In chilled soups, it's important to use a medium-mesh sieve for straining the blended purées. This size mesh is large enough to let the body of the purée through while blocking bits like tomato skins and seeds that would interfere with the pleasantly smooth texture of the soup. If a fine sieve were used instead, the soup would be watery because the vegetable pulp would remain behind in the sieve.
A fine sieve is better for straining sauces and liquids, like clarified butter. A coarse sieve is used like a colander for draining liquid from chunky vegetables and pasta.
But how do you know which is which? There are no standards for coarse, medium, or fine mesh, so using sesame seeds, we devised a way to demonstrate the size we mean for each:
Fine No sesame seeds will fall through.
Medium Some sesame seeds will pass through, a few at a time, when shaking the sieve.
Coarse All the sesame seeds will fall through with minimal shaking required.
Photos by Scott Phillips