A staple in every kitchen, we sieved through the best colanders to find you the perfect prep partner.
TV chefs dip their tongs into pots of boiling water to retrieve strands of spaghetti. But for the rest of us mere mortals, we drain ours in a colander. My favourite has long been a stainless-steel model covered from rim to base in holes that allow water to escape easily. But with many newcomers on the market, I decided that a rematch was in order...
Everyone needs one, right? Yes, you can use a sieve but it won't offer the same drainage, be able to drain large quantities or tackle the weight of your spuds. In other words, a colander is an essential everyday piece of kit and when you're dealing with boiling water, you can't afford not to have one.
What should I buy?
First look at the quantities you'll be draining. If it's only a few spuds or you're washing a handful of berries here and there, you won't need anything huge. On the other hand, if you regularly make mash for 4 then a larger colander might be a better bet. And do take into account the old problem of storage. If that's an issue, something that folds up might suit best.
What we looked for:
Watering holes: Big holes might seem advantageous for speedy drainage but they can backfire when dealing with slender or small foods like orzo. Holes, which aren't too big, dotted around the whole of the colander are ideal in my opinion.
Sturdy: You need a sturdy design, something that won't buckle and with a strong handle (if it's got one). The last thing you need is one that tips and dumps pasta all over the sink.
Easy to clean: Our final selection also needed to clean up quickly and well.
Our top five colanders...
Best... Multi-purpose set
Nesting together when not being used, the largest of the oval-shaped trio sits neatly in a sink, the middle one rests snugly in half-sized sinks and and thanks to the non-slip feet they both stay still. The small scoop-design colander is brilliant at retrieving individual portions of veg or pasta from a pan of water. Made from thick plastic, they don't warp or go bendy. I would have liked the holes to go further up the sides but they all drained everything from pasta to plums quickly and evenly.
£12.79, from Lakeland
Best for... Easy storage
This is pricey but I've had this colander for over 5 years and it's not showing any signs of wear and tear. It has so many brilliant design features. Firstly it folds up - colanders take up room but this sits flat in the drawer. Most collapsible colanders I tested suffer from bad drainage or stability issues (too much pasta and they flip over). I particularly like this one as the holes go up the sides and along the base, which give much better drainage. Plus the stability problem is eradicated by a stainless steel base and rim which makes it rock solid. The wide handles balance well over a saucepan, making it a brilliant little steamer too.
£58.55, from Fishpond
Best for... Smaller portions
Healthy Steps Pasta Basket
Sometimes all you need to do is wash a few blueberries and getting a large colander out seems like taking a sledgehammer to the job. This little foldable colander actually serves two purposes: it's designed as a pasta basket and drainer. You pour in pasta to the serving line on the basket or for noodles, use the hole in the handle to measure one serving and lower into boiling water, you then lift out, draining as you go and serve. It's incredibly effective and also gives you the ideal amount so no measuring necessary. It actually works well as a little colander too and drains speedily, plus it folds down for easy storage. A great little gadget.
£6, from ocado
Best for... Herbs
OXO Good Grips Plastic Colander
Let's be honest, colanders aren't the most exciting of gadgets. This colander is a case in point. It isn't pretty but is probably the most practical of all tested. It's a roomy 24cm which means you can drain around 1.2kg of spuds at a time. Unlike other models, it has 'elongated holes' (slits, to you and me). I thought this would mean that small pasta and herbs would slip through – quite the opposite. It 'catches' everything so you are not left with stuck rice grains. The handles are coated in silicone for grip and stay relatively cool to the touch. I like the feet that provide stability in the sink and they're tall enough to give decent clearance for the water to run away.
£9, from iwantoneofthose
Best for... Multi-tasking
I don't know about you but when I prepare veggies I want to cut, rinse, and pop in the pan without having to break into a sweat moving around the kitchen. This clever board allows you to do it all in one place. You rest the (collapsible) colander over the sink and use the sturdy bamboo board to prepare. I like the fact that you can rinse the food, unclip the colander and move the contents to the slanted removable tray so you can get on cutting and washing other food stuffs. The colander isn't on the massive side (you're not going to be able to drain a whole salad in it) but if you want to prepare veg for a ratatouille, for example, it's easily big enough for two portions and drains very quickly. The colander and the tray slide into the chopping board for easy storage and it's really easy to clean too.
£48.99, from Legend cookshop
This review was last updated in February 2016. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.
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Do you have a colander you want to shout about? We'd love to hear which model you rate...