Refrigerating washed lettuce in the salad spinner has been my go-to method for storing lettuce for months. It is just so easy and convenient to spin the lettuce dry, pour out the water in the bottom bowl, and stick the whole thing in the refrigerator. Then I can just grab handfuls for salads as I need them.
Mid-May, I started to wonder: is it really the best way to store lettuce to keep it from getting all slimy and gross? Being the food science nerd that I am, I decided to see how my way stacked up against lettuce storage possibilities.
Note: I washed and dried two heads of lettuce — one Romaine, one green loose-leaf — and divided them between the four storage methods. I stored the lettuce for 5 days, and I ate a bit on the first, third and fifth days for comparison.
Method 1: My salad spinner method. The lettuce was just as fresh-tasting and crisp on the third day as on the first. After five days, the lettuce was browned and definitely starting to show its age. But it was still crisp!
Method 2: Wrapped in a dish towel and placed in an uncovered plastic bin. By the third day, the lettuce was browned and wilted. On the fifth, it was slimy and sticking to the towel. Don’t use this method.
Method 3: Wrapped in paper towels and sealed in a zipped plastic bag. By the third day, the lettuce was starting to wilt and look a little brown around the edges, but it still tasted fine when tossed into a salad. On the fifth day, it was more wilted and browned, but again, still edible.
Method 4: Wrapped in paper towels and slid into a plastic bag, but not sealed. Like the lettuce in the salad spinner method, the lettuce was just as fresh-tasting and crisp on the third day as on the first. On the fifth day, it was a little browned and wilted, but was in better shape than the salad spinner lettuce.
Moral of the Story:
If you plan to eat all the lettuce in the next 3 days or so, the quick-and-easy salad spinner method works well.
If you don’t have a salad spinner, or think it will take you closer to a week to finish, then go with the paper-towel-in-an-unsealed-bag method. It may be a little wilt-y by the end, but once you’ve tossed it with the rest of your salad ingredients, who will notice?