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My spider strainer is one of my most used (and most essential) kitchen tools. In fact, I reach for it so much, I was fully prepared to fight hard for it to make our list of Kitchn Essentials … but I didn’t have to. Two years in a row, my fellow editors decided it was a must-have for home cooks. Turns out, we all agree that spiders are game-changers when it comes to cooking pasta at home. Confession: We also love it for a slew of other kitchen tasks!
Allow me to back up a bit: If you’re not already familiar with this brilliant tool, spiders are long-handled strainers with a wide, shallow metal basket at the end (that kind of looks like a spider web). Think of it like a slotted spoon — but way, way better. Use a spider just once, and I guarantee you’ll wish you had bought one sooner.
I love my spider the most when it comes to making pasta. Because most of us know that starchy pasta water is a key ingredient that helps thicken sauces. But how many times have you intended to save the water and then accidentally poured it in the sink when draining your pasta? We’ve all been there — it’s a total bummer. Enter: spider stainers. A spider means there’s no need to drain the pasta water, and it also makes it easier to add the cooked pasta to sauce. The wide basket allows you to scoop up a bunch of pasta at once so you can transfer it directly from the water to the sauce.
Spiders are so great for pasta because as you transfer it to the sauce, you automatically take a little bit of starchy water with you. And because there’s no need to drain the pasta water when you use a spider, there’s more water on the side if you need it later. It works especially well with tubes and shaped pasta, as well as tortellini and ravioli, but it can also pick up strands, like spaghetti and linguine.
But let me be clear about something: Spiders aren’t just for pasta. There are a lot of ways to put these long-handled strainers to work. I happen to particularly love them for blanching vegetables — especially when I have just a small amount of vegetables I want to eat, or when I’m blanching smaller veggies like peas. With the vegetables in the basket, it’s easier and tidier to move directly from the pot of boiling water to an ice bath. And the same goes for boiling eggs, and for frying just about anything. You can even use it as a colander for rinsing a handful of berries!
Do you have a spider strainer? Do you love it? Tell us about it in the comments below.