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After testing, we named the Bellemain Micro-Perforated Stainless Steel Colander our winner because it's not only lightweight and durable, but it also won't rust or let small foods slip through the quick-draining holes. Our budget pick is the Oxo Good Grips Colander, which is also lightweight and quick-draining, and has the brand's signature soft, rubberized grip.
Everyone needs a colander—or maybe two or three, depending on your cooking style. The good news is that there are plenty to choose from, with different capacities, sizes, and shapes of the draining holes.
To help you find which colander is right for your household needs, we tested them out side-by-side and evaluated each on its design, ease of use, size, ease of cleaning, and overall value. Lots of pasta was drained, and fruits, vegetables, salad greens, rice, and other small grains were rinsed in order to make sure these colanders are truly the best.
Here are the best colanders for pasta, veggies, and more, according to our tests.
Best Overall: Bellemain Micro-Perforated Stainless Steel Colander
Micro-perforations work well with small foods
Stainless steel won't rust
Lightweight, but sturdy
Bulky to store
This sturdy colander is made from 18/8 stainless steel and features small holes that drain quickly and efficiently. The size of the holes ensures that finer foods, like orzo and angel hair pasta, won't slip through as you transfer them for draining. It also features a pedestal base to provide extra stability while keeping the bottom of the bowl elevated as well as riveted handles for secure and easy transport.
Our tester liked that this colander was so light, as this made maneuvering easy—even when it was full of pasta or piled high with potatoes waiting to be mashed. It also worked well for rinsing rice, though depending on the grain size, even these tiny holes might still allow a few kernels to escape. There was little to complain about with this model, as it performs just as well as higher-end colanders, but with a much smaller price tag.
With a generous 5-quart capacity, it has plenty of space to rinse fruits and vegetables or drain salad greens. Cleaning up is simple since the smooth metal surface is easy to scrub with dish soap and a sponge, but it can also go right into the dishwasher.
Material: Stainless steel | Available Sizes: 3 quarts, 5 quarts | Weight: 1.39 pounds | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"This is a lightweight stainless steel strainer with small holes that drains really well, even with smaller foods, like orzo and angel hair pasta."
Best Budget: Oxo Good Grips Colander
Half the price of our top pick
Won't last as long as stainless steel
Not the best for large quantities
Oxo is known for its affordable and functional kitchen gadgets, and this colander is exactly that: great performance at a budget-friendly price. Made of BPA-free plastic, this 3-quart colander features elongated holes that allow for fast and efficient drainage. Four feet on the bottom keep the bowl elevated off the sink floor.
Our tester liked the soft, rubberized grip on the handles that made it easy to transport to and from the sink and found the colander to be super lightweight. The grips were also handy when it came time to gently shake away any water that pooled inside pasta shells or between salad greens. The size might be limiting if you're working with a lot of food, but if you're cooking for one or two, then it's likely the right capacity.
Cleaning this colander is a cinch. Washing it by hand is certainly an option, but since it's dishwasher safe, you can pop it right in for no-fuss cleanup.
Material: BPA-free plastic | Available Sizes: 3 quarts | Weight: 0.33 pounds | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"Because it’s made of plastic, it may show wear faster than a metal version, but it still does the job well—especially at this price point."
Best Clip-On: Kitchen Gizmo Snap N Strain Clip-On Silicone Colander
Small size is easy to store
Clips right onto pots and bowls
Heavy foods won't dislodge it
Not as useful for washing greens, berries
Doesn't fit all sizes of pots, bowls
If you're short on space, this little colander gadget is pretty ingenious—it clips onto the rim of a bowl or pot and allows you to drain out liquids without having to transfer your food to a new vessel. Made of food-grade silicone, this flexible strainer can be used with a variety of sized pots, pans, and bowls, but not every size.
Our tester found that the sweet spot for this colander tool was between a 2-quart saucepan and 5-quart stockpot or anything with a diameter of about 7 to 10 inches. The clip wouldn't reach anything wider. It also might not fit pots or bowls with extra-thick lips or edges, as it doesn't open very wide. That said, it stayed put when our tester drained a pot of pasta as well as potatoes, leaving zero water behind.
Cleaning this attachment is super simple. It is totally dishwasher-safe and won't take up much room in a dish rack if you opt to wash it by hand. It's a great product to have if you don't want to use a bulky colander or dirty another dish.
