All about efficiency, professional chefs generally have little time for single-purpose tools that take up precious space without earning their keep — think garlic presses, avocado slicers, and cherry pitters. Momofuku Nishi executive chef Nick Tamburo would throw afar more common piece of equipment into that category: the colander.
“I don’t think I’ve ever used one,” he says. “It doesn’t have that many practical applications.” Instead, Tamburo highly recommends a colander’s finer, conical cousin, the chinois. “You can use a chinois for everything you would use a colander for, plus so much more. Its selling point is its versatility.”
A chinois is a cone-shaped sieve made with fine metal mesh. It’s traditionally used for straining things that are intended to be very smooth, like stocks, sauces and soups. It usually has a metal or plastic handle and a little overhang on the opposite side, in order to rest it upright in a tall pot or a sink.
Most home cooks use a colander to do things like drain pasta and wash vegetables. A chinois can accomplish both of those things and more, since they are made from fine mesh metal. “You can pass a pureed soup or sauce through it to get a very fine texture, strain your own homemade nut milks, sift flour and other dry ingredients for baking, or make a very smooth ice cream base,” Tamburo says.
“I don’t know why home cooks don’t use them more often,” he says. “They’re dishwasher-safe, easy to store on hooks, and last forever.” He recommends an 8- to 10-inch model, along with a two-ounce ladle or a silicone spatula to help push liquids through. “Colanders just aren’t very multipurpose,” he says. “Why get one when you could have something that does so much more?” You can find plenty on Amazon as well as stores like Sur La Table sold solo, as well as ones sold with pestles and stands like this set from Food52.
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