You’re Using Your Salad Spinner All Wrong: Here’s How To Get Greens Cleaner
Published on September 30, 2021
By Elizabeth Brownfield
If you buy a lot of farmers’ market spinach, lettuce, and herbs, you’ve had this problem: you diligently rinse off your greens, but find there’s always a little bit of grit in your salad no matter what you do. If this keeps happening, try this simple salad spinner hack instead to get your greens squeaky-clean.
Nothing ruins a salad quite like crunching down on some dirt or (even worse) finding a little beetle that’s crawled its way into the leaves. While insects are part of nature, that’s just not the kind of farm-to-table experience you want when sitting down to the dinner table. Using a salad spinner is a great way to rinse greens off without leaving them wet, but here’s the thing: you’re probably not getting your produce as clean as you could.
Salad spinners are usually designed with three parts: the outer bowl, the colander insert/strainer basket, and a lid with a mechanism — typically a crank handle, pump, or pull cord — that uses centripetal force to spin water off the leaves. And while rinsing your greens in the strainer basket or a traditional kitchen colander might seem like the most logical method, it actually creates a problem: when greens get piled on top of each other and rinsed, they get weighed down by the water and compressed. Often, the dirt and debris have no room to separate from the leaves and drain away, so they get trapped between the layers… and eventually, find their way onto your plate.
Instead, deconstruct your salad spinner by separating the bowl and colander insert. At your kitchen sink, fill the bowl with cold water, which will rehydrate and crisp your greens as it cleans them. Swish the leaves around: there should be enough water in the bowl so that the greens can move around freely and separate from each other. (You know how chefs say to cook pasta in enough water that the individual strands can move around freely in the pot? It’s the same idea here.)
As you swish the leaves around with your hands, dirt and grit will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Bugs and other flotsam will separate from the leaves, often floating to the top, making them easier to spot and dispose of.
Some types of greens are dirtier than others, depending on how and where they were grown. Bibb lettuce that was grown hydroponically will likely only require one wash, but straight-from-the-farm spinach leaves will likely have a lot of mud and sand, and may need a few changes of water before they’re clean. If you have a large amount of greens, rinse them in stages: as long as the water is still fairly clear, you can re-use it for multiple batches, scooping the greens from the top as you go.
Before you drain your leaves, skim anything undesirable from the surface of the water. Next, hold the strainer basket over your sink next to the bowl, then grab the greens one handful at a time, transferring them to the basket, leaving the grit-filled water in the bowl.
Then spin away until your greens are dry. If you want extra-dry leaves, spread them out onto a clean dishcloth, then roll it to soak up that last bit of water clinging to the leaves. Now you’re ready to use your greens, knowing that they’re super clean and free from any surprises snuck in from the farm.