Why It's So Important To Dry Your Salad Greens Before Assembly

Salads are a great way to eat light meals that won't lay you out for the day. For one of the most basic foods in existence, though, there are a surprising number of ways to mess up salads. Overdressing them, underdressing them, using ingredients with a mix of flavor profiles that don't go together — these are mistakes most people realize and try not to make.

But one of the most common mistakes people make with salads is one you might not even think of: Failing to dry salad greens after washing them. Sure, you want to wash lettuce just like you want to wash most fruits and vegetables — but you don't want to leave them dripping wet afterward. It's not just that this messes with texture; it's that this has a profoundly negative effect on whatever dressing you're using (even if you're making your own salad dressing), and a salad with messed-up dressing is no salad at all.

Wet salad greens make dressing all but useless

Okay, sure, some people eat salads dry, and more power to them, but most of us don't function that way. While you don't want only to taste the dressing, you do want it to bring the salad flavors together — not to mention make it easier to eat.

Much like how water will make salad greens go bad more quickly (put them in a plastic bag to solve this issue), excess water in the salad as you're eating it is also a problem. This makes perfect sense when you think about it: What happens when you add water to a liquid? It dilutes it. The flavor becomes lessened, true, but that's not even the biggest problem. The greater issue is that if the ingredients are wet, the dressing can't stick to them. Nobody wants a salad where the dressing leaks to the bottom.

There are multiple ways to dry salad greens

There are a few ways to dry salad greens. A salad spinner is made for this purpose, but not everyone has one of those. You could lay them all out on a paper towel, but that's not a particularly effective way. If you have plenty of time, the easiest way is to put it in a container with a bunch of paper towels dispersed evenly between the leaves; over a day or so, the paper towels will absorb all the excess moisture on their own.

If you're in a hurry, though, and you don't have a salad spinner, there's another trick you can try. It may seem weird, but you can place washed leaves in a cotton pillowcase, twist the end, and whirl it around a few times. All the liquid should get absorbed into the pillowcase itself. Make sure to use a cotton pillowcase for this, though! Not only will a silk pillowcase not work to absorb the excess moisture, but there's a pretty good chance of ruining the pillowcase itself.

Whatever method you use, just make sure you get your greens good and dry. Nobody wants a wet, weakly dressed salad.