What’s a Colander and How Do I Use it?

Author: Chef Sydney

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What are Colanders?

A colander is a bowl-shaped dish with holes in the sides and bottom to drain liquid out of foods.  Colanders are sometimes called pasta strainers.  Colanders come in different sizes, but the most common size is a 5-quart colander.  They usually have two handles on the sides, but they sometimes have one large handle.  The size of holes in the colander can vary.  Some colanders have holes spread evenly over the surface while others have circular or other shapes for the holes.  Colanders are mostly made of metal like light stainless steel or aluminum, but they’re also made out of plastic, silicone, and ceramic.

What are Colanders Used For?

Colanders are used for a few different reasons and they are almost always used over a sink or a large bowl.  A colander is frequently used to drain liquid out of foods like cooked pasta or rice.  They are also used to wash fruits and vegetables.  A colander is sometimes used to drain the fat out of cooked meats.

Learn About Colanders
A bowl of bell peppers being washed in a colander.

What are the Different Types of Colander?

  • Metal
  • Plastic
  • Silicone
  • Ceramic

Metal: Metal colanders usually have a rim around the top of the bowl.  These colanders usually have a sturdy base to keep the colander from tipping over when you’re using it.  The base also lifts the colander a few inches so that food does not touch the bottom of the sink.

Plastic: Plastic colanders sometimes have a clip on the side to attach to the side of the sink for easy draining.  Some plastic colanders have a base like metal colanders, but some do not.  Most plastic colanders have handles on both sides, but others have a long panhandle.  Plastic colanders may stain over time.

Silicone: Silicone colanders are usually collapsible for easy storage.  Most silicone colanders do not have a base like metal colanders.  The silicone material is usually non-slip so that it doesn’t move around in the sink when dealing with liquid.

Ceramic: Ceramic colanders usually only have holes in the bottom of the colander.

Recipes Using Colanders

In our authentic Mexican red rice video cooking lesson, we use a colander to strain the California chile puree.

After blending, strain the mixture using a colander
Straining The Chile Puree Of California Chiles Used in Mexican Red Rice

In our agua fresca video lesson where Chef Toby makes blueberry lemonade, we use a colander to strain the blueberry puree.

strain blueberry puree with colander and mix with lemon juice
Straining Blueberry Puree Using A Colander For Blueberry Lemonade

Mashed Potatoes

Make mashed potatoes with ingredients you already have in your kitchen. Wash, peel, and dice potatoes. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add potatoes. Cook potatoes until they are fork tender. Grab the handles of the pot with oven mitts and pour potatoes and water into a colander in the sink. While wearing the oven mitts, shake out the excess water and transfer potatoes to a large bowl. Use a potato masher to mash potatoes with milk, butter, salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Once fully incorporated, top with parsley and chives.

Pasta Bake

With a few extra steps, transform your average pasta dinner into a pasta bake. Prepare a chunky meat marinara sauce with cooked ground beef, canned tomatoes, onions, tomato paste, oregano, rosemary, basil, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook tubular pasta according to package instructions and strain through the colander. Mix pasta with the sauce and pour into a baking dish. Top with parmesan and mozzarella cheese and bake for about 20 minutes.

Fresh Fruit Salad

Make preparing a fruit salad easy by using a colander. Peel a banana, slice, and place into a bowl. Place sliced strawberries, diced guava, and blueberries in a colander and rinse under running water until fruit is clean. Shake out excess water and place in a bowl.

Prepare Fresh Herbs

Wash all fresh herbs before using them. Place bunches of parsley, dill, and fennel leaves in a colander under running water. Carefully swirl the water through the leaves and gently shake the excess water off the herbs before cutting.


A homemade pot of chili warms us on a cold day. Brown ground beef with salt, pepper, and diced onions. Add drained kidney beans, beef broth, sugar, tomato juice, smoked paprika, and chili powder. Simmer until chili thickens. Serve topped with cheddar cheese and crushed crackers.

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