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Jan 26, 2013 11:47 PM

Colanders vs. strainers

Although I have a nice set of fine mesh colanders, I'm wondering if I need the All Clad 3 piece strainer set. In what instances does a strainer do a better job than a colander?

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  1. I won't say strainers are better than colanders. They are different tools for different situations. I find colanders more useful for draining washed vegetables, large quantity items, and when you do NOT need the liquid.

    Strainers are more handy for smaller applications, and especially when you just want to scoop out the item you want, but still want to preserve the liquid. For example, let's say I make chicken stock and decided that I want to put in some whole spices (like star anise or whatever). At the end, I want to remove and discard the star anise. In this case, I a strainer will work better. Or for example, if I want to two batches of noodles from the same chicken stock. Again, I can remove the noodle from a pot without discard the stock.....etc. Or if I want to deep fry something...etc..etc.

    While I do think a strainer is useful, I ask you to think if you need All Clad strainers. I would look for strainers of different size of the holes. For example, the Chinese spider strainer is extremely useful for large size items

    1. With a large colander and a couple of small strainers, I can choose the right tool for the job. In addition to Chemicalkinetics's uses, I use the small strainer to sprinkle confectioner's sugar on pastries and the larger strainer to sift flour - just put the powder in the top and tap the edge of the strainer bowl.

      As for the All Clad strainer set, it retails for $100, and if I actually needed 3 strainers, I'd be more likely to go for the Cuisinart set presently at $13 from

      2 Replies
      1. re: John Francis

        <I use the small strainer to sprinkle confectioner's sugar on pastries and the larger strainer to sift flour>


        1. re: John Francis

          I have a silicon colander that collapses -- it then can do the job of three colanders (I have an enormous colander that I use from time to time -- it's great when I need it, but far too big for day-to-day use)

          I have one stainless strainer -- and thus far, haven't come up with a good reason to have another one.

        2. Hi, ucdavis:

          This terminology can be a bit imprecise strainer, chinoise, collander, sieve, tamis, sifter, but the two basic functions are the same, either: (a) separating what passes from what remains behind; or (b) passing food through the utensil to make it smoother in texture, aerate it, or to break up lumps.

          There is a lot of cross over between collanders and strainers, but strength and sieve size are the major attributes that apply to both. The All-Clad set differs only in size--not sieve size. Looks to me like the A-C set is intended to sit atop specific sizes of bowls/pots, is all.

          If your existing set is not strong or fine enough to force food through the mesh, then perhaps you could benefit from a good steep-sided chinoise, or a flat-bottomed tamis more than this set. And if all you're doing is draining water from solid foods like pasta, practically ANY strength and sieve size will work.


          1 Reply
          1. re: kaleokahu

            I agree with you. I have colanders and I have sieves. Is a sieve what OP is calling a strainer. I also have a spider.

          2. I have a tea strainer but beyond that, I don't feel the need for a set of larger strainers. I use my colanders all the time though. I'd wait until I saw a need for a larger strainer, then buy what I needed.

            6 Replies
            1. re: sueatmo

              I use a sieve/strainer for smoothing out purees, removing the seeds from raspberry jams/jellies -- not things I do every day, but enough to need to have one.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Also my sieves are smaller than my colanders so I'll sub with them frequently.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Same here, especially if I'm rinsing a smaller quantity of produce -- e.g., just a pint of berries, a couple of apples, or 1/2 lb of green beans.

                  However, my colanders have feet, so they can stand upright whereas my strainer needs to be positioned with its handle over one side of the sink to drain. My divided sinks are assymetric in size, and the strainer can only be used over the right side, which is smaller, but which is also my workhorse sink for food prep as it has the disposal. So the strainer gets in the way, unlike the colanders, which can be placed upright in the larger left hand sink. So I am much less likely to use the strainer for rinsing & draining produce when I am actively engaged in food prep.

                  On the other hand, there are certain tasks -- like sifting flour or confectioners sugar -- for which a colander just won't work.

                  1. re: masha

                    Good point about the feet. I also have a teeny tiny colander that I got at TJMaxx IIRC for practically nothing. I use it almost exclusively for rinsing capers. I generally avoid single purpose items but it's so small I sprang for it.

                2. re: sunshine842

                  I used to have a food mill, which I once used to strain pulp from American persimmons. (Never again. I only had to do that once.) But I don't make jams any more. I do see where you could smooth out purees with a good wire mesh sieve. For me that is more trouble than its worth, frankly. I does occur to me that good fine mesh strainer might give me clearer home made chicken broth though. My mesh strainers aren't exceedingly fine.

                  1. re: sueatmo

                    I don't smooth out purees and things enough to justify the space hog that a food mill is. It does great things...but I don't typically do the type of things you need it for.

                    (if I can tomatoes on the scale I canned salsa last year, though, I might be forced to reconsider, especially if I branch out to sauce/passata)

              2. I use a strainer for pate, not much else.