A colander is a bowl-shaped kitchen tool with holes to separate solids from liquids or fine ingredients from larger ones. Sieves and strainers, for instance, are in the same family, though their shape and purpose tend to be slightly different. Colanders can be made of several different materials, such as stainless steel, silicone, nylon, ceramic, recycled plastics, and even glass. The holes can be small, medium, or large, depending on what you want to strain. Most often, colanders are used in the kitchen to drain water from just about anything: pasta, rice, beans, canned goods, tofu, fruits, or vegetables.
Why buy a colander?
Many kitchen tasks are made more difficult to complete without a colander. It can be a little scary to try draining pasta using the lid from the pot. You may lose control of the lid and end up with a burn on the hand or face if the water splashes. With canned goods, even if you have a nice can opener, the edge of the lid and rim of the can are sharp. You could open the can until there’s just a bit of the lid still connected to the can, then press the lid in as you pour the liquid. But then you risk slicing a finger, and you’re still left without a way to rinse the food if needed. Basically, if you cook on a regular basis, it just makes sense to have a colander on hand. This kitchen tool allows you to rinse foods much more thoroughly. Rather than cup your hands with berries and rinse them in the sink, use a colander; it frees up your hands so that you can pick stems or little leaves off and get your produce extra clean.
What should you look for in a colander?
- Design: When picking a kitchen colander, there are a few design options to consider. Do you want a bowl, basket, or spoon-shaped model, or something more unique? Do you want a strainer with two handles on either side or one single long handle? Or do you want a more unique, modern style that will clip directly onto your pots, pans, and bowls? Would you want the security and comfort of a nonslip grip on a colander with handles? How large or small do you want the bowl to be? Do you want a single colander or a matching set? These are all questions worth considering when picking a colander for your kitchen.
- Material: Metal and silicone are the most common materials for kitchen colanders. If you want the durability of a metal one, look for a stainless steel model when possible. Stainless steel won’t rust, an important factor for a device that often comes into contact with water and moisture. And most stainless steel colanders are dishwasher-friendly. Silicone colanders are the more ergonomically friendly choice since they’re much more lightweight and flexible. Plus, silicone is non-insulating, unlike metal. Many silicone colanders are compact or even collapsable, which will save space in your kitchen drawers. Both metal and silicone make for more durable and long-lasting options than materials like plastic.
- Holes: Colanders can have a more mesh-like appearance, small or large round holes, or long, thin holes. Consider the type of foods and ingredients you’ll be straining or which tasks you might use it for to determine if you should pick one type of hole over another. If you’re rinsing small grains or seeds, you’ll want a colander with smaller holes. For a large slab of fresh tofu, you’ll want a colander with medium to large holes; otherwise, you’ll be standing over the kitchen sink waiting for a long time. You wouldn’t want to use a colander with large holes for straining yogurt. The substance covers the holes completely but is so watery to begin with that you’d end up losing yogurt to the drain. A sieve would work better for that.
Can you just use a strainer instead?
In some cases, yes. Strainers are the umbrella term for strainers, colanders, and sieves. There are differences among them, though. Strainers and sieves are often made with finer holes or mesh. Colanders, on the other hand, are larger in size and have bigger holes than strainers. They’re the better tool to drain liquids from pasta or rinse larger foods like a head of lettuce. Strainers and sieves are best for straining liquids, like stock, or sifting flour or powdered sugar. In summary, use a colander to drain bigger foods, strainers to strain smaller foods, and sieves for fine sifting of powders or purees, for example.
LiveFresh Stainless Steel Micro-Perforated 5-Quart Colander
A quintessential colander made of strong, rustproof stainless steel that's designed to drain extra fast.
Pros: It doesn’t get much more classic in regards to kitchenware than this round, double-handled 5-quart colander by LiveFresh. It’s made of professional, food-grade stainless steel that won’t rust or bend, even after direct contact with water multiple times a day. Thanks to the steel’s smooth, pierced surface, it won’t cause abrasions on your dishcloths, towels, or hands. It’s completely dishwasher safe for convenient cleaning. The holes in the body of the colander are microperforated, small enough to contain products like rice while still being suitable for foods like full-sized vegetables and kinds of pasta. These holes also allow water and liquid to drain faster, as do the two precision-cut drainage ports below each handle. This not only prevents backflow and water from getting stuck in the base but saves you the trouble of having to tilt the colander to get rid of excess water. The double handles are riveted to the sides of the bowl to prevent them from falling off, while the sturdy ring base prevents it from tipping over or unceremoniously dumping your food all over the sink or counter.
Cons: You might find that outside of the stainless steel colander is rougher than the inside. Some users report that the handles have sharp edges. It might also be bigger than you expect, so take note of the dimensions before purchasing.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a stainless steel colander with a sturdy base and handles, this product by LiveFresh could fit the bill. Clearly, a lot of thought went into the design. The microperforated holes and drainage ports on the colander’s base work well to drain water quickly and thoroughly. It’s safe to assume that you’ll be pleased with its performance when draining pasta, vegetables, grains, and fruits. Also, it’s a budget-friendly option, so you don’t have much to lose.
EXCELSTEEL Colander Set
Three affordable classic colanders made of stainless steel.
