Essential Tools

The Tamis Is the Underrated Kitchen Tool I Can't Stop Thinking About

Also known as a drum sieve, it's the key to the silkiest possible purées.

March 24, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

I feel intimately connected to every item in my kitchen. There’s the bowl I love to eat my oatmeal out of, the mug I only use for morning coffee, my favorite fork, the whisk I bought in college, my light green mandoline. I carry my favorites with me from apartment to apartment, sometimes even city to city. Some items—the hard-boiled-egg slicer—don’t stand the test of time. But the tried-and-true are here to stay.

That’s why, when I uncover a new, must-have kitchen tool, it feels like a revelation. Enter the tamis. What is a tamis? It looks like a springform pan, but with a flat metal sieve across the bottom. In Indian cooking, a chalni accomplishes a similar purpose. Others may know the tamis as a fine mesh strainer or a drum sieve (named for its shape).

Though for many the tamis may be nothing new, for me it’s opened an entire world of culinary possibility.

The crux of the tamis’s magic is in its flat mesh bottom. Unlike, say, a colander or a cylindrical strainer, the horizontal bottom allows for a more even and controlled straining experience, especially if you coax the substance through with a scraper.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“No where in this article do you actually show the device you are talking about. This happens so much here on this site, sad and frustrating.”
— George
Comment

Writers like Amy Scattergood have been proclaiming the benefits of the tamis for over 10 years now. In 2007, she published a piece in the Los Angeles Times extolling the virtues of the lesser-known kitchen tool. She talks to a bevy of restaurant chefs who swear by the tamis to accomplish anything from sifting flour to preparing gnocchi dough.

Andrea Galan, a former MasterChef contestant who’s worked in New York City and Barcelona, says every professional kitchen she’s worked in has used a tamis. “I remember at Abac, a Michelin three-star restaurant in Barcelona,” she says, “every day I had to make fresh mashed potatoes and I had to peel, boil, and strain tiny potatoes using the tamis.” At Dirt Candy in New York, she passed a spinach purée through their tamis to make a super-smooth concentrate that would form the base of a spinach spaetzle. “It’s a great tool for separating fiber.”

Our former test kitchen chef, Josh, even created a mashed potato recipe that calls for using a tamis. After softening the spuds in boiling water, he recommends smashing them through the tool. I imagine a dough scraper would work perfectly here, and can just see the softened potato eking through the mesh bottom, falling below into a soft mound of purée.

"I had never heard of a tamis until I started working in kitchens, but chefs love them for sifting clumpy dry ingredients like cocoa powder or confectioners' sugar, or analog-puréeing softies like roasted sweet potato or ripe avocado," says Food Editor Emma Laperruque. "The catch is it's bulky, which is probably why I never invested in one in my own kitchen. I might not have anything as versatile as a tamis, but there's almost always a tamis understudy (like a fork or whisk or fine mesh strainer) for whatever I need to get done."

Though the tamis dates back to the Middle Ages, it hasn’t trickled down into the average home cook’s arsenal. A cursory search for #tamis on Instagram reveals a tool used more for decor than any hardcore kitchen tasks. Perhaps it’s time that changed.

Do you have a tamis? How do you best put it to use? Let us know in the comments.


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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.

32 Comments

Sephi C. April 1, 2021
A tamis is great for sifting almond flour for macarons.
 
Cinnamin March 29, 2021
Maybe include a picture next time instead of just an affiliate link?
 
brushjl March 26, 2021
Please somebody just send me a link to where I can buy this blasted thing, I've been looking for it for months.
 
Smaug March 26, 2021
Amazon for one.
 
jack5895 March 27, 2021
The link in the article is "Enter the Tamis" and its underlined as a link. It takes you to
https://www.amazon.com/Winco-SIV-16-Sieves-16-Inch/dp/B001VZ6YJ4?dchild=1&keywords=tamis&qid=1616597169&refinements=p_72:1248915011&rnid=1248913011&s=home-garden&sr=1-16&linkCode=sl1&tag=food5201-20&linkId=15c863dacc3d920dfc0d101102635a10&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl
 
brushjl March 27, 2021
Thanks so much! Don't know why I didn't think to click that link. Tamis on it's way!
 
borntobeworn March 26, 2021
My objection is that the embedded video, which I expected to feature (or at least use) the device, was unrelated to the topic of the article. I imagine this is a mistake in publishing the article online??
 
tchafets March 26, 2021
I use my tamis for everything! Passing purées through it to make them silky and smooth, sift flour, separating seeds from coulis, straining anything and everything. It’s a great tool. :)
 
tchafets March 26, 2021
Winco Sieves, 12-Inch, Stainless Steel https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001VZAV8Y/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_9SZ0XBMWYET3QMT2GDYY?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
 
Panfusine March 26, 2021
The chalni is a multipurpose gadget in an Indian kitchen , apart from being used as a sieve, (most come with 3-4 interchangeable mesh sizes) they substitute well as a spatterguard, a steamer rack and ricers among other uses..
 
