When cleaning a small amount of produce or draining canned beans, using the right size tool can make a big difference.
Published Aug. 14, 2020.
When we need to clean a pint of cherry tomatoes or rinse a can of beans, our favorite 5-quart stainless-steel colander, which is about 11 inches wide and more than 5 inches tall, feels oversize. For these sorts of small tasks, we reach for the Progressive Prepworks Collapsible Mini Colander, our longtime favorite mini colander. We like that this tool, unlike our favorite full-size colander, fits on the top rack of our dishwasher and collapses for compact storage. When we noticed that many other mini colanders are now on the market, we wondered which was best. We tested seven colanders, including our longtime favorite and two models sold as a set. All were priced from about $7 to roughly $19, and all had capacities from 2½ cups to 12 cups. In addition to collapsible colanders (all of which were made of flexible thermoplastic elastomer), we included models made from stainless steel, melamine, or plastic. We used each model to rinse 1 pound of strawberries (the amount in a rectangular plastic clamshell container) and to rinse and drain a 15.5-ounce can of chickpeas.
Most models were intended to be used exactly as you might imagine: You place food inside the colander and then hold it under running water, gently tilting or shaking the colander to make sure that all the contents are rinsed. Two of the models in our lineup could also be filled with water, which can be useful when cleaning especially delicate or dirty produce. One is equipped with a snap-on base that prevents water from draining out. The other model comes with a special plastic bowl into which you insert the colander before filling the bowl with water. The colander is suspended in the bowl by two small tabs positioned near the bowl’s handles. These tabs allow the bowl to be swung back and forth and keep the contents of the colander in place when pouring out the water.
The model with the snap-on base was simple and well designed. The base was sturdy, it popped on and off easily, and water drained quickly from the colander when it was removed. The other model, however, required more finesse. The colander swung on those narrow tabs like a passenger pod on a ferris wheel, so when we gripped the bowl’s handles and angled it forward in the sink to empty the water, the colander stayed upright, containing the contents. It was a clever idea, but it felt a little precarious.
Next we turned our attention to the colanders’ other features. When we last reviewed large colanders, we found that the size and arrangement of the drainage holes were crucial. The best models contained plenty of sm...
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Kate is a deputy editor for ATK Reviews. She's a culinary school graduate and former line cook and cheesemonger.