intended to have any but the mildest pressure.
Working too hard can cause the mesh to separate or deform their baskets, greatly shortening their service life.
There is no contest if your goal is to create creamy soup and sauces with a smooth finish. A bouillon strainer will do a far superior job. It is was it was created to do.
They are intended to have food pressed through their fine mesh and are built sturdy to withstand the use of a pestle for that purpose. In this area, nothing can match their performance.
You can press food through a regular sieve using a spoon or rubber spatula, but most will not withstand the pressure you exert in a bouillon strainer.
It is always best to use a kitchen tool for its intended purposes. It will yield better results, require less effort, and, many times, be much safer.
As the old saying goes, “Half of any job is having the right tool for the job.”
What mesh is a chinois?
The best chinois strainer will have a fine mesh, but they are available with many different sized holes. Naturally, the finer the mesh, the smoother the texture of your finished products are going to be, and the smaller the debris they will filter. If you like a little pulp in your juice or want to extract every bit of pectin for making jellies and jams, then one with slightly larger holes might be best. If you want to strain away raspberry seeds, then the finest mesh you can find might be a better choice.
Which is the best option is entirely a matter of personal choice.
How do you strain soup stock with a chinois strainer?
Draining stock with a shinwa strainer is an easy process,
Place your strainer over a large bowl.
Pour all of the contents of your stockpot into the strainer
Give them a few minutes to drain through the mesh for all the liquids.
Use your pestle to press on the solids left in the strainer.
Most people who normally use a regular strainer to make soup stock have no idea how much flavorful juice is left in the solids after draining it. Using the pestle releases these juices and will improve the depth of flavor in your stock manyfold. That is one of many chefs’ secrets to making restaurant-quality soup.
Once you have extracted every bit of flavor from your stock ingredients, sit your bowl in the refrigerator for two hours. The fats will rise and harden as the stock cools, and you will be able to skim them from the surface easily.
You can use your stock immediately, recreate it for up to a week or freeze it to use at a later date.
There is no perfect strainer, but a stainless steel chinois comes closer than anything else you are likely to find. That is provided you choose wisely and find one to fit your particular needs.
The secret is to find a sturdy stainless steel model with a mesh fineness and size that matches the intended purpose. If it has a comfortable handle and a strong hook, you have a winner. Of course, features like a wooden pestle and stable stand must also be considered pluses.
Bring all these together, and you will likely have the best chinois strainer that you can buy.
It is our sincere hope that this strainer guide has been of some help in pointing you in the right direction.