The colander is one of those pieces of kitchen equipment which doesn’t seem especially important until you try to cook without it. I use all of mine several times a day, whether I’m emptying a can of chickpeas, washing fruit, or draining pasta, and they’re invaluable.
It’s also surprising how many variants there are on the humble colander – John Lewis lists thirty-three. So, having just bought my best-yet colander (above), I thought it was time for a run down of the options out there.
The absolute classic plain metal colander (1) comes in all colours from straight stainless steel to enamel. Do check that it has enough holes in the bottom as well as around the sides – I was very pleased with the bargain catering-sized one I bought from a discount kitchen shop once until I realised all the water pooled in the bottom as it wasn’t pierced enough. I rather like this one for everyday – plenty of holes! (£15).
If space is an issue then I always recommend ditching the colander to buy a fine gauge sieve (2) instead which can work as both pieces of equipment. However, don’t be tempted to buy the cheapest sieve that you can find, as I’ve made this mistake before – the sieve will be practically useless as the wire gauge will be too wide. This matters as a sieve is there not just to remove lumps – some of which will fall through a wider gauge – but to aerate flour. We aren’t talking a big investment here – John Lewis have a brilliant version for a tenner here.
My long term, slightly esoteric, favourite, which I bought in the MoMA shop in New York’s SoHo of all random places, is the multi-tasking small silicone OXO Good Grips Collapsible Long Handle Colander £22 (3). It’s slightly unfortunate that the most recent iteration comes in such a vile colour (mine is a lovely mid-grey), but it’s just brilliant for small kitchens and, because of its saucepan shape, it also makes a great plunge-in semi-steamer as you can balance a lid on top. I use mine for cooking small amounts of delicate foods that you don’t want to be waterlogged – gyoza, dumplings, and dim sum, as well as broccoli and asparagus
(If it’s too small for you, but the collapsible nature appeals, it also comes in a 4litre model £25 (4), but this won’t work for steaming or plunge cooking in the same way.)
If you cook a lot and have a standard-sized sink you you might like to consider Joseph Joseph’s set of two Square Nest Colanders £12, (5) sadly available in bile green. (What IS it with this love of green in kitchenware? What’s wrong with neutrals? Thus speaks the eternal fashion editor.) It’s handy as you can drain two sets of food without needing to empty the colander.
The time-poor cook with lots of storage space night consider a Pasta Colander Insert, like this one from Tefal Ingenio £25.59,(6) so that they can cook and drain with ease.
But my new absolute favourite is the over-the sink version (7) in the photo at top. I found it on TK Maxx’s site whilst I was distracted looking for dresses for our recent collaboration. I’ve wanted an over the sink colander for years but it seemed a piece of equipment too far for someone who already has at least three perfectly functioning colanders.
But I love it.
My sink is often full of washing up when I’m cooking so I love that the handles extend with ease across the top of the sink, and I don’t need to clear a space at the base of the sink. That means my counter space isn’t then filled with dirty dishes too. It’s also narrow enough that I can leave the colander on one side of the sink whilst I run water from the tap or rinse other things. It also avoids the base of the colander standing in water, and its flatter width means that delicate food such as cherries or berries can be spread out so that they don’t get squashed.