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Along with my tongs, fish spatula, and wooden spoons, one of the most essential (and reached-for) tools in my kitchen is a spider strainer. You might think it’s a tool reserved for restaurant kitchens, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Spiders are game-changers for cooking pasta at home, and can also be used in a lot of other unexpected ways. Here’s why I love spider strainers so much, and why all home cooks and pasta-lovers should have one in their kitchen tool kits.

Why Every Cook Needs a Spider

First, 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.

We all 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 since 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.

Spiders Aren’t Just for Pasta!

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 s spider strainer? Do you love it? Tell us about it in the comments below.