Material: Silicone | Available Sizes: One size | Weight: Less than 1 pound | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"Once it’s set up, it drains beautifully, but a caveat is that the amount of food in the pot cannot be higher than the height of the strainer as it will fall out over the top when you tip the pot to strain it."
Best Over-the-Sink: Cuisinart Over the Sink Colander
Small holes keep foods from falling through
Don't have to completely empty sink to use
Size can make it challenging to store
If you need a lot of colander capacity, this 7-quart over-the-sink model by Cuisinart is an excellent choice. Its telescoping handles, fitted with a rubberized nonslip coating, stretch across just about any size sink, keeping your colander lifted way above the sink's floor. Use this to easily wash longer vegetables, like carrots, celery, rhubarb, and other foods that won't fit as well in a traditional round colander. The small holes mean that it can be used to drain smaller pasta shapes and wash rice without fear of losing a bunch of food in the process.
Our tester loved this model because its generous capacity allows you to work with large amounts of food, which is a necessity if you're cooking pasta for a big family or washing a ton of vegetables at once. The over-the-sink design eliminates any worry of draining water backing up into the food. It also means the space below the colander doesn't have to be completely empty to function properly.
Made of stainless steel, the colander is very lightweight for its size and is also dishwasher safe. The one drawback to this size is that it can take up a lot of storage space, but if you have the room, it's a versatile and useful addition to your kitchen. It's available in a slightly smaller 5.5-quart size, as well.
Material: Stainless steel | Available Sizes: 5.5 quarts, 7 quarts | Weight: 1.9 pounds | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"This is my favorite strainer by far because it keeps the food safely lifted off the sink floor, but it’s bulky to store for people with limited space."
Best High-End: All-Clad Stainless Steel Colander
Solid design and attractive finish
Built to last
Small foods might slip through
All-Clad has a reputation for super high-quality construction, and this colander is no exception. Made of 18/10 stainless steel, this model features a rolled edge, polished exterior, pedestal base, and large riveted handles for easy maneuvering. The holes are graduated in size, with large holes on top that get smaller as you get to the bottom.
When testing the 5-quart model, our expert said it was heavy, which is a double-edged sword: The weight provides stability and sturdiness, but this also means the colander is even heavier when full. That said, it drains quickly and works well when holding a fair amount of fruits, vegetables, and salad greens for prepping, making it a useful addition to any kitchen. The only downside is that the holes might be too big to contain grains of rice or thin noodles, like soba or capellini.
This colander can be put in the dishwasher, but cleaning by hand will help preserve its finish. If you already own and love All-Clad cookware, you won't mind the splurge on this colander that is sure to last for years to come.
Material: Stainless steel | Available Sizes: 1.5 quarts, 3 quarts, 5 quarts | Weight: 1.85 pounds, 2.72 pounds, 4 pounds | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"As with all All-Clad products, it's really sturdy and will last for years. If you have a full set of All-Clad cookware, this is a nice add-on to your collection."
Best Set: Oxo Good Grips 9-Piece Nesting Bowl & Colander Set
Nests completely to maximize storage
Includes both bowls and colanders
Not microwave safe
Only the largest colander has grips
If storage is an issue for you, nesting cookware and kitchenware is a lifesaver. Enter this set from Oxo, which features three sizes of colanders—1 quart, 3 quarts, and 5 quarts—with corresponding bowls and lids. Each colander has a wavy base to keep them stable and elevated in the sink.
Our tester found this set to be not just attractive, but also useful when preparing a number of foods at once. They used the small colander to drain berries, the medium to drain pasta, and the large to rinse a few pounds of fruit. Each nested into its own bowl, allowing all the foods to drain without taking up precious sink space. Similar to the Oxo Good Grips Colander, these have elongated holes for quick and efficient drainage, and they are small enough to contain most small food items. The entire set is dishwasher safe, but can't be put in the microwave.
Material: BPA-free polypropylene | Included Sizes: 1 quart, 3 quarts, 5 quarts | Weight: 5.76 pounds total| Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"Overall, this is a really nice set that will let you have plenty of options of colanders as well as matching mixing and storage bowls that nest, maximizing space."
Best for Berries: Chef'n Bramble Berry Basket
Good for fridge storage
Top-rack dishwasher safe
Keeps berries from molding quickly
If you love berries or other similarly small fruit, this little basket allows you to rinse and sort your treats without having to pull out a full-size colander. The inner basket can be used as a mini colander to wash, drain, and sort out any bad fruit before being placed back into the plastic container for storage. Since the basket sits above the bottom of the container, it allows for air circulation, letting your berries stay fresh for longer.
