Mesh-like utensils are common in both home and commercial kitchens. The size of the mesh’s grid or “holes” determines what it can be used for, and it also changes what we call it. The shape seems to be less important for its name.
Thus, a device with a very small mesh grid might be called a sieve or sifter. Larger holes make it a strainer. One with larger holes still might be called a skimmer.
Café Reconcile in New Orleans calls this large-mesh utensil a “spider”. That name is also used for a common Chinese utensil used in wok cooking. In that case the very open weave of the mesh looks vaguely like a spider’s web. Many restaurant supply stores will call this a skimmer.
“Skimmer” may be misleading here since its use seems to be mostly to lift cooked food from hot water or hot oil, rather than, say, skim the surface of a broth or stock.
The size of this utensil hints at its commercial use for large pots and restaurant-sized fryers. A slotted spoon would work fine for most home use. The advantage of such spider/skimmers, however, is that the larger mesh grid allows the liquid to drain off very quickly so the food dries quickly and there is less chance of splashing hot liquid on the cook.
In their own way, these utensils have a elegance that makes them look good hanging on a utensil rack. While you may not use a spider often, its utility makes it nice to have around when you need it.
Our Rating: For its relatively limited use, it’s worth having, especially for frying purposes.
Design: A long handle is a good idea to keep back from the hot liquid. Good stainless steel is essential.
Originality: These are standard designs. You can get square ones if you like that shape better, but round ones fit round pots better.
Practicality: Slotted spoons will work for this task, but spiders allow quicker draining, especially important with frying.