Sorting Lentils on a White Square Plate

Sorting lentils is just one of those necessary things you have to do before cooking lentils.

Sorting Lentils: Slowly pouring lentils on a white square plate and picking through them for foreign particles.
Sorting lentils on a white square plate. (Pictured here, French lentilles du Puy)

While it doesn’t happen often, on occasion there will be non-lentil particles among those lovely pulses. Sorting lentils is just one of those necessary things you have to do before cooking lentils. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long. In recipes, you will also see “picking through” which is the same as sorting.

The best way I have found for sorting lentils is to sprinkle about 1/4–1/2 cup at a time on a flat white plate, preferably square or rectangular, but a round dinner plate is fine. I use a square plate, because the corners give a natural spout to use to pour the sorted lentils into a strainer before rinsing. The particles, sometimes small pebbles or small hardened soil bits, often look just like the lentils themselves. The white surface enables you to spot non-lentil particles much easier.

As you sprinkle the lentils 1/4 cup or so at a time, you can look through them, remove any foreign looking bits, then push the sorted lentils to one side of the plate and continue. One dinner size plate is good for sorting through about one cup at a time. Once the one cup is sorted, you can pour them into the strainer and repeat with the next cup.

Sorting Lentils: Directing the lentils into the strainer by pinching from side to side with your fingers.

To pour the lentils into the strainer without having them fly allover the counter, you can direct them by pinching them from the 2 sides of the plate to the corner (spout) and into the strainer. The sorted lentils are now ready to rinse and you are free from worrying if you or someone will bite into to a hard pebble.

Tools used for sorting lentils:

  • dinner white plate, preferably square
  • measuring cup
  • strainer
  • prep bowl large enough to hold the strainer and the amount of lentils you are using.
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