Our tester deemed this "the colander I didn't know that I needed." It prevented blueberries from molding quickly and delicate, ripe raspberries and blackberries from getting smashed in the fridge. While this isn't the most versatile of colanders, it does its job very well and came in handy for our tester's trips to the farmers market, where she can decline a disposable plastic berry container in favor of this reusable one.
The basket and clear container can be used for serving and are top-rack dishwasher safe. For folks who like to keep several types of berries on hand, the containers are stackable.
Material: BPA-free plastic | Included Sizes: 1 quart | Weight: 3.2 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, top rack only
"This is a colander I didn’t know that I needed—it lets me wash and inspect berries before putting them away and keeps air circulating, so they don’t get moldy in the fridge."
Best Scoop: Joseph Joseph Scoop Plus Colander
Perfect for scooping from pots
Easily stored in utensils holder
Won't scratch nonstick cookware
Not great for very deep pots
This style of colander is designed to let you pull food out of a pot or pan with a scoop of the wrist, leaving behind any liquid. Useful for fishing dumplings or gnocchi out of a pot as they float to the surface or pulling beignets out of a deep fryer, it's an alternative to a kitchen spider, but with more capacity. Hooks under the colander allow it to rest on the edge of a pot to drain completely without having to hold it while the last of the liquid drips away.
Our tester used this to scoop fusilli out of boiling water and lift wontons out of broth. They also found this scoop useful for picking up cubed sweet potato from a baking pan. The one drawback to this scoop is that its flat profile works best with wider pots and pans and not so well with smaller saucepans and tall stockpots.
Made of BPA-free plastic, it won't scratch nonstick cookware and is heat safe to 392 degrees Fahrenheit. When the scoop has done its job, you can throw it in the dishwasher.
Material: BPA-free plastic | Included Sizes: One size | Weight: 3.5 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"This is a nice-to-have tool—great for fishing dumplings or gnocchi out of a pot as they float to the surface—but also is a bit bulky to store if you’re limited on space."
Best Spoon: OTOTO Mamma Nessie Colander Spoon
Nice for small tasks
Includes four feet for standing
Pricey for a kitchen utensil
The Mama Nessie Colander Spoon is a fun and functional kitchen utensil that scoops up pasta, vegetables, and other small items from broth or water without bringing liquid with it. The ladle shape of this tool makes it ideal for going into deeper pots and pulling things up from the bottom, like potatoes or bones from stock.
Our tester found that it drains really well in one swoop, but you can also give it an extra shake to get rid of any water from items that stick together without the contents of the bowl flying out of it. The spoon also features four feet, so it can rest on the countertop between uses. Made from toughened nylon, this is a high-quality and quirky kitchen tool that is dishwasher safe.
Material: Nylon | Included Sizes: One size | Weight: 0.27 pounds | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"This is fun to have in the kitchen, but it’s also bulky to store in a drawer if you're tight on storage space. The good news is that it's cute enough to leave on the counter as decor."
For straining everything from pasta to rice, you can't go wrong with the Bellemain Micro-Perforated Stainless Steel Colander, which passed our tests with flying colors. For a budget-friendly pick that performs, we recommend the Oxo Good Grips Colander.
How We Tested
We sent all of the colanders in this roundup to our experienced home cook and product tester, who used each one to strain and/or rinse various pastas, grains, fruits and vegetables, salad greens, and more to determine which colanders are truly the best. Each colander was rated on design, ease of use, size, ease of cleaning, and overall value. Our tester then offered additional insights on each colander's strengths and weaknesses.
What to Look for in a Colander
When the task is to rinse food for a crowd, a large colander will come in handy, but storage can be a challenge. Smaller colanders are great for small tasks, whether it’s to wash greens for a single salad or clean just a few berries. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, it might be best to have more than one colander on hand to fit all the ways you cook.
Stainless steel is durable and rust-resistant, and stainless steel colanders can be attractive enough to use as a bowl for onions, potatoes, or fruits that like a bit of air circulation. However, stainless steel is more expensive than plastic, so it can stretch the budget for such a simple tool. While today’s plastics are durable, they’re not indestructible. Eventually, they’ll need to be replaced, but while they’re in use, they’re certainly budget-friendly.
