A salad spinner is a kitchen tool for removing excess water from washed salad greens.
It uses centrifugal force to drive water off salad greens so that salad dressing will adhere to them better, and so that water doesn’t “water down” the dressing. Removing all water from salad leaves is more important for creamy dressings than 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 more thorough method than doing it by hand with paper or tea towels.
Salad spinner designs
Salad spinners are on average about the size of a large mixing bowl, though they do come in various sizes. The capacity is measured in volume, usually 1 1/2 to 7 U.S. quarts. The average household size is 4 U.S. quarts.
The core of a salad spinner is a plastic open-weave basket. Some baskets allow you to put inserts into them, allowing different food items to be spun at the same time while keeping them separate.
This basket goes into a larger plastic bowl (usually clear plastic.) This plastic bowl is often meant to double as a salad mixing and serving bowl as well.
The final piece is a lid, which has within it some mechanism to cause the basket to spin inside the bowl.
Most spinners 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 out and break it. You can’t pull the string out too slowly, either, or nothing will happen. The string retracts by itself (in theory), ready for another pull. You can also get battery-powered ones — you just press a button. These offer variable speeds.
Other types of salad spinners have cranks to turn them, and others are “pump action” — with the palm of your hand, you press down on a large button on top, let go, press down 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.
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.
Buying a salad spinner
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.
Many less expensive models won’t last for years, but they’re so inexpensive that they’re easy to replace.
Using a salad spinner
You start by washing the produce in question.
To wash salad greens, put the basket in the salad spinner bowl, fill with water, 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 or under clean running water and then transfer them to the salad spinner for spinning.
All water used should of course be clean, potable water from a known safe source.
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 discussed above.) As the basket spins, centrifugal force drives the water off the leaves, through the holes in the open-weave basket, and out into the bowl where it collects away from the leaves.
Leftover washed, spun greens can be stored right in the fridge in the spinner.
Other uses for salad spinners
Salad spinners can also be used for:
- drying greens that are going to go on sandwiches, to help prevent soggy bread;
- drying freshly washed fresh basil batches for making pesto;
- spinning excess water off washed fresh herbs before drying them for preservation;
- drying berries (firmer, not soft ones);
- whizzing shredded potato to easily remove the excess moisture for making potato pancakes;
- drying grated zucchini;
- drying thawed frozen shrimp;
- drying vegetables such as broccoli, or rinsed and chopped leeks.
The baskets can also be used as makeshift colanders for food items that aren’t hot.
Some people also use them to spin excess water off hand-washable items such as fine ladies’ knickers or good bras that can’t go into the dryer so that they’ll dry faster.
You can pat washed salad vegetables dry between paper towel or tea towels.
You can also use the centrifugal method 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. 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. Whatever you do, do not let go of a single one of the corners. Alternatively, instead of a tea towel, you can use a clean pillowcase with no lint in it.
Ngo, Irene. Six more ways to use your salad spinner. Chatelaine Magazine. 19 April 2011.
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