There's a piece of kitchen equipment (described below) that I frequently find myself wanting, but I can't find any sign that any such thing actually exists. Perhaps I've looked in the wrong place. Perhaps there's a reason why it wouldn't actually be as useful as I think. Does it exist? and, if not, why not?

The thing that (I think) I want is a disc of food-grade stainless steel, somewhere around 25cm across, maybe 3-5mm thick, with lots of smallish holes in it.

It's meant to address the following problem: When you're making stock, you have a big pot containing bones, vegetables, and whatnot, in water. You want to be able to skim foam and fat off the top, but that's difficult because on that top surface there are also (1) floating things (e.g., peppercorns, bay leaves) that you don't want to remove and (2) larger things that aren't floating but that reach all the way to the surface (e.g., larger chicken bones).

So you put the metal disc in your stockpot, once everything else is in. It doesn't sink very far because of all the stuff underneath it, but it's heavy enough that it pushesthose bones down enough that they no longer reach up to the surface of the liquid in the pot, and it mostly stops smaller floating things getting to the top too. Now you can skim off the fat and foam more easily.

Since I don't see any sign that anyone makes these things, my guess is that there's a reason why it wouldn't be useful, but the reasons I can think of don't seem very convincing:

  • It would need to be the right size for your stockpot, and stockpots aren't all the same diameter.
    • It would need to be roughly the right size, but I bet a few different sizes would be enough.
  • When making stock you should use more liquid, so that you don't have a problem with bones etc. reaching up to the top.
    • I'm pretty sure this isn't true, and have at least one cookery book of impeccable provenance that specifically says to add just enough water to cover the bones. But maybe I'm badly misinformed? Also, however much liquid you add there will be things that float to the top.
  • When making stock you should have just barely enough liquid to cover the bones, so if you do this the metal disc will just sit on the top and not do anything useful.
    • You want enough that it does cover the bones, and at least in my experience that means enough that if you push down on all the bones you absolutely can push them a centimetre or so below the surface.
  • It's somehow important for the bits that end up on the top to be exposed to the air.
    • Seems super-implausible to me.
  • The floaty bits will just make their way around the edge of the disc to the surface and so it won't do much good.
    • That certainly won't happen to bones, or to any but the smallest floaty bits.
  • You shouldn't be bothering to skim off fat or foam while making stock. Just remove scummy bits when the water first gets to simmering point, and then leave it completely alone.
    • I have definitely seen recipes that explicitly say to continue skimming, but maybe that's pointless? I think most of what comes to the surface after the initial foamy stuff is just fat, which obviously you're going to remove later anyway (or maybe leave there, for flavour at the cost of clarity). But it seems like this would be useful even if the only thing you remove is the initial foamy stuff: it would make it easier to get more or less all of it out.
  • What will actually happen is that the grot you want to remove accumulates under your metal disc, so it will make things worse rather than better.
    • I wouldn't have thought that would happen. But I could be wrong.

So ... what am I missing? Would this be useless? Does it already exist? If so, what's it called?

  • Annoyingly, there's another question on SA that is exactly yours, and there are multiple sources for such a thing. I'm having trouble finding the other question though. – FuzzyChef Nov 14 '20 at 0:56
  • Hi, while I also cannot find the duplicate question right away, I am certain that it exists. But what is more important, we don't take questions which ask why something doesn't exist. There is no natural law that requires every society to popularize every potential useful technolgoy. Any guess why it didn't happen tends to be random opinion. – rumtscho Nov 14 '20 at 11:44
  • For what it's worth, I did try quite hard to find other questions that might ask something similar. – Gareth McCaughan Nov 14 '20 at 12:09
  • @rumtscho May I respectfully push back on your decision to close this? 1. I ask not only "why not" but, first, "does it exist?". Surely "does such-and-such a useful kitchen tool exist?" is right on topic here. 2. The point of asking why not is that perhaps this tool would actually be useless or make things worse, and again it seems to me that "would this kitchen tool be effective?" is right on topic here. So ... [continues] – Gareth McCaughan Nov 14 '20 at 12:12
  • @rumtscho ... would this question be rendered on-topic and reopenable if (a) I removed the "why not?" portion and/or (b) I replaced "why not?" with something more like "would it actually be useful in the way I imagine it would?"? (I would prefer (b) to (a).) – Gareth McCaughan Nov 14 '20 at 12:13

Have you considered repurposing a steamer insert? I don't know how the weight would suit you, but if you're handy, you could probably chop the feet off and add a weight to the top stem thing. Although the feet shouldn't cause too much of an issue. The main problem I foresee using a steamer insert in this way would be cleaning it. But as long as you don't let it sit around, that wouldn't be too much trouble.

enter image description here

  • That's an interesting idea. I don't happen to have one, but they're readily available and cheap. I wonder whether it would be inclined to fold itself up, though. – Gareth McCaughan Nov 13 '20 at 22:50
  • Based on mine it seems unlikely, but you could flip it over? – kitukwfyer Nov 13 '20 at 22:55
  • This style of steamer insert would work better. In fact, my stock pot came with one that matches and the pot lid fits on top of it. I think it's intended for making pasta. – csk Nov 14 '20 at 3:47

I will sometimes use a strainer or a colander, which keeps floating things out of the way when I want to skim or remove liquid. Another option is a soup sock.

  • Me too. But (1) if it's not sitting there all the time then putting it in place disturbs the stuff you want to remove and may make it more difficult to remove rather than easier, and (2) having it sit there all the time doesn't work so well as with my hypothetical perforated disc because (a) you can't get the whole thing below the surface and (2) anything at the edge is difficult to get at because the strainer/colander and the edges of the pot get in the way. – Gareth McCaughan Nov 13 '20 at 22:02

This tool actually exists, in several forms. One is the Japanese otoshibuta, per the answer to this related question. While most otoshibutas are wooden disks, perforated metal ones do exist.

The version I'm familiar with, and in fact make in my pottery shop, is the Dolma Weight. This takes the form of a heavy ceramic disk with holes in it, and despite the name is used for a variety of tasks and not just dolmas. I've sold several as weights for people who do sous vide cooking.

Fermentation weights are similar, but not quite what you want since most of the time they are thick disks without perforations, and you're correct that you want those for making stock.

You are absolutely correct that having a small assortment of sizes is good enough. I have three at home, one 6", one 9", and one 11", and that works for all the pots I have.

  • This is very helpful! (Except that so far my google-fu is not sufficient to find actual perforated otoshibuta or dolma weights that I could buy. And yes, I did look at your online shop...) – Gareth McCaughan Nov 14 '20 at 12:26
  • Contact me through the form at fuzzychef.org if you're interested, but really this isn't a sales pitch (I don't have any in stock). More that people do make them, but they aren't really a mass-market thing. – FuzzyChef Nov 14 '20 at 20:54

This is very similar to a false bottom used for mashing in brewing beer. For that purpose the point is the opposite, to keep things from getting to the bottom and scorching. But it seems like it'd work just as well for what you're trying to do.

enter image description here

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