The Unexpected Kitchen Gadget That Whips Up Salad Dressing In A Flash

Whether you snagged it from a farmer's market or just got lucky at your local grocery store, arguably the best way to showcase fresh, seasonal produce is in a salad. And when you're working with perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables, you'll want the salad to do it justice — by using a killer homemade dressing to bring it all together.

The key to any decent dressing is emulsification — the process by which two non-mixable substances, like oil and vinegar, are blended together so that particles of each are evenly (though temporarily) suspended throughout. (It's the reason why you need to shake store-bought salad dressing before use — to recombine the separated elements.) The most common way to emulsify a dressing at home is to quickly whip it all together using a fork or a whisk. Alternatively, you can seal it up in a jar and give it a hard shake.

But if the manual method isn't giving you the smoothly mixed results you want, or if you just don't want to go through the hassle of whisking by hand, there's one tool you might already have on hand that could help: A handheld milk frother.

Make mixing a breeze

Yup, that little vibrating wand that you use to make frothy espresso drinks at home can save you some time and energy next time you're making salad dressing at home. For one thing, it's incredibly convenient — thanks to its small size, you can use it to whisk dressings in virtually any size bowl or jar, even ones that are too small to fit a standard whisk. The battery-operated device also saves you some of the manual labor of whisking by hand, which may take a while to get a really nice, evenly mixed emulsion. Instead, the little gadget does all that for you. Just be sure it's completely submerged in the dressing before you turn it on, or you risk splattering oil and vinegar all over yourself (not fun!).

Because milk frothers (these are the best ones) are made to aerate liquids to create a smooth, fluffy foam, they're great for getting a similarly smooth consistency in your salad dressing. Since the emulsion will eventually separate, though, be sure to serve not too long after mixing. If you're making a batch of dressing to use throughout the week, you'll likely want to re-blend the mixture before each use (or at least shake the sealed container to combine).

Tools of the (salad) trade

Sometimes cooks will use standard or immersion blenders to emulsify their dressings, which is another non-manual option (and definitely the path you want to take if you're trying to break up big chunks of fruit or other solids). Milk frothers, though, have the advantage of being incredibly easy to use and clean, without having to take apart any sharp, complicated pieces of equipment. It doesn't hurt, either, that you can snag a milk frother for just about $10.

One note of caution, though: If you plan to use your frother for beverages again after using it for salad dressing, be sure to clean it thoroughly in between. The last thing anyone wants in their morning latte is an aggressive smack of red wine vinegar. In fact, it's not a bad idea to keep a second frother in stock so that one can be the dedicated salad dressing and the other can remain devoted to drinks. Then you don't have to worry about accidentally transferring some very out-of-place flavors from your salad to your coffee, or vice versa. Coffee vinaigrette is a real thing, but it's best made intentionally — not via cross-contamination.