I’m often asked what are the most frequent questions from my cooking courses, or as a result of my books. There are many and as I put my mind to it, I realize that no matter how simple they seem, they represent keys to the world of cooking with ease.
A Big Question
So here is one: “What is the difference between a sieve and a colander?”
I get the confusion, because both have holes in them, both are used to strain things, both are usually made of metal (unless they’re made of plastic or porcelain or terra cotta, or…). But aside from these similarities, each has a specific use.
Fine Mesh Sieve
A sieve, often referred to as a “fine mesh” sieve is used for filtering or sifting small items that are relatively lightweight. The peas you’ve blanched? Use a fine mesh sieve to drain them, then set the sieve in ice water to stop their cooking. Baking? Set a fine mesh sieve on a piece of parchment, measure all dry ingredients into it, tap it until they sift through and are thoroughly combined. You need to rinse rice? Perfectly done in a fine mesh sieve.
A colander is for larger items that have a certain weight. When you get back from the market and want to rinse fruits, or vegetables, put them in a colander, set it in the sink, run water overall. Rinsing dry beans, potatoes, pasta? A colander is ideal.
Sometimes Either Or
Sometimes you can use either a fine mesh sieve or a colander, for example when draining yogurt to make cheese, as long as you use cheesecloth as a liner.
Now that you get the idea about the differences, drain and strain away!