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Ask a Foodie: Who Needs a China Cap?

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Q. What is the difference between a ricer and a chinois? And what is a China cap?

A. A potato ricer is a metal tool with a perforated basket and a metal disk that fits inside the basket.  A long handle is attached to the disk and another is attached to the basket. To use it, you fill the basket with cooked potatoes (or other cooked vegetable). Then you position the disk over the food and press the handles together. This forces the disk down and the potatoes through the perforations, making a finely milled product. Some cooks prefer to rice hot potatoes rather than mash them, saying that riced potatoes make for fluffier results than mashing.

A chinois and a China cap are similar, but not exactly the same. A China cap is a conical metal strainer with a handle attached to the top rim. It is used for straining food or for immersing vegetables in boiling water to blanch them. A wooden plunger can be used to force the product through the holes.

A chinois is like a China cap, conical and used for straining. But the cone is made of very fine mesh, such as stainless steel mesh, and so is used to strain very finely.  It can strain out seeds and bits of seeds, take tiny lumps out of sauces or broths. It is sometimes called a bouillon strainer.

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