Home » Strainer vs. Sieve - What's the difference?

Strainer vs. Sieve - What's the difference?

Strainer vs. Sieve - What's the difference?

When it comes to kitchen appliances, utensils, and gadgets, I don’t think it’s necessary to buy a thousand different utensils for a different task that are used once and then take up drawer space forever.

I do believe that there are some fundamental items that every good kitchen needs.

These include sharp knives and a sharpener, a set of mixing bowls, a couple of good cutting boards, measuring cups and spoons, a spatula, and a couple of different-sized saucepans.

A good quality colander and sieve complete this list. Both have crucial functions in the kitchen and can save you a lot of time and mess when used correctly.

They don’t take up much space and no kitchen is complete without them.

So what is the difference between a colander and a sieve?

A colander is a large bowl-shaped kitchen item with holes in it that is generally used to strain liquids from solids such as pasta from your cooking water. Sieves are made of wire mesh within a frame and separate small particles from large ones.

You can also use a strainer to puree or strain sauces and soups. It doubles as a colander, as long as it’s big enough to hold everything you’ve cooked.

Read on to find out more about the differences between sieves and colanders, what foods to use them with, and other practical ways to use them in the kitchen.

What is a strainer?

For easy cooking and straining, a crucial tool in any kitchen is a strainer. Although you may be tempted to refer to a colander as a colander or vice versa, there is technically a difference between these two kitchen gadgets.

A colander is a bowl- or pot-shaped object with relatively large holes (compared to a colander) used to separate solid things from liquid things.

The most common use of a colander is to drain the water from the cooked pasta.

You may also hear of a colander as a colander. This perforated container is perfect for straining liquids from solids, but the large holes don’t make it conducive to sifting.

See the next section to find out what a sieve is and how it differs from a strainer.

What is a sieve?

While a strainer is used to separate liquids from solids, such as straining pasta from water, a sieve is used to separate smaller particles from larger ones, such as when sifting flour to break up large chunks. 

The sieves can also be used to crush soft solids into purees or pulps by pressing them through the fine mesh.

Unlike a colander, they are not bowls with holes in them. They consist of a wire or plastic mesh attached to a frame, often with a handle so you can easily maneuver it around your kitchen.

They can have different mesh sizes, which will separate larger or smaller particles from each other.

The smaller the mesh, the finer the sieved ingredient or the smoother the puree. I love using my sieve to make the creamiest mashed potatoes or to sift through my freshly ground spice mixes.

You’ll want to look for a strainer that has a sturdy handle, hopefully coated in silicone or other heat-resistant material.  It should also have a small hook on the opposite side of the handle to help you place it over a bowl or pot later.

When choosing a strainer, make sure the handle is secure by gently tugging on it a couple of times, as you want it to hold up against pressure.

If you need to, you can also use a sieve as a strainer, as it will allow liquid to easily drain through the mesh.

However, you usually can’t use a strainer to replace a sieve in a recipe’s instructions, as the holes are often too large to fit the listed ingredients.

What are the different sizes of mesh strainer?

You may see different mesh sizes in your recipes and wonder what the difference is between them.

There are some standard sizes, such as ultrafine, fine, and large. To know what size you need, calculate what you will mainly use the strainer for.

  • Medium (1/16 inch): Best for straining small amounts of pasta and vegetables, sifting out clumps of sauces or flour
  • Fine (1/32 inch): Ideal for sifting seeds in sauces, separating freshly ground spices
  • Super Fine/Tea Strainer (incredibly small): Great for straining tea, sprinkling sugar or cocoa over desserts

What foods are best used with a strainer?

When it comes to using a strainer, you’re typically going to reserve it for foods that are large and need to be separated from a liquid.

Since it’s essentially a large or small bowl with holes in it, it’s not going to be ideal for separating fine ingredients from each other.

I use my strainer for the following

  • To drain the cooked pasta from the cooking water. 
  • To drain the beans and lentils once they are cooked. 
  • To drain excess water from rice or other larger grains, depending on the size of the holes in the strainer. Things like quinoa may be too small to pour through a normal strainer. 
  • For draining water from boiled potatoes, beets, turnips and other larger vegetables.
  • To rinse products under the tap when I bring them home from the store. Using a strainer is a great way to rinse and clean your fruits and vegetables, then leave them to dry on the drying rack. 

As you can see, colanders or colanders are essential for any well-equipped kitchen.

The holes allow water to easily drain through, so you won’t get stuck trying to hold a lid over a pot of hot water while you drain the liquid without letting the food slide off.

You should look for a good quality strainer, made of stainless steel or with a ceramic coating, so that it is durable and does not rust. This stainless steel model is a good basic model to start with.

If you prefer a pretty enamel colander, I personally love this super cute one from Amazon. They come in lots of different colors to match your kitchen decor.

What foods are best used with a strainer?

