When furnishing a kitchen, a colander may not be your first thought. Once you find yourself draining pasta with a lid and shaky hands, however, you may realize it is quite useful.
A colander serves many purposes, from rinsing vegetables and quinoa to washing beans and sprouts. You can even use it to strain tea or sift flour, depending on the model you choose. Whether you favor pasta, rice, or salad, a colander proves convenient on a regular basis.
While choosing a colander may seem straightforward at first, there is much more to this tool than meets the eye. From the material it’s made of, to the number and size of the holes, models vary greatly in both appearance and usage. To save yourself the time of pondering every option, here is all you need to know to easily find the best colander for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Bellemain Micro-Perforated Stainless Steel Colander
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Chef Craft Deep Colander, 1-Pack
- BEST UPGRADE: OXO Good Grips 9-Piece Nesting Bowl & Colander Set
- BEST SCOOP: OTOTO Mamma Nessie Colander Spoon
- BEST OVER THE SINK: Comfify Collapsible Over the Sink Colander
- BEST STAINLESS STEEL: LiveFresh Stainless Steel Fine Mesh Strainer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Colander
The last thing you want after buying a colander is for it to break, melt, or fail to even drain properly. To discern quality in a sea of similar-looking products, consider the following criteria.
The main considerations when evaluating a colander’s materials are durability and intended use. Can you drop it without it shattering? Is it dishwasher-friendly? Can it withstand boiling water? Is it versatile in use—and do you need it to be?
Stainless steel may well be the most heavy-duty and durable option on the market. It is ideal for draining denser foods like pasta and vegetables. It does, however, tend to be on the bulkier side, being noncollapsible, and it also gets hot when in contact with boiling water. Keep in mind that stainless steel mesh is less strong, but it works well for smaller items and for sifting.
Collapsible colanders are generally made of silicone and are great for small kitchens and limited storage space. This flexible material can withstand very high heat and, unlike metal, is also silent to use—no banging and clanging while you cook.
For plastic alternatives, make sure your choice is nontoxic and BPA-free. Plastic is neither the sturdiest nor the most durable material, but it is more cost-effective, and still quite functional. It does not heat up and is thus safe for children. If it is heat safe to at least 225 degrees Fahrenheit and if you are gentle with it, a plastic colander might well live a long life in your kitchen.
Colander vs. Strainer
The names “colander” and “strainer” are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinction.
Colanders are typically more rigid and have larger holes. They are best suited for larger items such as pasta and vegetables, and they’re less likely to clog. They are often bulkier than strainers, but some models are collapsible.
Strainers, on the other hand, are made of fine mesh. Their smaller holes are more suitable for small foods like berries or rice. A strainer can also filter soup stock, sift flour, or sprinkle powdered sugar. It can often serve the same purposes as a colander, although it may drain more slowly.
Number and Size of the Holes
This may seem trivial, but it is in fact the root cause of much frustration in the kitchen. Larger holes will drain water faster, but they may let smaller items through. If the holes are too big, even regular spaghetti will slip out.
Smaller holes, on the other hand, won’t let much through, but they’ll also drain slower. If too small, the contents will clog, sometimes leading to overcooked pasta. Tiny holes are also more difficult to clean.
If you opt for smaller holes, make sure they are numerous and evenly distributed. Larger holes will typically be gathered in clusters, which is fine, since too many large holes will make it easier for food to slip through.
Some colanders have one long handle, while others include one on each side. Single-handle models are practical for when you need your other hand to hold the pot from which you are pouring, but less so when dealing with heavier items. These models rarely include a base, which is also a problem when you need both hands to pour from a large pot or bowl.
Many colanders have handles on opposing sides, allowing for comfortable, efficient, and balanced handling when it’s time to move the full colander. Over-the-sink models are wider, to allow the handles to rest on each side of the sink so you can keep both hands free for other tasks.
Our Top Picks
With so many options available online, finding the best colander may prove challenging. To save you time and energy, some of the best models in their respective categories are included here. Read on to learn what makes each of these products stand out.
This colander by Bellemain is durable and rust-proof as well as easy to clean and use. It is made of high-quality, heavy-duty 18/8 stainless steel—which means 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel—resulting in a sturdy and long-lasting product. With a 5-quart capacity, it can hold a reasonable amount of food and water as it drains, hence preventing having to pour gradually. Its small, evenly distributed holes ensure efficient draining while still keeping everything contained, even grains.
