Not all strainers are the same, according to our food editor.
Pasta in Colander
Credit: Vanya Dudumova / EyeEm

After years of cooking in a closet-sized apartment kitchen with no counter space to speak of, I became a very streamlined cook. Having no space to hoard tools and gadgets forced me to choose wisely before adding a new product to my kitchen arsenal. Did I really need that avocado pitter? (No.)

Now I live in a house with plenty of space to stash all kinds of things, but as they say, old habits die hard. I still prefer a small selection of kitchen tools that can multitask and I don't buy multiples of the same item, with a few exceptions: wooden spoons, spatulas, knives, and, perhaps most surprising: strainers.

Why would a self-proclaimed kitchen minimalist have more than one strainer? Because they do different jobs. For draining cooked pasta, rinsing fresh berries, or separating hot chicken stock from cooked chicken and vegetables, you'll need a colander. This is the large, wide strainer with big holes. Typically made of metal or plastic, it has two handles and feet at the bottom so that it can stand up in the sink while you pour things into it.

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While a colander is an essential kitchen tool, it can't do everything. For example, when you separate stock from cooked ingredients, the liquid still won't be crystal clear. To get rid of any stray vegetable bits, pieces of chicken skin, or any other undesirables, you also need to pour the stock through a mesh sieve. Typically made of metal, sieves are usually smaller than colanders and can be fine or coarse mesh. A coarse sieve is fine for straining stock, but if you are trying to remove lumps from gravy, or raspberry seeds from a berry puree, you'll want to use a fine sieve.

And unlike other gadgets, two strainers won't take up any additional space in your cabinet. If you're short on room, simply stash the sieve inside of the colander.