This is a Chinois.
I lived a long time without a Chinois, thinking "a strainer is a strainer". Well, that's just not true. There's a reason a Chinois is an important tool in professional kitchens. It's faster than a traditional strainer, more accurate with fewer drips, and the perforated steel surface is far, far easier to clean up than a mesh strainer. I now can't live without this tool.
Why is it faster and more accurate? I guess it's just a perfect shape and design for the job. On the one hand, it's like an old fashioned metal colander with smaller holes, just cone shaped. But with the addition of a handle and a lip on the opposite side, it's easy to wield. While I have used it for draining a batch of pasta or rinsing rice, it really comes into power when you need to strain something with solids like a sauce. OK, at the moment I can't think of anything to strain with solids that are NOT a sauce, just bear with me.
A few comments Chinois-related:
- You French speakers will recognize Chinois as the word for Chinese. This tool has been called a China Cap or Chinese Hat. In French kitchens it was thus appropriately called a Chinois.
- A medium sized Chinois has a pretty large capacity. Mine is only 7.5" diameter, and it holds….well, I can't tell the capacity, it's got all these little holes in it. Anyway, it holds a bunch, useful for anything I've needed so far. They come much larger and smaller sizes. This medium one is just fine by me.
- The first really big difference to a mesh strainer is that you can press hard onto the sides of the Chinois, but would be stressing and almost tearing apart most strainers.
- Beware – some Chinois use mesh too, you want one that's perforated solid stainless steel.
- Chinois are often used with a pestle, or pressing tool, to further speed up the straining/pressing process. A spatula works well, but I can see how the pestle might work better. I may buy or make one soon.
- Some Chinois are sold with a three legged stand, so it can balance over a bowl. Mine is large enough that I can balance it across two sides of my sink, and then let it drip into a bowl or pot in the sink. I'm fine without one more thing to have to store somewhere, so I'll skip the stand.
A couple of the things I've made lately where the Chinois came in handy are:
Pineapple Soup (dessert) with champagne sorbet
Homemade Chicken Stock