The best salads are made with greens that have been washed and dried -- they better accept dressing and won't end up watery. While you can pat dry washed greens with paper towels, a salad spinner makes quick work of it -- literally spinning water out of your lettuce.
Salad spinners are simple devices, coming in two primary styles: Some have pumps, while others have pull-cords. Both operate manually, but owners generally find pump-driven models more user-friendly (they aren't prone to problems such as tangled or broken cords). On the other hand, pull-cord models typically spin faster, and therefore dry greens a bit better. Salad spinners aren't expensive, but there are a lot of them on the market. We looked to professional and owner-written reviews to find the most effective, easy-to-use spinners.
The best review of salad spinners' design, effectiveness and looks appears in the Los Angeles Times. While most other reviews cover one or two spinners, the Los Angeles Times tests six. Given that many consumers use their salad spinners as serving bowls, we were pleased to find a photo of each spinner alongside the written report. We also found salad spinner reviews in Cook's Illustrated magazine and at Epicurious.com, but each review covers just two or three spinners. A report by Louisa Chu at Chow.com is more comprehensive, but one of the spinners she covers is commercial-grade, with a price to match -- the Dynamic Manual Salad Spinner (*Est. $150).
Problems with salad spinners (cracking or warping bowls, breaking cords) reveal themselves only over time, making owner reviews invaluable. At Amazon.com, a few salad spinners garner hundreds of reviews, while at Cooking.com, most salad spinners receive just one or two reviews, A few dozen additional owner-written reviews from Target.com and Viewpoints.com help round out the overall opinion on salad spinners.
Salad spinner design flaws can set baskets off-kilter, send lids into orbit or just leave greens wet and therefore dilute dressings. The Progressive International Salad Spinner/Washer SAL-1000W (*Est. $13) earns below-average ratings from owners posting to Amazon.com. This salad spinner has holes in the bottom to allow water to flow through -- meaning it must also be spun in the sink. Otherwise it makes a mess, and it's not ideal for storing lettuce as it will leak. Most owners (who also note that sinks are notoriously bacteria-ridden) don't feel this process washes greens adequately, however, because the water can pool under the unit and come in contact with the greens after they've been washed. Owners also complain that when the centrifugal force builds up, the basket can slip out of place and the lid can go flying.
Although the KitchenAid Salad and Fruit Spinner (*Est. $30) gets praise in the Los Angeles Times' tests, owners posting to Amazon.com and Target.com pan it for poor performance and design flaws. In fact, we saw lower ratings for this salad spinner than for any other. The KitchenAid Salad and Fruit Spinner has eight parts that make it cumbersome to clean, and it doesn't even dry greens all that well, reviewers say. In addition, the plunger locks when you push down too hard, frustrating many owners.