For some, sifting flour in the early stages of baking seems an extra, unnecessary step. But, to those in the know—like you, since you're reading this—it's a highly beneficial step that improves multiple aspects of the finished product.
While flour sits, it clumps together. And clumps don't mix well with other dry and liquid ingredients, and they can even end up intact in the end product. Thorough, even mixing is crucial to top-notch results when you're baking. Sifting separates and aerates the flour so that it mixes evenly, yielding lighter, fluffier baked goods free of floury bites.
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And sifting isn't only for flour. It can be beneficial with other dry ingredients like baking powder, baking soda, salt, dry milk and more. Plus, you can blend multiple dry ingredients together. Also, you can also use these kitchen tools for dusting—not only with flour (e.g., your kneading surface)—but also with powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and more.
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Flour Sifter
Capacity: Standard flour sifters have about a 3-cup capacity. And that's plenty if you mostly bake a cake or a batch of cookies at once. Larger ones mostly range from 5 to 8 cups, and these are recommended if you often make bread or big batches of baked goods. There are also minis that hold around a few tablespoons; these are primarily used for dusting with flour, confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder and so on.
The capacity obviously affects the size of the sifter, so think about your storage space, too. Remember, you can always reload a smaller one, so if you're short on space, don't feel obligated to get a big model.
Style: There are four main types of flour sifters. Two are similar, usually cylindrical in shape and often made from stainless steel, but one is operated by a rotary hand crank and the other by a squeeze handle. Other than the fact that squeeze handles allow for one-handed operation and may require a bit more hand strength, there isn't much practical difference between crank-style sifters and squeeze-style sifters; it's basically just a question of personal preference.
The third is a shake-and-tap type, the most common being a baking tool called a tamis. It's shaped like a snare drum and you load it up, then gently shake and tap it to encourage the flour through the mesh screen. They're especially good if you often dust (and mini sifters/dusting wands are a variation on this style). And then there are electric flour sifters, which eliminate the manual labor, though these kitchen gadgets may cost a bit more.
Screen: The screens on sifters vary in the size of their holes. Some have a very fine mesh screen, which flour and powdered ingredients easily fit through. The finer the mesh, the more effectively it aerates, but the longer it takes to sift everything through. If you use your flour sieve for sifting or mixing coarser dry ingredients, though—maybe for things like kosher salt or cornmeal—you'll want a mesh with larger holes.
Maintenance: Consider how easy cleanup will be when you're done with the sifter. Hand-washing is often the recommended method for cleaning for these utensils, though you can find dishwasher-safe products too. It can be a little tricky cleaning underneath the agitators in many sifters. With no agitators or moving parts, a tamis is usually easier to wash and care for. And because stainless steel is rust resistant, it's a better material option than other metals.
These are the main factors that will help you select the best flour sifter for your needs and preferences.
The Best Overall Flour Sifter
This is a traditional, lightweight, sturdy, durable stainless steel flour sifter sold at a good price for the quality. At 3 cups, it's a standard size, and it operates easily with a smooth hand crank. Conveniently, the exterior has clear, large measurements stamped permanently into the metal, while the single-layer mesh allows for faster sifting and simpler cleanup. A double loop agitator effectively and efficiently clears all the flour out of the canister. It's also tough enough to handle different types of flours like gluten-free flour and almond flour, as well as coarser ingredients like cornmeal and bran. Count on this product to last decades with proper care, which includes hand-washing.
The Best Flour Sifter With Squeeze Handle
If you prefer a squeeze handle for single-handed operation, this untraditional-looking flour sifter is a great choice. Its mouth is shaped for scooping flour right up. The unique rake quickly pushes the contents through the mesh screen, which has mid-sized holes that are perfect for a wide range of dry ingredients and can handle stickier stuff like brown sugar. Even with its V-shaped construction, it stands upright on the countertop, and the handle is designed so you can hang the sifter right on the edge of your mixing bowl as you go about other baking tasks. It's made from durable plastic and is top-shelf dishwasher-safe.
The Best Flour Sifter With Hand Crank
While our top pick was a similar hand-crank flour sifter, here's a similar but larger option that costs a few bucks less. It's made from durable stainless steel and has a user-friendly wood knob hand crank that turns easily and smoothly. At 5 cups, it has an above-average capacity you'll appreciate if you like to bake bread or large batches of cookies for the family. This product breaks up lumps and aerates ingredients quickly. Wash it by hand, and it'll last you a long time.
The Best Tamis
If you're looking for a dependable, affordable tamis, look no further. In fact, you get two for the price of one. There's a 6-inch and an 8-inch sieve, so you can choose the best size for the task at hand—with the smaller one making a great dusting tool. They're durably constructed from stainless steel and feature extra fine mesh screens. But the sifting isn't slow, thanks to the wider sifting surface than canister-shaped sieves. As an added bonus, you can use these for straining liquids. And, if you prefer something a little flashier looking, they're also available in gold.
The Best Budget Flour Sifter
For a flour sifter at the low end of the price spectrum for the category, this is a smart buy. The stainless steel, squeeze-handle sifter is just as durable, effective and efficient as other products on the list. The 2 1/2-cup capacity is slightly below standard size, but it's still plenty for many baking tasks, and adding a little more flour as you go when needed certainly isn't difficult. It has a super-fine mesh screen for top-quality aeration, while semi-automatic operation makes this sifter a little easier on your hand as you squeeze repeatedly, too.
The Best Electric Flour Sifter
If you prefer not to crank, squeeze or shake at all when sifting—which can get tedious and tiring when you have to do a lot of it—let this electric model do that work for you. All you have to do is push a button. This of course makes it a great gadget for arthritic or impaired-mobility bakers, or those who otherwise struggle using rotary cranks or hand triggers. A generous 5-cup capacity also means no reloading for most baking sessions. And it works faster than most other sifters. Made from durable BPA-free plastic with a stainless steel mesh screen, this electric sifter runs on one C battery (not included). Since it's electric, you can't put it in the dishwasher, but it does break down to some extent for easier cleaning.
The Best Large-Capacity Flour Sifter
For bread and big-batch bakers with some storage space, an oversized sifter is a convenient baking tool. At 8 cups, this one has more than double the capacity of standard flour sifters. The highly polished stainless steel looks great, too. It operates with a sturdy, smoothly rotating hand crank that has a comfortable, elegant-looking wood knob. The handle and the placement of the crank relative to it have an ergonomic feel during use. Heavy-duty construction and well-designed agitators keep this product working well and efficiently as you make your way through significant quantities of flour or other dry ingredients. Hand-washing is recommended.
The Best Mini Sifter for Dusting
While you wouldn't use this for most sifting tasks, it's always nice to have a mini sifter or dusting wand on hand. This is a sturdy brushed stainless steel piece with one of the soft, comfortable, nonslip grips the OXO brand is known for, complete with comfy thumb rest. Use it to dust your kneading surface or baking pans with flour, to top your bakes goods with powdered sugar or other ingredients, or to add some spices to your cappuccino foam. You can also use it to attractively garnish foods with ground herbs and spices in a controlled manner. It's super compact so it's easy to store, plus, it's dishwasher-safe.