Pros: This set of three colanders in small, medium, and large sizes allows you to be prepared for a wider range of kitchen tasks, food types, and quantities. They’re great for bigger products like noodles, berries, and vegetables. And they’re made of stainless steel, ensuring they’re dishwasher safe and resistant to bending, rusting, and scratching. The handles are also designed to be easy to fit your hands into. All these factors combine to ensure a sturdy and useful set of colanders.
Cons: Though they’re made from stainless steel, it’s not as thick and sturdy as other models. Some users have found that it doesn’t drain as well as some others; try moving it around as it drains to get the water moving through the holes.
Bottom Line: This set of colanders is super affordable. They’re made of quality materials and offer a variety of uses. If you want a set with multiple sizes, this is a reliable one for you. Plus, they nest inside of each other for easy storage.
Kitchen Gizmo Snap N Strain Strainer
A compact strainer that clips right onto your pots and pans and is compatible with almost any round kitchen container.
Pros: This clip-on colander is compact and convenient for those with limited kitchen storage and/or counter space. It’s is a quarter of the size of traditional colanders but works just as effectively and easily. It’s hands-free as well, thanks to the clips on either side. All you have to do is slide it onto whichever pot, pan, or bowl you’re using, clip it on the edge, and you’re set. It’s designed to fit onto just about any round container, regardless of size. The spout at the bottom helps to whisk away excess water as you’re draining your pasta, vegetables, and so forth. This colander is made of durable, heat-resistant silicone that’s extremely flexible, and you won’t need to worry about it burning, melting, or ripping over time. And due to its small size, it will take up minimal storage space when not in use. Plus, it’s available in four colors: gray, lime green, purple, and orange.
Cons: While this spectacular strainer/colander has numerous remarkable qualities, there are a few things it can’t do. It’s doubtful, for example, that you’ll be able to drain rice without losing grains to the sink, as the slats are probably too wide. It probably won’t do well for washing berries or greens due simply to its design; it’s made to strain as you pour sideways, so produce at the bottom of the pot may not drain as thoroughly. For greens and fruit, you’d be better off with a traditional colander with a wide mouth and solid base so that you can rinse and drain easier.
Bottom Line: What’s not to like about this clip-on model? It’s nifty, bright-colored, and effective at its job. It just works differently than other colanders. And the difference is in the clip-on design, which is also smaller and easier to store than other models. If you’re clear on how it functions differently than other colanders and think it will work for you, by all means, try it out!
Comfify Collapsible Two-Piece Colander Set
This colander set is transformable, collapsible, and made of silicone that can withstand high heat.
Pros: If you’re looking for a cool and practical set of kitchen colanders but have limited cupboard or drawer space, this colorful BPA-free silicone duo might just be the solution. Both colanders collapse down to a nearly flat shape, making them easy to store just about anywhere in your kitchen without taking up much space at all. Each colander comes in a different size—the smaller one is 2 quarts, while the larger is 3 quarts. They aren’t just heat-resistant; they’re heat-resistant up to 176 degrees! You can quickly immerse them into boiling water for draining pasta or potatoes, for example. You can fold down them down to just over an inch tall when fully collapsed. As silicone is sturdy but also soft and flexible, you won’t strain your hands and wrists as you use it. Plus, each colander is lighter than metal colanders. In addition to its qualities of utility, it will add some serious color to your food preparation. Choose from red, blue, green, orange, and purple.
Cons: You might notice a strong odor when you first unwrap the package. If so, don’t worry. It dissipates. As the whole colander is composed of silicone, you could find the base a bit too unstable for holding heftier foods like large potatoes.
Bottom Line: The Comfify version of the standard colander is not only smart, but it’s fashionable, too. When you have dinner guests over, and you pull a bright frisbee-looking thingamajig from a drawer and unfold it to its familiar colander shape, you’ll impress them! Of course, you don’t have to like that plot to appreciate this colander set. Cook some pasta, wash and drain some berries, and make a meal just for yourself with the help of this colander.
Joseph Joseph Two-Piece Nesting Colanders with Easy-Pour Corners
This stackable colander set is one of a kind with vertical drain holes and easy-pour corners.
Pros: This colander set takes the nesting, space-saving feature to another level with easy-pour, angled corners and BPA-free, dishwasher-safe plastic. Since it has vertical holes, liquids drain quickly. When you’re ready to plate the pasta or whatever yummy food you’ve boiled, steamed, or simmered, just tip the colander and easily pour out the right amount. And you can use both colanders for different foods while cooking a meal. One is large, the other small, and both have a vertical, ergonomic handle for one-handed use. The small one fits inside the large, and their handles slide together compactly.
Cons: The holes on these colanders are larger than in other colanders, so take caution if you need one for tiny foods or if you hope to use the colander as a strainer or sieve.
Bottom Line: The advantages of these unique nesting colanders are many. They drain thoroughly and pour more precisely. If you like what you see, give them a try!
Colanders come in an array of sizes, designs, and materials for various uses. The important takeaway is knowing the difference between colanders, strainers, and sieves. There’s some crossover, to be sure, which can be confusing, but colanders are meant for larger food items, like noodles, fruits, beans, or vegetables. Give some thought to the material, hole size, and design you’re looking for, and you’re sure to find the right colander!