When cleaning greens, rinsing berries, or washing root vegetables, it’s nice to have a colander with large holes so the dirt and grit can flow easily through along with the water. Larger holes also drain faster, so they’re more efficient. However, if the colander will be use to rinse rice or to drain tiny pasta, it’s important to have small holes so the food won’t drain away.
What is the proper way to use a colander?
Rest the colander on top of a large bowl or pot, or if it has the appropriate feet or base, put it directly into the sink, and pour. What you don't want is to dump everything into the colander and have the water well up, as this can be gross if it mixes with other stuff in the sink and washes back onto what you’ve cooked. So, if you plan to set a colander in the sink, be sure the sink is empty and clean, and the drain is uncapped and open.
Be forewarned that the physics of hot water sluicing into a kitchen drain are such that the water will sometimes drain out more slowly than you might expect, so pour the cooked food into the colander in stages and watch to be sure the water has drained away before dumping more. It requires a few extra seconds of patience, but it can make a huge difference.
Can you use a colander to steam?
If you don’t have a pot that has a fitted steamer insert, using a colander to steam can be a solution, but you’ll need to be careful. Whether the colander has a single handle, double handles, or feet, you want to first check (when everything is empty and cold) to see how well or poorly the colander fits into the pot you want to use. The colander should sit level and/or hang evenly on the rim, and there should be an inch or more of clearance between the bottom of the colander and the bottom of the pot. Without that, the food in the bottom of the colander is sitting in the water, and you’re boiling, not steaming.
Next, test to see if the lid sits on top reasonably well. It doesn’t have to seal perfectly, but a too-loose lid will let all the steam escape, and then what’s the point? If you can’t get all three parts to nest together reasonably, it’s time to invest in a pot with a steamer insert or dedicated steamer. And rather than test the limits of what might and might not melt under high heat, it’s best to skip the idea of using a plastic colander as a steamer insert. Unless it’s silicone and otherwise designed for the purpose, it’s likely to melt or warp in contact with the pot or even when hit by hot water.
How do you clean a colander?
It can be tempting to just rinse a colander under water when you’re finished with it, but that’s not good enough. Even if the residue isn’t visible, food bits will hide and stuff will stick, especially to plastic and silicone. Starches from pasta and rice are naturally sticky and will cling to the colander’s surface. If the colander is dishwasher safe, pop it in the machine. If not, give it a good scrub with soap using a bottle brush or other sink scrubby to get into the holes or mesh, and do both the inside and the underside. It the colander is collapsible and dishwasher safe, put it through the dishwasher fully open, so the water gets into all the crevices. Let any colander dry completely before putting it away.
Is there a difference between a strainer and a colander?
Yes. The differences between them are the size of the basket and the size of the holes. Roughly, in order from finest to largest holes, it goes: sifter, sieve, strainer, colander. Sifters, sieves, and strainers are usually made of metal or plastic mesh, which means the holes are small and close together. These can be larger or smaller, sometimes as small as just a couple of inches across. A colander, on the other hand, will have a larger basket or bowl shape, either flexible or rigid, that is perforated all over with actual holes, large-ish and widely spaced. A colander will also typically have another important feature, namely feet on the bottom, or a raised ring that allows it to sit level in a sink or on the countertop without the bowl itself coming into contact with the surface.
Up to a point, these various tools can be used interchangeably. You could easily use a strainer to strain pasta, and it might do for rinsing and sorting small beans or even sifting flour, but try to sift flour in a colander or use it to rinse tiny lentils and everything will just run right through the colander’s larger holes. And if you're using a tool with a handle rather than feet, be sure to rest it on a pot rim or hold it steady while straining because you don’t want the bottom (or the pasta) to contact the sink.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a freelance food writer, published cookbook author, and kitchen gadget connoisseur for The Spruce Eats. Since July 2016, Donna has tested hundreds of kitchen tools, so you know exactly what will work best in your own kitchen. Her cookbook, "Make Ahead Bread," would be a great place to start testing out your favorite measuring spoons.
Bernadette Machard de Gramont, who updated this roundup, is a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in global food and wine content. After a two-year stint at Williams Sonoma headquarters in San Francisco, she now researches and tests a variety of cookware, bakeware, and wine tools, and interviews field experts for their insight. She personally home-tested all colanders on this list.
Catherine Russell, who also updated this article, is a freelance writer specializing in food, culture, tourism, home and garden, business, and the arts. Her work has appeared in national and online publications, such as Bon Appetit, Saveur, and Simply Recipes.