A Salad Spinner is a kitchen tool for removing excess water from salad greens.
It gets water off the vegetables, so that salad dressing will adhere to them better, and so that the water doesn’t “water down” the dressing. This is more important for creamy dressings than for vinaigrettes (it is less important for vinaigrettes because vinegar is basically water, anyway, and it would all just blend in, though the flavour would be diminished.) It is a much faster and thorough method than by doing it by hand with paper or tea towels.
Salad Spinners need to pick up a great deal of speed, without bruising the leaves in them. With ones that don’t pick up good speed, you need to put smaller amounts of salad leaves in at a time.
Salad Spinners are about the size of a large mixing bowl, and works by centrifugal force. A plastic basket insert goes into a larger plastic bowl (usually clear plastic.) The washed vegetables go into the basket insert.
They come in different sizes. The capacity is measured in volume, usually 1 1/2 to 7 quarts. The average household size is 4 quarts.
Some have exterior bowls that are meant to double as salad mixing and serving bowls as well. Some baskets allow you to put inserts into them, allowing different food items to be spun at the same time, while keeping them separate.
To operate a Salad Spinner, you put the plastic lid on, and cause the basket to spin by setting gears within the lid in motion (there are several different ways this can happen.) As the basket spins, centrifugal force drives the water off the leaves, through the holes in the basket, and out into the bowl where it collects away from the leaves.
Most are powered by a cord that you pull and then release. These are the most inexpensive models. Don’t yank on the string like you’re starting a boat motor, or you may yank it right off and break it. You can’t pull the string out too slowly, either, or nothing will happen. The string retracts by itself, ready for another pull.
Other types of Salad Spinners have cranks to turn them, and others are others are “pump action” — with the palm of your hand, you lean on a large button on top, let go, lean again, etc. The pump ones usually have a “brake” button as well to stop them. When not in use, the pump locks down into place.
You can even get battery-powered ones — you just press a button. These offer variable speeds.
Many less expensive models won’t last for years, but they’re so inexpensive that they’re easy to replace.
When buying a Salad Spinner, take it for a “spin” in the store to see if you like how it responds. Check for a non-skid base. And, if it’s important to you, check to see if it’s dishwasher safe, Not all are, and their plastic may warp from the heat in a dishwasher. Even ones that do say they are “dishwasher safe” usually say, for the North American market where dishwashers have bottom heating coils, that they are “top rack” dishwasher safe. Given that the bowls and baskets are usually too tall to fit into the top rack, it’s difficult to know exactly what they mean. However, unless you’ve used the bowl as a tossing bowl and gotten salad dressing in it, or spun berries, you can just do what most people do, which is give it a quick rinse with water, then set aside to let itself dry.
To wash salad greens, put the basket in the Salad Spinner bowl, and wash them right in there. Lift the basket out to drain the water away, then empty the water out of the Salad Spinner bowl. Re-assemble to start spinning. However, if you’re washing a large amount of greens, and particularly if they’re ones with a lot of grit on them, such as spinach, you may want to just wash them in a clean sink and then transfer them to the Salad Spinner for spinning.
Washed, spun greens can be stored right in the fridge in the spinner.
The baskets can also be used as makeshift colanders for food items that aren’t hot.
Salad Spinners can also be used for:
- drying greens that are going to go on sandwiches, to help prevent soggy bread;
- drying fresh basil batches for making pesto;
- drying berries;
- when you are using shredded potato to make potato pancakes, whizzing the shredded potato through a salad spinner can easily remove the excess moisture;
- ditto grated zucchini;
- dry thawed frozen shrimp;
- dry vegetables such as broccoli, rinsed and chopped leeks.
Some women use them as well to spin excess water off of hand-washable items, such as good bras that can’t go into the dryer, so that they’ll dry faster.
You can also just pat salad vegetables dry between paper towel or tea towels. Many people who felt that using towels was just as fast and thorough have been convinced after using a Salad Spinner at a friend’s place. Some also feel that they’d like to save their paper towel for other things, and that patting with tea towels (besides making more laundry) just doesn’t do as thorough a job unless you have prepared to stop your life and have a few zen moments communing with the towels and your lettuce leaves. To dry them with a tea towel, put your salad leaves in the centre of a large, clean tea-towel, and form a bundle by pulling the corners together toward the centre. Alternatively, you can put the wet leaves in a clean pillowcase with no lint in it.) Take your bundle into the backyard, out on the balcony, or into the shower with the curtain or door closed, and whirl it around your head like a helicopter blade. If you are using a tea towel, don’t let go of a single one of the corners (seriously).
Ngo, Irene. Six more ways to use your salad spinner. Chatelaine Magazine. 19 April 2011.