Cooking Pasta? The Colander You Use to Drain It Matters

Don’t let the wrong colander sabotage your spaghetti.

Published June 16, 2022.

After more than eight years testing kitchen equipment, there’s one thing I’d like to shout from the rooftops to frustrated cooks everywhere: 

It’s not you. It’s your equipment. 

For a great example you don’t have to look any further than a bowl of pasta. 

Conventional pasta-cooking wisdom (and all of our pasta recipes, from carbonara to Spaghetti al Tonno) says to drain the pasta right when it's finished cooking. But if you're not using the right colander, this tip doesn't count for much. Your perfectly al dente pasta will still turn out mushy, despite your best intentions.

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Pasta can overcook in seconds—especially if you’re making delicate strands of angel hair or short pasta like orzo. When you pour a pot of pasta into a colander or strainer, the noodles stay submerged in boiling hot water for as long as it takes the water to drain away.

As we’ve learned while testing colanders over the years, most colanders don’t drain water efficiently. And with a poorly designed colander, your pasta can continue to cook for a surprisingly long time after you take it off the stovetop.

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So, what to do? Avoid colanders that have a few big clusters of holes set into solid metal. You might think that the bigger the holes, the better the drainage, but that's not necessarily the case. Even though the holes are relatively large, all of those big sections of metal cause water to drain very slowly. 

Instead, look for colanders that are covered in tiny perforations, like our winner, the RSVP International Precision Pierced 5 Qt. Colander. Water quickly streams through those little holes, ensuring that your pasta retains that perfectly chewy-tender texture you were so careful to achieve. 

a colander with a few large holesa colander with tiny perforations

Colanders with a few clusters of big holes (left) drain slowly, causing your pasta to sit around in hot water and become overcooked. Our favorite colander (right) has all-over perforations that drain quickly, ensuring that your pasta remains al dente.

Other advantages of our winner? It’s spacious and has tall walls that ensure no pasta sloshes over the edges when you empty a stockpot into it. And because the holes are so tiny, food never slips through them and onto the floor of your sink (another drawback with those larger holes!). You can count on every single perfectly cooked noodle or strand of pasta making it safely from the colander to your dinner table.

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