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Many recipes call for straining the almost finished soup to get rid of any extra chunky bits and get the best mouthfeel. But I am really confused, because with any reasonably fine sieve I filter out almost all of the vegetable matter and end up with a very thin soup.

Not mentioning it's hard to actually finish the filtering process, because the sieve gets all cluttered. The same goes for certain sauces such as Bechamel. Not sure how I can strain the sauce, because it's so thick and doesn't go through the sieve very easily.

What's the best way to achieve really smooth soups and sauces? What kind of sieve should be used?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You could always blend before you strain. I find that when making soup of all kinds that a few minutes with my immersion blender does wonders for the final product. Not only does it puree all the solids into much smaller chunks, but it also makes sure that all the liquid is a homogeneous whole.

After blending, I also tend to strain just to get out anything that I might have missed. I use a fine mesh strainer and a spatula to force the liquid through quickly. I also own an old flour sifter that I have used quite a few times instead of the strainer, but it doesn't offer any real benefits over the other.

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I love my imersion blender, it makes creamy veggie soups a breeze. If you don't have one you can use a normal blender, just be careful not too add too much liquid at a time. –  Manako Sep 1 '10 at 20:32

A piece of equipment you might really enjoy is a conical strainer (a chinois, pejoratively known as a china cap). They can be hard to find in a home kitchen store, but hit a restaurant supply and they will have them in several sizes of cone and hole. When you strain a soup or sauce through it, you can agitate it with a ladle to move the clogging stuff out of the way and let the goodness through. If you are straining it so thoroughly that it is now thin and unpalatable, you may want a slightly coarser strainer. (Or you can thicken the soup further by reduction or a starch after you strain).

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I thought about getting one, though they're a bit expensive. Does it offer any real difference compared to your normal sieve? I tend to have the same problem straining my stocks - the sieve just gets blocked too easily. –  VoY Aug 29 '10 at 18:29

In order to get a soup through a sieve, take a ladle and stir it in the sieve while touching the mesh. This works loads better than a spoon or spatula. I think the advantage is more contact with the sieve due to the shape. Instead of pushing liquids out of the way as with a spatula, you actually push it through the sieve. I was amazed how much more effective this is than using a wooden spoon or something flat-ish.

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+1, I do this all the time, and because I'm usually serving the soup right after it means one less utensil to clean. –  MeltedPez Aug 30 '10 at 0:03

There is actually a specialized tool for making sure that your blended soups are the right consistency: a food mill. I own one that's almost exactly the same as the one pictured, and it's incredibly useful for soups. Other versions have interchangeable bottoms to allow you to mill your food to the exact texture you want.

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