You might find yourself overlooking the importance of a good colander—until you can't find one and end up trying to drain a steaming-hot pot of pasta using a cutting board. That's when you'll wish that you had the OXO Good Grips 5-Quart Stainless-Steel Colander(available at Amazon for $24.99) in your corner.
I've underestimated the importance of this tool more than once, and I admit that I own a cheap plastic colander that constantly frustrates me as it allows pasta to pass through its large holes. But with such a massive variety of colanders on the market, upgrading can be confusing! Is there a difference between stainless steel, mesh or enamel? Should you opt for a simple plastic piece or an easy-to-store collapsible one? And what about these over-the-sink models?
To put a rest to these questions, I chose seven top-rated colanders from each category and put each colander through a series of standardized tests: straining pasta, rinsing rice, and seeing how they held up under boiling water. After tallying the results, I came away with a few recommendations.
These are the best colanders we tested ranked, in order:
The OXO Good Grips 5-Quart Stainless-Steel Colander passed every test we threw at it with flying colors. Covered from rim to base with perfectly sized holes, this stainless steel colander features an easy-to-grip rim and non-skid feet that stayed put as we tossed food into it. It was well-shaped to funnel water out of the perforated sides, and never clogged with pasta or rice. It was the most expensive colander we tested at just under $30 but it also aced all of our tests, earning it our pick for best overall.
Unlike the other stainless colanders we tested, the KUPKO Easy Grip 5-Quart Stainless Steel Colander is wider than it is tall. This made it the quickest to drain of all the colanders. In fact, water passed through so quickly that I actually drained the pasta twice to make sure I hadn’t somehow skewed the results! Like the OXO, it's covered in perforated holes small enough to rinse rice but positioned well enough to prevent clogging. Available for $11.97, this was the least expensive colander in the group but it performed as well as the more expensive models. For that, it earns our best value pick.
Hi, I'm Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef and a self-proclaimed pasta fanatic. While I have no Italian roots, I'm seriously passionate about noodles and I ran a pasta restaurant for four years. I've learned the hard way that a bad colander is frustrating to use and harder to clean, so I'm here to help you avoid my mistakes!
We chose seven top-rated colanders of all shapes and sizes and put them to the test. We wanted to know whether the material type (stainless, enameled, plastic, or silicone collapsible), perforation, and bowl shape made a significant difference in overall performance, structure, and ease of cleaning.
To test overall performance, we looked at the hole size and positioning to determine effectiveness. Holes that were too large couldn't rinse small items like rice, and thin-profiled pasta would fall right through the cracks. If the perforations were too small, though, the colander would become clogged and the water wouldn't drain properly.
We were also interested whether the colander’s structure held up to our rigorous tests. Collapsible models might be great for storage, but they needed to be sturdy enough to hold up to the weight without falling apart. And footed colanders were great at adding extra elevation to drain the water, but they did us no good if they fell over in the process.
Finally, ease of cleaning is a crucially important factor with any colander. Have you ever had to clean dried pasta bits or tomato seeds out of those tiny little holes? I have and it’s a pain, so we let those products dry in the colander and measured how long it took for us to clean them out.
I really enjoyed using the Bellemain Micro-perforated 5-quart Stainless Steel Colander. Its holes were small enough to rinse rice and drain pasta without clogging. And, because the colander is perforated all over and the base keeps it up off of the ground, it drained the water with surprising ease. Like all the stainless steel models, it did heat up when we covered it with boiling water but the sturdy, well-spaced handles remained cool even when the bowl was warm to the touch. Overall, there was a lot to like about this model.
If you’re looking for the convenience of an over-the-sink colander, the Comfify 6-quart Over the Sink Collapsible Colander is a great choice. Its adjustable arms were helpful for fitting it to my oversized farmhouse sink. The colander itself was the largest capacity that we tested, making it overkill for a pound of pasta—although it's collapsible design means it can be stored flat. The handles were a little awkward (especially if you pull out the arms) but they’re well-spaced to avoid contact with any lingering steam. My only complaint? The silicone coating made it a bit troublesome to clean.
OXO Good Grips 3.5-Quart Silicone Collapsible Colander
I love that the OXO Good Grips 3.5 Quart Silicone Collapsible Colander collapses to store flat, so I wish that it had tested better. The very small holes were perfect for rinsing rice but they became waterlogged when draining the pasta. I had to shake the colander to drain all the water and then shake it even harder to remove the pasta. Not only did the silicone coating cling to food, it was difficult to clean. While this smaller OXO wasn’t my least favorite, it certainly wasn’t on the top of my list.
The Joseph Joseph Medium Square Colander is an inexpensive minimalist choice, but it just didn’t perform as well as some of the other colanders. The holes were slightly too large to rinse rice and some of the pasta slipped through them while straining. The square, plastic frame was sturdy enough, but its shape made it awkward to store and a bad fit when placed inside another bowl for reserving strained liquids. I did really like the location of the handle, although it did allow me to shake out hot water without placing my hands over the steam.
The Reston Lloyd Calypso Basics 5-Quart Coated Enameled Colander is totally beautiful to look at—a real kitchen showpiece—but unfortunately it just didn’t hold up to the tests. The holes were oddly grouped instead of being located all over, so it was slow to drain and easy to clog. The handles were small and awkward to hold and its shape doesn’t nestle easily into other bowls, making it difficult to store. And the straw that broke the camel's back? It was the only colander that dented during testing. Because of this, we simply can’t recommend this one.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.