When outfitting a kitchen, it is important to consider not just your cookware basics – pots, pans and bowls – but also which gadgets and tools are essentials. In the category of kitchenware, arming yourself with the latest and greatest is key.
Enter the salad spinner. The best salad spinners are game changers. They help extend the shelf life of greens, ease prep of all sorts of fresh things and have features that do more than simply rinse lettuce. Here’s what you need to understand when selecting the best salad spinner for your home.
What a Salad Spinner Can Do for You
We are huge salad spinner fans because their primary aim is to help you eat more fresh foods. Rather than feeling intimidated by the task of hand-rinsing greens, you can use a salad spinner to minimize prep, making healthful eating faster and more convenient. They eliminate the arduous process of rinsing leaf by leaf, spreading on paper towels and patting dry with additional towels. With the best salad spinners, you are speeding things up, cleaning more effectively and even reducing waste. The tool will get your greens cleaner than you can by hand. The best salad spinners can be used not only for delicate greens like Bibb lettuce or spinach but can stand up to heartier leaves like kale and chard.
Salad Spinner 101
Let’s address just how to use a salad spinner. A salad spinner is comprised of several key elements. A large bowl houses a slotted sieve or basket that rests on a pivot point. The pivot point, which is attached to the center of the bowl’s base, enables the spinning of the basket. A lid holds everything in place and is often part of the spinner’s mechanism.
Prior to putting the lid on a salad spinner, you give the basket’s contents – anything from greens to berries or even delicate vegetables like mushrooms – a quick rinse. Then, following the addition of the lid, you can use a plunger, crank or string to set into motion the pivot point’s mechanism. This will spin the basket, activating centrifugal force that pulls not only the solid contents to the basket’s edges, but the moisture, too, which is expelled from the basket and runs to the bottom of the bowl for collection.
This functionality makes salad spinners great for prepping for a meal. We also love to keep a salad spinner within reach to use directly after shopping trips. Many grocers keep their greens damp, which helps them appear perky; but excess moisture will lead to spoilage. So rinsing and drying greens right after purchasing staves off their turning point. Your haul will last longer and will be ready to pull and eat directly from the fridge.
A pre-storage rinse is great for just about any fresh thing – from a full head of lettuce, which can be stored as-is and pulled from throughout the week, to herbs you plan to liberally sprinkle on all of your dishes, to berries you’re looking forward to munching on.
Need more convincing? Salad spinners can even be used to hack drying of delicate clothing. We would recommend investing in a clothing-dedicated spinner if you’re planning on trying this out.
A Salad Spinner’s Mechanism
The science behind this gadget is pretty straightforward. An invention of the ’70s, the salad spinner relies on technology that is powered by hand. This mechanical simplicity means that manufacturers have developed subtle features to differentiate the best salad spinners from the humdrum options on the market. One of these features is the instrument that initiates spinning.
Old-school models relied on strings, but manufacturers have more recently turned to cranks and pumps. A pull cord will use friction to incite motion, while hand cranks and plungers make use of gears. With a hand crank, the user activates a system of interlocking gears, while a plunger is purely reliant on force to engage gears. A hand crank requires a bit more effort than a pump; however, that additional required effort results in a spin that can be slightly faster.
The best salad spinners featuring plungers use soft, non-slip polymer. With a few pumps of the hand (that’s a single hand – you won’t need both to work up sufficient momentum), you’re spinning your greens through the engagement of gears. Given the use of gears, a pump feature can be accompanied by a brake mechanism, which is activated by an additional button. The hard stop initiated by a break not only cuts back on wait time, but will give an additional forceful shake to greens, ridding them of any lingering moisture. Pumps, too, are often easily locked into place within the bowl’s cavity, making storage that much easier.
Salad Spinners’ Sizes
Regardless of which spinning activation route you go, you’ll need to consider a few other basic qualities, first one being size. Salad spinners come in the following standard sizes:
- 2 quarts for berries, small side salads, herbs and other salad accompaniments
- 3 quarts to hold enough greens to feed about four to six people
- 4 to 5 quarts are well-suited to a crowd of up to six or eight
When in doubt, opt for a larger-sized model. Outside of demanding a bit more storage space, sizing up really does not have any drawbacks. In addition to holding a greater volume of greens, the large salad spinners will give you a wider base that in turn is more secure for spinning given the surface area it sits on. That said, if you need a solid spinner to make a weeknight solo salad, or if you like to keep cleaned fresh herbs on hand at all times, a smaller model could serve you well.
Salad Spinners’ Lids
No matter its size, your chosen salad spinner will need an exceptional lid. Because you’re generating force through speed, you need something that isn’t going to slip off. The best salad spinners will offer lids that lock into place not only to quiet your fears of flying greens, but also to ensure your hands are freed up to keep the bowl fixed to your work surface. A tight lid is also a vital part of mechanism engagement – a plunger-powered tool will directly rely on the alignment of gears activated by a pump atop the lid, and models using cranks or strings are made more efficient with minimal air escaping from the spinner’s top.
Salad Spinners’ Material
Your salad spinner’s material is extremely important. Select an option that includes a BPA-free plastic basket. For the bowl, you need something durable and light – either a stainless steel or BPA-free plastic. Many bowls boast slip-free silicone bases, allowing you to spin without fear of the vessel going flying.
A Multipurpose Tool
Not a must, but certainly a winning characteristic of the best salad spinners, is a capacity to act as a serving bowl. Many models are intended to do double duty. With a salad spinner designed for show, after spinning the moisture off your greens, you can remove the basket, dump the water from your bowl, give it a quick rinse and then transfer the greens from the basket back to the bowl. This is ideal for ease and speed, and also means fewer dishes and more seamless storage (straight to the fridge the bowl will go!). That basket you remove from the bowl should function on its own, as well. The best salad spinners enjoy baskets that can function as a colander when used on its own. This means it needs to be sturdy and have a flat base.
Cleaning Your Salad Spinner
One of the reasons home cooks can be hesitant to incorporate a salad spinner into their repertoire is the projected cleaning fuss. The best salad spinners are technically dishwasher safe, though we recommend favoring hand-washing to ensure you reach nooks and crannies and prolong the tool’s lifespan.
The best salad spinners will come with a lid that is in no way connected to the base, so you can easily remove and clean it. A simple basket pattern with large, evenly spaced holes not only allows water to easily escape, but also minimizes leftover debris that can be troublesome for cleaning. If you can’t run a colander under a faucet to rinse and effectively remove all sticking bits, you should look for another model.
To sum it all up, when looking for the best salad spinner out there, reach for one that offers ease of use, high-quality material, perks such as removable, reusable bowls and a size that’s ideal for you.