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Once a necessity for anyone in the kitchen, flour sifters are now a nice-to-have kitchen accessory that can aerate your dry ingredients and be used to lightly dust powdered sugar, cocoa, or spices onto a finished cake or warming beverage. So, if you want your baked goods to taste and look perfect, they're still very essential.
Sifters primarily came into use to weed out flour milled too large for baking, or to break up flour that had lumped together during production or storage. Now that flour is mass-produced, you can get away without sifting in many cases, though sifted flour will improve the texture of light cakes, like angel food cake, and starch-thickened sauces or creams, and decrease any chances of flour lumps. A good rule of thumb is to sift flour that has been sitting around for a few months, or if it could've gotten wet in any way.
All flour sifters involve a mesh screen; some have a sieve and you whisk the flour around to pass through the screen, while others have a bottom agitator that works via a squeeze handle or crank. Sieves are more versatile but can cause a mess during the measuring. Handled sifters keep the mess contained, but need to be carefully cleaned to avoid hardened flour from clogging the mesh. All work for sifting ingredients, and the choice just comes down to what you need for your kitchen.
Here are the best flour sifters for all your culinary needs.
Best Overall: Bellemain Stainless Steel 3-Cup Flour Sifter
What We Love: Measurements stamped on the outside, ideal for bakers with limited mobility, 3-cup capacity works for most uses
What We Don’t Love: Requires two hands to operate
Bellemain's stainless steel flour sifter is the best choice for most baking projects. The 3-cup capacity is ample without being too big (thus, too heavy), and the measurements stamped into the side let you check capacity at a glance. The crank handle design won't strain your wrist, making this a good choice for bakers with arthritis or other mobility issues. The 6-inch tall sifter is designed to be rustproof, though you’ll probably want to thoroughly dry it after hand-washing, or, if you really want to be on the safe side, simply shake out the ingredients.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 3 cups | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Budget: MaMix Stainless Steel Flour Sifter 3 Cup With Hand Press
What We Love: Ample capacity, cute design with mint green exterior and a wooden handle
What We Don’t Love: Only a single stainless steel mesh screen
Lightweight and durable, the 6-inch tall MaMix's Cup Flour Sifter gets the job done for bakers on a budget. It's the same 3-cup size as the Bellemain, but lacks any capacity measurements on the side, so you'll definitely have to accurately measure your flour. The crank-style sifter features a picturesque mint green exterior that is complemented with a wooden handle, while the 2-wire agitator works to aerate your ingredients. When it's time to clean up, an easy wipe-down with soapy water should do the trick, but be sure to thoroughly dry it.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 3 cups | Dishwasher Safe: No, hand washing recommended
Best Mini: Onwon Powder Sugar Shaker With Lid
What We Love: Can be operated with one hand, comes with a plastic lid to avoid mess
What We Don’t Love: Limited to times when you need a dash of flour or powdered sugar
There are times when you only need to sift a small amount of flour, like when preparing a cake pan, or simply want to lightly coat a cake with confectioner's sugar or cocoa powder. In those cases, the Onwon Powder Sugar Shaker with Lid is a good alternative to a larger flour sifter. Simply invert the shaker to sift a dash of flour onto your cake pan, or onto a surface for kneading dough or rolling out cookies to cut. This stainless-steel shaker features a small mesh screen that screws into the canister and can be capped with the included tight-fitting plastic lid to avoid any mess and keep any bugs away.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 0.5 cups | Dishwasher Safe: No, hand washing recommended
Related: The Best Loaf Pans
Best Electric: Norpro Battery Operated Sifter
What We Love: Large 5-cup capacity, electric operation is recommended for bakers with mobility issues
What We Don’t Love: Requires batteries to operate
The Norpro Battery Operated Sifter is a wrist-saver when it comes to sifting flour. There's no crank to turn or handle to squeeze; instead, it easily gets the job done at the push of a button. This flour sifter is made from BPA-free plastic with a stainless steel mesh filter for sifting. The 5-cup capacity is generous enough that you should be able to sift the flour needed for your recipe without refilling. You'll need one C battery, not included. Battery-powered sifters do have a downside; if you run out of juice, you'll have to sift manually.
