We all remember being a twenty-something in our first apartment, draining spaghetti by putting the lid on the pot, tilting it over the kitchen sink, and adjusting the lid just a little (not so easy when wearing oven mitts) so that the water pours out but the pasta stays in. You knew that if you made one false move, all the pasta would dump into the drain. (And how clean was that sink?)

Every household needs a colander for draining not only linguine and rice noodles but also boiled vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and broccoli. Once you have a colander, you can steam tender asparagus and other vegetables, or fish or chicken, over a saucepan of boiling water. Those of us who find the time to make homemade chicken stock really need a good way to strain it. And don’t forget that for washing fruits and vegetables, a colander is the way to go. You can leave them there to dry. The holes provide not just drainage but ventilation. Maybe you’ve noticed that a “berry bowl” is just a bowl with holes.

So anyone who cooks probably needs at least one size of strainer. And even if you have a gourmet kitchen with a lot of cabinets, no one wants unnecessarily bulky things like a metal colander and a smaller sieve (often with a long handle) taking up that valuable space. The solution is collapsible silicone strainers. Heatproof, flexible silicone has revolutionized cooking tools, and the fact that a silicone colander can be collapsible is like magic -- the bulky strainer can be flattened and practically disappears into a thin disk. If you live in a small apartment, this is life-changing. Even if you don’t, the collapsible feature is pretty cool. Now you can keep your colander in a drawer instead of a cabinet. Or use it like a Frisbee or pack it in your suitcase (or not… that would be weird).

Now that you have the amazing shrinking colander, you have so much cupboard space that you might as well also have a smaller strainer. You can juice a lemon or lime over it to catch the pulp and seeds. Most cooks know that a little lemon juice makes almost any dish more delicious. Or you might be in the mood for a Margarita.

Have you ever had the cork break when opening a bottle of wine? Unless you don’t mind bits of cork in your glass, just pour the wine through your handy strainer. And if you want to be very festive on a cold winter’s night and serve mulled wine or cider, you can heat it with whole spices like cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks, then strain it into mugs using your silicone version of a sieve.

The new silicone colanders and sieves are so much more fun and colorful than the old metal versions that they even make good gifts. For the cook who has everything, for the pasta-loving graduate, or for the mom with cupboard clutter, collapsible strainers are a welcome -- even exciting -- innovation.

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