Kitchn Love Letters

The $28 Kitchen Upgrade You’ll Wish You Got Years Ago

published Sep 16, 2021
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Credit: Lana Kenney

I’m not going to mince words here: It’s probably time to upgrade your mesh strainer situation.

Most home cooks have an old mesh strainer kicking around in their cupboards, which gets unearthed for a handful of hyper-specific tasks. You likely use yours to rinse the sludge off canned beans. If you regularly cook rice or other grains, you may also reach for your strainer to rinse (or strain) those, too.

But if you invest in a set of differently sized mesh strainers, this one specifically, you’ll suddenly find yourself using them for just about everything in the kitchen. You may even wonder why you waited so long to get them in the first place.

Get a set like the one above and the smallest strainer, measuring around 3 inches in diameter, can be used for fiddly things: I use mine all the time for catching seeds after juicing lemons. It’s also handy for straining stock, or transferring rendered bacon fat or clarified butter into jars (just place the strainer over a funnel). You can use it to dust a baked good with powdered sugar. And my tiny strainer has even replaced the infuser for my afternoon pots of tea.

The medium-sized strainer, at 5.5 inches wide, is what’s likely already in your toolkit. This is the workhorse of your daily kitchen tasks: Strain beans! Rinse a portion of rice! Strain eggy bits from a custard! This strainer is just big enough to be perfectly useful, but not so unwieldy that it’s awkward to maneuver with one hand. 

Big strainers, measuring 8 inches, can be used just like a colander. Mine is often put to work draining pasta or rinsing greens, like kale, before cooking. A large strainer is much handier to grab than the bulky colander buried beneath my mixing bowls. Not to mention, it’s easier to clean; the spray nozzle on my sink blasts away stuck-on bits. A few quick shakes, and it’s basically dry.

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

When shopping for new strainers, be sure that the wire mesh is durable — look for “304 stainless steel” rather than “201.” (The 304 stuff contains a higher percentage of chromium, which is sturdier and less resistant to rust.)

This set of three strainers is surprisingly affordable (less than $30!). The strainers are dishwasher-safe, and come in silver or an unexpected gold color, too. In fact, they’re so pretty, I hang them right above my sink — making them even easier to grab, use, love, and use again.

Are you a strainer aficionado, or do you rarely use yours? Let us know in the comments.