Strainers are another essential kitchen gadget and I suggest you have a variety of sizes and different levels of mesh fineness so you can use them for all your cooking needs.

Unlike a strainer, which has large holes, so it can only be used with large objects, sieves can be used to separate coarser and finer materials from each other, to puree soft solids, or to strain liquids from solids.

Just don’t press any cooked items into the mesh unless you want to puree them.

I use my strainer for the following things in my kitchen

  • To sift flour before baking. 
    • This step helps remove any large pieces that can affect the texture of the baked good. For this I use a coarser mesh, as a superfine mesh can be too fine to easily pass different flours.
  • Sift my freshly ground spices. 

    • One of the ways to increase the flavor profile of your dishes is to grind your own spices with a coffee or spice grinder. Sometimes this can leave large chunks that you’ll want to sift before using to get a smooth texture.
  • Remove the seeds and skin from the boiled tomatoes. 

    • When you want to make a silky smooth tomato sauce or soup, one of the key steps is removing the skins and seeds. Once the tomatoes are boiled, I like to run them through a fine mesh strainer to remove these bits.
  • For making silky smooth mashed potatoes and vegetables 

    • If you want to make delicious mashed potatoes or vegetables, but don’t want to make a mess in the food processor, you can pass the cooked and softened vegetables through a strainer to get a smooth texture. Beat with a little butter to get the perfect puree.
  • Sprinkle powdered sugar. 

    • If you’re making a pretty dessert and want to sprinkle some powdered sugar on top, you can pass it through a strainer to get a light, fluffy sugar that’s evenly distributed.
  • To strain the steeped tea.

    • If you like to brew your tea with loose leaf herbs, straining the tea can be a bit tricky, unless you have a strainer ball. By straining the tea through a very small, fine strainer, you can make the perfect cup of loose leaf tea without getting any chunks in your teeth.
  • To strain the water from the quinoa or small grains 

    • Some methods of cooking grains require you to strain the excess water at the end. Strainers and colanders often have holes that are too large for small grains like quinoa, millet, or teff, but sieves are a perfect alternative.
  • To strain the pasta water 

    • Depending on the size of your colander and how much pasta you boiled, you can always use a colander to strain the water if you don’t have a colander or colander handy. Just make sure it’s big enough to hold all the pasta and not spill down the sink.
  • To strain the water from the boiled vegetables

    • Like the colander, you can use a colander to strain the water from the boiled vegetables if necessary. You’ll want to make sure that the colander is big enough to hold all the vegetables you’ve cooked, so they don’t spill in the sink and make a mess.
  • To strain the water from the cooked beans and lentils 

    • If you cook the beans and lentils and can’t find your colander or colander (or just don’t have one in your kitchen), fear not, the colander can do double duty as a colander. You just have to make sure that your colander is big enough to hold all the beans that you have cooked.

As you can see, there are lots of useful ways to use a colander in your kitchen. The more strainer sizes you have and the more differences in mesh fineness, the more ways you can use them.

I have a very small size for straining tea, a larger size with a fine mesh for sifting flour and other dry products, and a wider mesh for straining cooked vegetables, legumes, and grains.

This set comes in three convenient sizes to meet all of your sifting needs.

Can a colander be used as a sieve?

You may be wondering if you can get by buying just one strainer to do all of the above tasks.

However, since the holes in a strainer are so much larger than the mesh of a sieve, it cannot do the fine sifting that most sieves are capable of.

If you do a lot of sifting through flours, sugars or spices, or if you want to use the sieve for a smooth puree on cooked vegetables, then it’s worth investing in a sieve as a strainer won’t be up to the job.

Can a sieve be used as a strainer?

Although a colander cannot be used in place of a colander in most cases, I believe that a colander can be substituted for a colander in most situations.

As long as the colander is large enough to hold what you want to drain, be it vegetables, pasta, or other items, you can use it to replace the colander. 

I have a colander and a sieve, and 9 times out of 10 I use my colander for pretty much everything I would use a colander for.

The only time I don’t is when I need to hold a large volume, then the strainer is dusted off and pulled out of the back of the cabinet.

If you only have the budget or space for one or the other of these cookware I would suggest investing in a set of different sized colanders as they can do pretty much everything a colander does plus have all the benefits of a colander. strainer.

What is a chinois?

If you watch a lot of cooking shows or read a lot of recipes, you might come across a kitchen utensil called a chinois. What is a chinois and how is it different from a sieve or strainer?

Technically, a chinois is a type of colander with a conical shape and an ultra-fine mesh, with a robust handle.

It is used in high-end kitchens and recipes to produce super smooth and creamy purees, soups, custards, sauces and other thicker foods.

If you like smooth, silky textures and want to eliminate any fibers or textures, investing in a Chinois is a good idea.

If you’re not too concerned about getting professional-level silkiness in your food, you can probably stick with a regular fine mesh strainer.