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Colander vs. Strainer: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson & Janet White || Published on March 15, 2024
A colander is a bowl-shaped kitchen utensil with holes for draining liquids from foods. A strainer, on the other hand, is a type of sieve used to separate solid foods from liquids or to remove fine particles from liquids.

Key Differences

Colanders are typically larger and designed with larger holes or perforations, making them ideal for draining water from pasta, washing vegetables, or rinsing grains. They often have a stable base or feet allowing them to stand in a sink, and may come with handles for easy handling. Strainers, however, can vary greatly in size and mesh tightness, with some having very fine mesh suitable for straining tea leaves, dusting desserts with powdered sugar, or straining sauces to remove all solid particles. Strainers often come with a handle and may have a hook or protrusion to rest on a pot or bowl for stability.
While colanders are mostly used for larger food items that do not require fine separation, strainers are versatile tools used for both coarse and fine straining tasks. For example, a colander would be used to drain boiled potatoes, whereas a strainer might be used to sift flour or strain homemade stock to remove fine bones and vegetable bits.
Both colanders and strainers are essential kitchen tools, but their specific uses depend on the nature of the task. A colander's larger holes are not suitable for tasks that require fine filtering, like removing coffee grounds or tea leaves from water. Conversely, a strainer's fine mesh may be too delicate for heavy or large quantities of food that need draining.
In terms of material, colanders are commonly made from plastic, metal (such as stainless steel), or silicone, while strainers can be found in similar materials but often feature a metal mesh or cloth for fine straining. The choice between a colander and a strainer ultimately depends on the cooking task at hand, with each tool being better suited to certain tasks than the other.

Comparison Chart


Bowl-shaped with larger holes or perforations.
Can be bowl-shaped or cone-shaped with fine mesh or wire.


Ideal for draining pasta, washing vegetables, or rinsing grains.
Used for separating solids from liquids and removing fine particles.

Hole Size

Larger holes or perforations.
Fine mesh or tight wire for fine straining.


Often has a base or feet to stand in a sink; may come with handles.
May have a handle and a hook or protrusion to rest on a pot or bowl.


Metal, plastic, silicone.
Metal mesh, cloth, plastic, silicone.


Best for larger food items.
Versatile for coarse and fine straining tasks.

Colander and Strainer Definitions


Bowl-shaped with perforations.
Rinsing rice in a metal colander before cooking.


A sieve for separating solids from liquids.
Straining tea leaves with a fine mesh strainer.


A kitchen utensil for draining liquids.
Draining boiled spaghetti in a colander.


Often equipped with a handle.
Holding a strainer over a pot to catch lemon seeds while juicing.


Often has a base for stability.
A plastic colander standing in the sink full of washed fruits.


Can have fine mesh for detailed straining.
Sifting flour into a bowl using a strainer.


A bowl-shaped kitchen utensil with perforations for draining off liquids and rinsing food.


One that strains, as a device used to separate liquids from solids.


A bowl-shaped kitchen utensil with holes in it used for draining food that has been cooking in water, such as pasta.


A standing or fallen tree whose branches are partly submerged in a fast-flowing river, presenting a hazard to navigation or to swimmers.


A utensil with a bottom perforated with little holes for straining liquids, mashed vegetable pulp, etc.; a strainer of wickerwork, perforated metal, or the like.


An apparatus for tightening, stretching, or strengthening.


Bowl-shaped strainer; used to wash or drain foods


A device through which a liquid is passed for purification, filtering or separation from solid matter; anything (including a screen or a cloth) used to strain a liquid.


A perforated screen or openwork (usually at the end of a suction pipe of a pump), used to prevent solid bodies from mixing in a liquid stream or flowline.


One who strains.


One who strains.


That through which any liquid is passed for purification or to separate it from solid matter; anything, as a screen or a cloth, used to strain a liquid; a device of the character of a sieve or of a filter; specifically, an openwork or perforated screen, as for the end of the suction pipe of a pump, to prevent large solid bodies from entering with a liquid.


A filter to retain larger pieces while smaller pieces and liquids pass through


What is a strainer?

A strainer is a type of sieve, varying in size and mesh tightness, used to separate solid foods from liquids or to remove fine particles from liquids.

Which is better for rinsing grains, a colander or a strainer?

For rinsing small grains that might escape through larger holes, a strainer with a fine mesh is more suitable than a colander.

What are the main differences between a colander and a strainer?

The main differences are in their design (hole size and shape) and usage, with colanders being better for draining and strainers for finer filtering tasks.

How do I choose between a colander and a strainer?

Consider the task at hand; use a colander for draining larger items and a strainer for finer separation or removing particles from liquids.

How should I care for my colander or strainer?

Clean after each use to prevent residue buildup, and if metal, ensure it is completely dry before storing to avoid rust.

How do I prevent my strainer from rusting?

To prevent rust, choose stainless steel strainers, wash and dry them thoroughly after each use, and store them in a dry place.

What is a colander?

A colander is a bowl-shaped kitchen tool with holes, used mainly to drain water from foods like pasta or to rinse vegetables.

Can a colander be used as a strainer?

A colander can be used for straining tasks that do not require fine separation, such as draining boiled vegetables, but may not be suitable for finer tasks like straining broth.

Are there materials to avoid for either colanders or strainers?

The choice of material depends on preference and the food's compatibility (e.g., avoiding reactive metals for acidic foods), but both should be durable and easy to clean.

Can I use a strainer for making cheese or yogurt?

Yes, a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth can be used for straining whey from curds in cheese making or for thickening yogurt.

How do I choose the right size colander or strainer for my kitchen?

Consider the volume of food you typically prepare and the available storage space. For general use, a medium-sized colander or strainer should suffice.

Can I use a strainer for brewing coffee or tea?

Yes, a fine mesh strainer can be used for brewing loose-leaf tea or even coffee, acting as a filter to separate the grounds or leaves from the liquid.

Can I use a strainer for washing fruits and vegetables?

Yes, a strainer can be used for washing fruits and vegetables, especially if it has a fine mesh suitable for smaller items that might be damaged by the larger holes of a colander.

What is the best way to clean a fine mesh strainer?

Rinse under running water immediately after use to remove residue, use a soft brush for stuck particles, and occasionally soak in a vinegar solution to remove odors and stains.

How does the shape of a colander or strainer affect its use?

The shape can influence how food is drained or strained; for example, a deep, cone-shaped strainer is ideal for holding large amounts of food or liquid, while a flat strainer might be better for sifting dry ingredients.

Is there a difference in performance between round and square colanders?

The performance difference is minimal, but the choice between round and square colanders might depend on personal preference, storage options, and the shape of the sink or bowl they will be used with.

Is there a multipurpose tool that can function as both a colander and a strainer?

While there are kitchen tools designed to offer flexibility, having both a colander and a strainer ensures you’re prepared for tasks requiring either large or fine separation.

Are silicone colanders and strainers as effective as metal ones?

Silicone colanders and strainers are effective, offering the benefits of being non-reactive, flexible, and often collapsible for easy storage, though they may not be as durable as metal over long-term use.

Do colanders and strainers come in sets?

Yes, some brands offer sets of colanders or strainers in various sizes and shapes, catering to different cooking and preparation needs.

Why do some colanders have different sized holes?

Colanders may feature different sized holes to accommodate various foods, allowing for efficient draining while minimizing the risk of smaller food items slipping through.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Co-written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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