Ina Garten's Hack For Drying Lettuce Without A Salad Spinner

When it comes to tedious kitchen tasks, washing and drying lettuce ranks high on the list. Washing the crevices of the leaves gently, then patting each one dry, is a process that makes peeling garlic or deveining shrimp seem quick. This is why salad spinners were invented — just drop your rinsed leaves in the container and spin them around to whip the water off, saving you time and sanity. The only problem is that not everyone has the money or space for such a large gadget. Thankfully, chef Ina Garten has a fantastic alternative that will dry your lettuce quickly and effectively. 

During an appearance on the Today Show, Garten showed hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager how to dry wet greens without a salad spinner. She places damp lettuce inside a large kitchen towel, gathers the ends so that the greens are held in the middle, and then spins the towel in the air. 

The centrifugal force moves the water clinging to the leaves outwards, where it gets absorbed by the towel, leaving your lettuce nice and dry. You can even use a clean cotton pillowcase instead of a towel. There are also products on the market designed for this exact purpose, like the Salad Sling, which is super-absorbent, so you don't get sprayed with water droplets. When you use a common towel, you may deal with some water spraying out from the fabric.

Why dry your lettuce?

It's important to wash lettuce and greens in order to get rid of bacteria, dirt, and pesticides, but why is it so important to dry them thoroughly? Ina Garten mentions in the Today Show segment that dressings simply stick better to dry lettuce. As you might remember from elementary school science, oil and water don't mix, and most salad dressings contain oil or fat. Excess water on lettuce leaves will repel the dressing, causing it to slide right off and pool at the bottom of your bowl. Eventually, the poorly dressed salad will turn soggy and limp, all because the lettuce wasn't properly dried. 

Extra water also dilutes your dressing and diminishes its flavor, and isn't the dressing one of the best parts of a salad? Also, if you're meal prepping or just like to wash your greens in advance, leaving your lettuce too wet could result in the leaves rotting, wilting, and turning into a soggy mess. At that point, they're really only good for your compost bin. To make sure you feed yourself and not your garden, it's definitely worth grabbing some clean towels and using them to dry your greens. Your taste buds and grocery budget will thank you.

Other ways to dry lettuce without a spinner

Drying lettuce with a salad spinner or towel might be the quickest way to do it, but these certainly aren't the only ways to shake the water off your greens. If you've got the time, consider the air-dry method. Wash your greens and gently shake off most of the water. Lay them on a paper towel-lined rack, where air can circulate around them, and let them sit for about a half hour, at which point the lettuce should be dry. This method may not be quick, but it's hands-off and convenient if you have to pay attention to other tasks.

Another popular way to get the job done is the roll-up method. Rinse and gently shake your lettuce dry, then lay the leaves flat in a single layer on a large, clean kitchen towel or a couple of layers of absorbent paper towels. Roll the towel up, burrito-style, and the lettuce's entire surface area will come into contact with dry portions of the towel, which will absorb excess moisture. By the time you unroll, your lettuce should be water-free. 

Finally, if you prefer the towel-spinning method but don't enjoy giving your kitchen (or yourself) a shower with flying water droplets, try lining a plastic grocery bag with paper towels and placing your damp lettuce inside. When you spin the bag around, the towels will absorb the water, and the plastic material of the bag will trap the droplets inside.