Paper Towels Are The Easy Fix To Keeping Your Salad Fresh

You may have been taught one of the cardinal rules of making the best salads: Do not, under any circumstances, make your (greens-based) salad ahead of time. Lettuce and other leafy greens wilt quickly and reliably, especially after getting tossed with and being weighed down by other ingredients. Even if you avoid adding dressing, letting the prepped salad sit in the fridge will undoubtedly result in a soggy mess the following day... or will it?

A simple paper towel hack may change everything you thought you knew about storing salad. When storing prepared salad in a plastic container, place a paper towel on top of the salad before covering it with the lid. The paper towel will wick away moisture from the greens and keep the whole thing from becoming overly saturated. As long as you wait to add the dressing until right before serving, the salad will stay crisp and fresh for at least four days.

Why do greens wilt so quickly?

The minute you open that bag of romaine or arugula, it's like a timer begins ticking down until you're left with nothing but unappetizing mush. Why do salad greens go bad so quickly? The problem is moisture; not just the moisture in the vegetables themselves, but the ambient moisture in the air of your refrigerator. Refrigerators tend to be humid, and this doesn't bode well for ingredients that need to be as dry as possible to stay fresh.

Paper towels can help by absorbing the moisture that would otherwise seep into your lettuce and cause it to wilt. Be sure to dry your greens thoroughly after washing them (using a salad spinner can help) and then line whatever container you'll be using with paper towels or another absorbent material like terry cloth. You can even line the interior of your crisper drawer with paper towels, or a cloth, for maximum effect — just be sure to change the lining weekly. This will add several days of longevity to your veggies.

Extra tips to save salads

There are a few extra precautions you can take in addition to paper towels to ensure all the leafy greens last to their best-by dates (or even longer). For one, using heartier greens always helps; radicchio, kale, and mesclun, for example, tend to hold up a little better versus arugula and bibb lettuce.

Additionally, it's important to keep your salads in an airtight container if possible. Oxygen can also affect the texture of vegetables and turn them bad faster; you can use plastic containers or even plastic zip-top bags with the air pressed out of them to store your ingredients.

Finally, storing your toppings separately will, of course, keep your salad fresher as well. Even with a paper towel on top, your prepared salad will eventually wilt over time. Keeping the veggies, tomatoes, and other watery ingredients separate may buy you a few extra days, but it also can increase the work of assembling everything when you're ready to eat.