With its elevated and stable base, there’s no need to hold it in place. The two riveted handles are rather small, but they’re nonetheless sturdy and easy to grip. And maybe most importantly, this colander is dishwasher safe, making for hassle-free cleanup.
This Chef Craft colander is BPA-free and food safe. While plastic is not the ideal material, this product is sturdy yet lightweight for durability and ease of use. It holds up to 5 quarts—or 20 cups—of liquids. The holes are on the larger side, which makes for efficient draining. It may be, however, less suitable for smaller foods such as rice or couscous. It works best with pasta and vegetables.
The design includes a short yet stable base, allowing for hands-free draining. The handles on each side are easy to grip, whether you prefer to hook your fingers into them or lift from their underside with your palms. Once you’re done, all that is left to do is pop it in the dishwasher.
For fans of weekly meal prep, this nine-piece set by OXO Good Grips elevates your kitchenware with a selection of three colanders and three bowls—with matching clear lids for the latter—in small, medium, and large sizes ranging from 1 to 5 quarts. All the pieces nest for convenient storage, and the flat lids allow for stacking in the fridge. The colanders can also fit into the bowls for mess-free straining when the sink is already full of pots and pans.
The colanders’ holes are shaped like thinly stretched teardrops to allow water to drain quickly yet help prevent food from slipping through. The wave-shaped base is an effective stabilizer, while the handles on each side facilitate easy carrying. The only downside of these products is that they are made of plastic and are not microwave safe. Nonetheless, the set’s sturdy and lightweight design, combined with an elegant sea-glass color and practical range of sizes, makes for a fine addition to a kitchen’s tool set.
Cute meets practical with this colander spoon by OTOTO. Turquoise and shaped like the Loch Ness monster, it is fun and silly while still proving functional as a spoon that drains water. With it, you can scoop food directly out of a pot, a can, or a serving bowl. The Nessie resemblance even extends to a four-legged ladle section, which allows it to stand upright on its own.
It is large enough to work for pasta and vegetables without being overly bulky. Its holes are small to prevent noodles from slipping through. The plastic is BPA-free and resistant to damage from boiling water. It is safe to put in the dishwasher, and if you love this product, the company also offers matching Nessie family items, from a Papa Nessie pasta spoon to a Baby Nessie tea infuser
This collapsible design by Comfify fits nearly any sink, with extendable handles ranging from 17 to 26 inches in length. The colander is made of silicone, which renders it malleable yet heat resistant. It can withstand temperatures up to 158 degrees Fahrenheit, and the narrower bottom ensures that the water effectively drains without spilling over the counter. The handles are made of BPA-free sturdy plastic and designed to be wide and easy to grip, even when wet.
This colander holds up to 6 quarts of liquid, one of the highest capacities on the market. The holes, however, are too big for small foods such as rice or small grains. Its large size may also prove a challenge when pouring its contents back into a smaller-size pot. This product is best suited for large portions of pasta and vegetables and for use with bigger pots or bowls. It is dishwasher safe, and it collapses to a height of only 1.75 inches.
Sometimes you have only one free hand, and sometimes none at all. This single-handle design by LiveFresh is uniquely versatile, as it can be held with one hand or secured on top of a pot or over the sink with the help of its resting hooks. For maximum grip, the handle is rubberized for no-slip handling, even with wet hands. The fine stainless steel mesh is ideal for small and delicate foods such as rice, grains, tea leaves, orzo, or couscous. It can even sift flour, filter soup stocks, rinse berries, sprinkle powdered sugar, or steam vegetables.
The reinforced frame can withstand heavier loads, making it durable and reliable. Thanks to its 9-inch diameter, it can hold a reasonable amount of food and liquids as it drains without spilling over. With its sealed steel rims, it even prevents food from getting trapped between the mesh and the frame. It is FDA-tested, rust-proof, heat resistant, and dishwasher safe.
FAQs About Colanders
If you still have questions about colanders, here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers.
Q. Is a colander and a strainer the same thing?
A colander is typically more rigid and has larger holes, while a strainer is made of mesh. The former is best suited for pasta and vegetables, while the latter works best with smaller foods, like grains or berries.
Q. Can colanders serve more than one purpose?
Yes, some colanders, mesh strainers in particular, can also do double duty in the kitchen. When baking, you can use a fine-mesh strainer as a flour sifter or to sprinkle powdered sugar evenly over desserts.
Q. Are plastic colanders safe?
BPA-plastic is nontoxic, but still vulnerable to heat. It should be kept away from hot surfaces or boiling substances.