The Surprising Kitchen Tool I Can’t Live Without

As someone who cooks a lot, I have several prized gadgets and tools in my kitchen arsenal. But there’s one that I just might love above all others. So it was a complete shocker when someone I knew well walked into my kitchen and asked, “What is that thing?”  

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if he was serious. Are there really people out there who don’t know what a salad spinner is? Since I use mine multiple times a week – if not daily – it was a shocking revelation! Turns out, we both learned something new that day.

So where do you fall on the salad spinner spectrum?

  • You don’t own a salad spinner and can’t fathom why one would actually need one.
  • You have a salad spinner, but rarely use it, opting to buy prewashed lettuce and rather not deal with the hassle of washing greens.
  • You use yours often to wash heads of lettuce or other greens and can’t imagine there’s anything else to learn about it.

I’m here to tell you, a salad spinner is an indispensable item in your kitchen, no matter where you align. Here’s all you need to know, plus a few tricks for the pros that take you beyond the greens.

The Nuts & Bolts of a Salad Spinner

Let’s start with how they work. Very simply, wet lettuce goes into a basket which nests in a larger bowl. Top goes on, and you either pull a string or push down on the top to make the basket inside spin. Centrifugal force draws the water away from the greens to the sides of the bowl and down. You lift the basket out, dump the water, and use your dry greens for your salad. Because the last thing you want in a salad is limp, wet lettuce.

How and Why to Wash Greens

But let’s back up to why the greens are wet in the first place, which is because you must wash them. Dirt, bugs, and other contaminants cling to the leaves and must be removed before consuming. Some people even recommend washing the prewashed lettuce, while others discourage it, but that’s a topic for another time. 

The best way to wash your greens is in that handy dandy bowl from the salad spinner. Place your greens in the bowl, torn into smaller pieces if the whole leaves don’t fit, and fill the bowl with cool water. Gently slosh them around, the dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl, then lift them out placing them into the strainer basket. I usually need to do this at least twice, sometimes more depending on how dirty the leaves are. (Use the water for your plants if you can). 

Going Beyond Washing Lettuce for Salads

Here are other ways you can utilize your salad spinner, so even if you do opt for prewashed salad greens, it is still worth owning.

  • Herbs – The biggest complaint I hear about using fresh herbs is that after the intended use, they go to waste, wilting in the fridge shortly after. Try this. When you get home from the grocery with a fresh bunch, pop it in the salad spinner and wash as you would a head of lettuce. After it’s spun dry, place the herbs in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel. The paper towel will absorb extra moisture that the spinner didn’t, keeping them fresher longer. My herbs – parsley, cilantro, dill for example – usually last a good week, and extending their life means extending the opportunity to use them. Plus, when they are washed and ready to go, you’re much more likely to garnish your pasta, salad, roasted vegetables or use them in a sauce or dressing.
  • Dark, leafy greens for stir-frys – When cooking dark leafy greens such as spinach, chard, kale or collards, it’s a good idea to get as much water off of them as possible before they go in the skillet, allowing you to control the moisture content as they cook. Salad spinners are the best tool for this. 
  • Broccoli, brussels, broccoli rabe and the like – I remember the first time I washed broccoli in my salad spinner. I thought I was a genius – people were going to write books about my inventiveness! I had always wondered if running heads of broccoli under the faucet really did anything – the water just seems to roll off. But, submerging the florets in the water, now that really gets them clean! If you’re planning to boil these vegetables, the second step of spinning them dry isn’t a huge priority. However, if your goal is crisp, roasted cruciferous veggies hot from the oven, starting out with clean and dry ingredients helps ensure they will never be soggy and sad. 
  • For those times you don’t buy pre washed greens, and still want a salad. Think, fresh heads from your local farmers market, or lettuce types that don’t come in pre washed packages, like red leaf and green leaf varieties. 
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