Jean March 26, 2021
Where did all these cranky people come from? Yes, it would have been nice to have a picture accompanying the article, but there is no need to be rude about it. It doesn’t cost anything to be civil.
 
Matt H. April 4, 2021
It also costs nothing for a food website to actually show a picture of what they're talking about.
 
Jean G. March 26, 2021
Where is a photo of this device you are yammering on about? Terrible article. Why are you employed?
 
bb March 26, 2021
See link I provided below (piece I wrote last year).
 
paseo March 28, 2021
I am surprised that someone ’liked’ your unnecessarily rude comment. This is a space for those who like to cook and, for the most part, like and respect each other.
 
Judith T. March 29, 2021
How rude. I didn't find a picture so I went to google. Low and behold there was one
Amazing what can be found. And you need to be nice
 
bb March 26, 2021
https://heated.medium.com/you-might-not-know-this-piece-of-kitchen-equipment-but-you-could-sure-use-it-429c37aed3c6
 
jack5895 March 25, 2021
Nobody bothered to follow the link? The item is for sale on Amazon and there's an excellent picture. I find that a little sad that we are so used to not having to do anything, but to have everything served up with no effort on our parts, that we've forgotten how to find information for ourselves, but not how to complain when an extra click is required to find the answer. And it's takes far less energy to click.
 
Smaug March 26, 2021
You could (and should, if you're interested) also look on Wikipedia and find out more about the device, but this is the article that was published. Since the Tamis is unfamiliar to so many readers, a picture would have helped readers at the outset to understand what they were reading about.
 
Judith T. March 29, 2021
Google too
 
Anusha J. March 25, 2021
I love the reference to the Indian 'chalni'. I agree that a picture would have been great. I had to click on the Amazon link in the article. And then it hit me! I grew up using the 'chalni' to sieve flour. It comes with interchangeable sieves to account for different grain types and purposes. We also used this to smooth out lentil purees that are used in dishes like 'puran poli'. I have no way to describe a 'puran poli' in a comment; the easiest way to describe would be that its' similar to the savory 'alu paratha' but with a jaggery-sweetened lentil and dessicated coconut puree stuffing.
 
Smaug March 24, 2021
A picture would have been good- I wouldn't use a food mill to strain flour (I actually LIKE my sifter), but it sounds like a lot of the functions overlap. Then I like my foodmill (an ancient Foley) too; I know there are a lot of bad ones out there-another tool that is often used more for decorative purposes than practical- but a good one is a real joy.
 
Jean March 25, 2021
I use a food mill for making mashed potatoes - no lumps! It’s also great for smooth applesauce. I use my sifter for combining flour with other dried ingredients as opposed to using a whisk, & for taking the lumps from confectioners sugar. I love them both.
 
Smaug March 26, 2021
The whisk may work well in a commercial bakery, with fast turnover of ingredients and well controlled storage conditions, but I don't think it's a great idea for a home cook-the sifter not only catches any stray materials but removes lumps- which most of us are apt to get in baking soda, baking powder, sugars etc. And it does a more dependable job of mixing ingredients.
 
George March 24, 2021
No where in this article do you actually show the device you are talking about. This happens so much here on this site, sad and frustrating.
 
Sam March 25, 2021
If the goal of the article is to inform the reader what a tamis is, then it's a failure. You're writing about an "essential tool" and don't show the tool. If the LA Times was writing about this in 2007 (with a photo!), it's not exactly stop-the-presses breaking news that needs to run IMMEDIATELY. My guess is a photo isn't included so readers will have to click on the Amazon affiliate link.
 
Smaug March 26, 2021
To be fair, it is pretty easy to visualize from a verbal description- not exactly a complicated device.
 
Judith T. March 29, 2021
You lazy people...how long does it take to go to Google? And you can get al.ost everything on Amazon.
 
Sam March 29, 2021
Not to belabor this any more, but yes I am aware on how to find a photo on my own. My problem is primarily with the fact that an Amazon affiliate link was included rather than an explanatory photo precisely so that readers will be more likely to buy it on Amazon, which this site gets a small cut of. Generally, when Amazon affiliate links are included in what is presented as a semi-journalistic article, the fact that the site earns a commission on Amazon sales is disclosed somewhere on the page. And secondly, Jess K.'s comment about the urgency of a trend piece doesn't make much sense.
 
Matt H. April 4, 2021
Wikipedia tells me that the tamis has been in use since the Middle Ages. No need to lie and say this thing is a "trend". Just tell the truth and say you didn't do your diligence and wrote an incomplete article.
 
Matt H. April 4, 2021
Judith, why should anyone has to waste their time and go out of their way to look up what a "tamis" is, when the author of this piece got paid to do a bad job?
 
Smaug April 4, 2021
The terms are not mutually exclusive. At this point the real question is what about this article has called out the brown shirts in such quantity and vehemence.