‘Colander’, ‘sifter’, ‘sieve’ and ‘strainer’ – all familiar descriptions for standard kitchen equipment staples that every kitchen has. However, these names are often used interchangeably. If you have ever stopped to think of what the difference is between a Colander and a Strainer, the following explanations of what they are designed to do, will help.
Colander – used to wash:
Colanders can be made of stainless steel or plastic. They bowl-shaped, and have large holes in them. They are designed for washing vegetable, meats or cooked pasta. The key here is ‘large holes’. They are not meant to ‘strain’ – despite our usually using that word to describe what we use colanders for. The large holes are solely meant for excess liquids run-off, along with unwanted particles such as dirt, and gluten. Easy to clean, easy to hold under running water and free-standing.
Strainer – used to separate liquids and solids:
Like colanders, strainers are meant to help you remove liquids. However, strainers can do one thing that colanders can’t: strainers can separate liquid from foods with fine particulates. Strainers are made with varying mesh sizes. They are ideal for squeezing juice or other liquids from raw and cooked foods – whether it’s the liquid you want of the solids left in the strainer.
Sifter – used to refine ingredients:
Sifters are made with fine mesh to refine ingredients such as flour. Your bread, other baked goods or foods fried with flour must be sifted first or it will have lumps. Sifters are not suitable for washing raw food items or draining pasta water as it is too fine. The holes will get clogged – and good luck with the cleaning!
Sieve – used to separate larger particles:
Sieves and sifters are very similar, and so often referred to and used interchangeably. However, sieves have larger mesh holes; a sifter will not do for separating granular ingredients as it the mesh is too fine. Sieves plug the gap between sifters and colanders for separating solids and liquids, but they are designed to help you separate ingredients pre-cooking or remove larger particles or lumps post cooking.