A skimmer is one of the most useful kitchen tools you never realized you needed. While it might not top the list of most-wanted kitchen tools, a high-quality skimmer is invaluable for safely removing food from hot liquids and oil, blanching vegetables, skimming foam from broth and removing congealed food off the top of liquids.
Nineteenth-century kitchen skimmers made of brass and iron had impressive heft but were likely uncomfortable to use while cooking. Today’s versions are available in lighter-weight materials including stainless steel, wire mesh, copper, plastic and silicone. Handles can be made of the same or different material, including ergonomic, weighted handles for ease of use and a better feel. A skimmer with a wooden handle is not recommended because liquid may soak into the wood and lead to food poisoning if not properly cleaned and sanitized.
Depending on their design and materials, kitchen skimmers may be referred to as spider skimmers, slotted spoons or sieves. All versions have a long handle, sometimes with a hook on the end for hanging in storage or as kitchen decor. This important feature keeps the cook at a safe distance from splatters, steam and heat while preparing food. Versions of skimmers differ mostly in the basket. Spider skimmers, used often in Asian cooking, have a basket resembling a wire mesh spider’s web. Slotted spoons look more like a large, round serving spoon with perforated holes on the bottom. Sieves are made of fine wire mesh and can be cone-shaped or round.
Kitchen skimmers also differ in basket depth. Skimmers with flat baskets are best for removing delicate foods without tearing and for skimming foam and congealed foods off the surface of liquids. Skimmers with deep baskets are ideal for removing larger amounts of food and to prevent food from slipping out.
Although many kitchen skimmers can be washed in a dishwasher, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the best ways to keep your skimmer clean.