Material: Plastic | Capacity: 5 cups | Dishwasher Safe: No
Related: The Best Baking Pans
Best 1-Cup: RSVP International Endurance Stainless Steel Vintage One-Hand Sifter
What We Love: Dishwasher safe, small capacity, one-handed operation
What We Don’t Love: Can be tiring to use if you need several cups
My mother-in-law is always on the hunt for a 1-cup flour sifter. Her logic? Many recipes call for flour in 1-cup capacity. She wants to be able to measure and sift with the same device. RSVP International's 1-cup flour sifter capably meets this small-batch need. At only 3 inches tall and 4 inches across, this stainless-steel option is easy enough to store as well. There’s a 3.5-inch long handle, which you squeeze with one hand to sift your ingredients through the mesh. The small capacity can be a downside if you need several cups of flour though, and squeeze-style sifters can lead to hand fatigue.
Material: Stainless steel | Capacity: 1 cup | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
For both big and small jobs, the Bellemain Stainless Steel 3-Cup Flour Sifter (view at Amazon), which uses a crank design, can handle every baking project with ease. If you're more inclined to do small baking projects and want a sifter for dusting a cake or adding cinnamon to your latte, the RSVP International Endurance Stainless Steel Vintage One-Hand Sifter (view at Amazon) is easy to use and easy to store.
What to Look for in a Flour Sifter
Hand crank, squeeze handle, and sieve are the most common styles, but you'll also find shake-to-operate and electric flour sifters. "With the typical bowl-shaped [sieve], it’s very easy to spill flour over the top, and the handle isn’t easy to grip," says Claire Wells, a baker and pastry chef with nearly 10 years of experience. "Similarly, hand-crank sifters can cause stress on your hand and wrist over time."
Most home cooks will end up with a classic hand crank and squeeze handle model. These come in different sizes, from tiny 1-cup versions to massive 8-cup ones, and it's especially easy to fill, though you might have a bit of ingredient come out of the bottom when measuring. While they are washable, you do need to dry them thoroughly to avoid rust. Like Wells stated, these can also pose challenges for anyone with hand or wrist issues and can cause fatigue for everyone.
Flour sifters are a pain to wash; any flour left inside will turn into a paste when wet. Once clean, a wet flour sifter can't be used because flour won't fall through the holes. As a rule, wash only when you know you're done baking for the day. It's perfectly fine to not wash a sifter and just tap out any extra flour when you're done.
All-metal flour sifters can be put in the oven to dry (except electric ones, that is), so there is a workaround for a last-minute need. A hairdryer is another fast way to dry a sifter. Stainless steel sifters are generally dishwasher safe, though some can develop rust over time. Battery-operated sifters must be hand washed.
Why do you need to sift flour?
Traditionally, flour was sifted to remove lumps and create uniformly sized particles. Nowadays, flour is a highly uniform product. While you can get away without sifting it, particularly for everyday bakes like brownies or cookies, Wells recommends sifting when making light sponges or when using flour as a thickener. In the latter case, sifting can prevent clumps.
"These larger particles can make your final product lumpy and/or dense," she says. "Sifting adds air to the mix and ensures the flour is as fine as possible, which will make your cakes lighter and more fluffy. It’s also very helpful when you need to incorporate other dry ingredients, such as cocoa powder or matcha."
Do you measure before or after you sift flour?
It depends. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, sifted, measure then sift. If it calls for 1 cup of sifted flour, sift then measure. Since sifting aerates the flour particles, these measurements will differ slightly.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Lindsey Danis is a food writer for retail and trade publications and a former baker who’s worked in restaurants and bake shops from coast to coast.
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