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Colanders, Strainers, and Sifters

Colanders, strainers, and sifters have many functions in the kitchen. The key to deciding which to choose is knowing what you need the item to accomplish.

What types of colanders are available?

Colanders are designed to remove liquids while retaining the drained product, such as when cooking pasta or beans. They can be used for washing fruits and vegetables too. Options range in size, style, and material.

  • Materials: Colanders come in metal, enameled metal, silicone, and plastic. Silicone versions are often collapsible and designed to be used with either hot or cold items. Plastic is available in a variety of colors and may come in a foldaway design. Enameled metal has a colored coating on a metal body.
  • Hole size: Also called mesh, the hole size should be selected based on the size of the food that you'll be washing, straining, or draining. It needs to be small enough to keep the food in, but large enough to rinse particulates from that food.
  • Overall size: Colanders range widely in size. An average size is 8 to 12 inches in diameter, however, smaller and larger versions can be both decorative and useful.
  • Pedestal: Most options have a base. Pedestaled colanders are hands-free and can sit in the sink or on the counter. The pedestal size can range in height. The feet can be silicone, hard plastic, or metal, and flanged or straight.
  • Handle: Handled options can provide versatility. Pedestal-based colanders may have a small handle for ease of use. The handle can be metal, plastic, or silicone-coated.
  • Shape: Many colanders are shaped like a large bowl or basket, and they may be shallow or deep. Some are stepped or oval. You can also find collapsible colanders that are designed to be put away flat. Some sink strainers or colanders have an over-the-sink design to hold them at the top of the sink.
What is a strainer?

Strainers are like colanders in that they are used to drain liquids. However, they can also be used to mash or strain out particular foods. They are useful for removing pulp, scooping foods out of boiling water, or dusting powdered sugar over cookies.

A fine mesh strainer is usually small and often handheld. Strainers are comprised of a fine mesh basket in a mounted frame. Food strainers are available in stainless steel, plastic, and silicone.

What kinds of sifters are available?

Sifters can be used to sift dry ingredients, like flour. Sifters aerate and remove clumps. Strainers can double as sifters in some instances. Some features to consider include the strainer’s:

  • Mechanics: Some merely need a good shake to do the sifting. Other versions have a handle that rotates or pushes through the flour. Battery-operated sifters vibrate the flour through the sieve.
  • Handle: Many sifters are manually operated by turning or squeezing the handle.
  • Material: These are often made of stainless steel or plastic.
  • Sifting chambers: Some sifters have multiple levels to double-sift or even triple-sift the flour.
  • Capacity: You can choose a small, medium, or large sifter.