There is nothing worse than a wet salad. I don’t need to tell you. You prefer your lettuce and other salad greens to be as dry as possible so that the dressing will stick and you won’t have a soggy runny mess with no flavor. As well, wet greens will not keep as long. But, there is also nothing worse than drying lettuce! Thankfully, there’s a device to make it easier. It’s been around for years and years and yet, some folks, apparently, still haven’t caught on.
I have been shocked to find that many articles and cooking tips compilations hate on the salad spinner. Instead, they say you should use a towel to dry your lettuce. Drying salad greens with a towel just doesn’t work well. It’s a pain. Plus, that towel better be very clean with no residue from cleaning or softening agents on it. Better to plan in advance, drain your salad greens on a paper towel and gently pat them dry and allow them to finish drying in the air. Or, use a salad spinner.
Likely, those people hating on salad spinners have never used them. They usually seem to be confused about how these devices work. Salad spinners aren’t just for drying salad greens, they’re for washing them too. Although there are many different brands and types on the market today, most salad spinners consist of a plastic bowl in which is inserted a plastic colander. You use the bowl and colander to soak and drain your greens several times, with or without the top placed on the unit. Then, with the top on, you spin it using either a handle, and up and down plunger, a string, or some other motion.
How Does a Salad Spinner Work?
In a salad spinner, water is removed from lettuce or other greens by centrifugal force. The perforated plastic basket or colander within the solid bowl spins around very quickly. This causes the lettuce to be pushed outward against the sides of the colander similar to those amusement park rides where the floor drops away and you are pinned to the sides of the rotating drum. The water on the lettuce is also forced outwards, away from the center, towards the sides. The lettuce cannot go anywhere since it is constrained by the colander. The water, on the other hand, is forced even further outwards, through the perforations of the colander and into the solid bowl. The actual physics of this is not as easy to grasp since, in reality, nothing is actually pushing the water out. However, the net result is that the water is neatly removed from the lettuce.
The baskets of salad spinners work with gears. There is a small gear in the lid of the spinner which connects to a larger gear which in turn connects to the top of the basket, causing it to spin. The arrangement of the gears from small to large means that each turn of the smaller gear causes the larger gear to turn several times so that the larger basket actually spins much more quickly than the smaller gear is being turned.
Benefits of a Salad Spinner
- Greatly speeds up drying time
- Dries small or large leaf greens equally well; romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, watercress, you name it
- They combine the washing and drying into one unit
- They do not damage or bruise lettuce or other greens
- They can be used to wash and dry berries without damaging them
- Can be used to wash and dry broccoli, cabbage, etc.
Problems with Salad Spinners
The only problem with a salad spinner is even the best will not get your salad greens bone dry. With patience and a lot of spinning you can get your greens very close to completely dry, but a spinner can’t remove every last little bit of the remaining water that clings to the leaves. Here are some tips to help:
When using your salad spinner, stop several times to remove the basket and dump out the excess water from the bowl so that it doesn’t make contact with the basket and re-wet the greens. Also, rearrange the greens so that some of the wetter leaves can be closer to the outside.
Although you can finish up by blotting with a paper towel, if needed, I find the best thing to do is the make sure you dry your greens in advance, spinning them until most of the water is removed, then allow the basket to set out in the air as you are preparing other foods, etc. Once in a while, give the basket a shake to mix the greens and expose the leaves in the middle to the air. This way, by the time you’re ready, your greens will be more than dry enough.
Another problem with salad spinners is that they tend to take up a lot of space in your cabinet other things cannot be stacked on top of them, etc. The OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner, shown above helps solve this problem, somewhat, by using a flat lid design. However, if space is scarce, it certainly cannot be said that a salad spinner is essential. If you have the room or don’t mind giving up space for one in your cabinet, you’ll probably be glad you have on when it comes time to make a fresh salad!
Types of Salad Spinners
Salad spinners are differentiated by how they are spun. The two most common types used today are pump-action spinners which use a plunger, and handle-crank spinners. There are some units which use a pull string or a pull handle.
Most units allow you to add water while turning the basket. Some have locking lids so that you can also drain them without removing the lid. Remember that it is best to soak your greens around three times, draining each time. You can use the spinning, if possible, to agitate the greens while they are soaking. Otherwise, you can just soak them in the basket placed inside the bowl.
Many units have clear plastic bowls which can double as serving bowls.