What is a Tamis?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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Strainers have a very important role in the kitchen. These cooking utensils are necessary to help eliminate excess liquid from a dish. A tamis, which is a type of drum sieve, acts not only as a strainer, but also as a food mill and grater.

A traditional tamis is made from wood or metal, such as stainless steel. A round instrument that features a mesh disc, it can come in varying sizes. The diameter of a common tamis range from seven to 12 inches (18 to 30 centimeters). Instead of mesh, some of these instruments may feature nylon or fine metal for straining and grating.

Made of metal or wood, the tamis is often used in French and Indian cooking. Also known as a chalni, the instrument varies from a traditional colander; rather than featuring a bowl-like, curved interior, the mesh part of the strainer is flat. This allows the cook to pour the food being strained on top of the device, pushing it through with a pestle or scraper to fully remove its liquid content.

Semi-viscous foods are best strained with the drum sieve. Rice and bean dishes in particular can have their water content successfully reduced with the tool. Berry-based sauces can be smoothed into uniform textures with the chalni, keeping lumps of the fruit out of the finished product.


This shape also allows for optimal grating pressure. A chef can push the device downward, in a horizontal motion, in order to easily grate foods into smaller pieces. Many chefs consider this tool to be the best device for executing the finest grating possible, and use it to create the smallest particles of a product for use in recipes.

Tamis sieves may also be used in place of a flour sifter for cocoa, sugar, flour, and other dry ingredients. Clumps found in these food can be easily removed with the help of a tamis. When handling extravagant orders, or a large amount of food in a short amount of time, chefs often opt for this instrument rather than a traditional sifter.

When using this tool, grasp it with the inside hoop on top. This allows the device to contain more food, preventing unnecessary and unwanted spills or drips. This also allows for maximum room and filling capacity of the bowl resting beneath the sieve.

Pronounced "tammy," the instrument has been used since the Middle Ages. In addition to the cooking utensil, the word has another meaning: the TimiƟ River is also sometimes known as the Tamis. This river flows through Romania and Serbia.


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