A Smart 0-Ingredient Trick for Better Salads at Home

A Smart 0-Ingredient Trick for Better Salads at Home

Steal this restaurant move for the crispest, best tasting salads.

Not to brag—okay, maybe to brag a little—but I'm something of a salad specialist. When it comes time to divvy up dishes for a holiday meal or a potluck, my friends and family often assign me the salad. I think it's because I actually love a good salad—one with the right balance of crispy, crunchy, and creamy textures, a colorful array of vegetables, and a zingy homemade dressing to pull it all together—so making salad is a pleasure for me, not a necessary evil or an afterthought.

But even a seasoned salad maker can improve their craft, and I recently tried out an old restaurant trick that makes any salad so much better: All you have to do is chill your salad plate before you pile the salad on. It might seem a little fussy, but it really makes a difference, so hear me out.

Why You Should Chill Your Salad Bowls and Plates

“Wilty lettuce can quickly turn a salad into a sad situation and if you’re willing to take the mostly hands-off time to toss whatever bowl or platter you’re serving your salad from into the fridge for 10 to 20 minutes, you help prevent it big time,” says Sheela Prakash, author of Salad Seasons and Mediterranean Every Day. “Just like serving hot food on a warmed plate help keep it warm, serving salad in a chilled bowl keeps it crisp long after you’ve tossed it with dressing.”

Chef Ann Ziata of the Institute of Culinary Education, agrees that it’s a good idea to put your salad plates or serving bowls in the fridge for about 20 minutes before using them, and she says many restaurants keep plates at cold, ambient, or warm temperatures depending on what course they’re serving. “The science of cooking has everything to do with time and temperature,” she explains. “It’s a law of thermodynamics that when two objects are touching, the heat from one will be transferred to the other, cooler object. A chilled plate will keep your salad from getting limp, wilted, or even cooked, which happens when a plate is taken directly out of a hot dishwasher. Even if your plate isn’t warm, a dish that was stored in a cabinet will increase the temperature of a salad of ingredients that were stored in the fridge, and thus make the leafy greens touching it much less crisp.”

A Smart 0-Ingredient Trick for Better Salads at Home

My Salad Plate Experiment: Does This Really Make a Difference?

I admit that despite the pro endorsements, I still thought this extra step was a little too finicky to be worth it, until I gave it a try. I gathered three salad plates and stuck one in the fridge for 20 minutes, kept one at room temperature, and then put one in the microwave for about 30 seconds until it was warm. Then I put a portion of a simple arugula salad on each plate. I tasted the salads after 10 minutes and again after 30 minutes, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much crisper the greens stayed on the chilled plate—especially when compared to the plate that had been warmed in the microwave. Not only did the salad on the chilled plate have a better texture, but it looked better and tasted better too

If you want to get really chef-y about things, don't just chill your salad plates, but also your ice cream bowls and drinking glasses. And, "Remember that the same logic works for warming plates for hot meals too," says chef Ziata. "Put your ceramic heat proof plate in the oven for 18 seconds. Remove and then plate your food. Don’t keep the plates in the oven for any longer, or it will be too hot to hold."

Going forward, I'm going to try to remember to stick my salad bowls and plates in the fridge, especially if I'm entertaining, but for my regular ole solo lunch or dinner salads too. This simple step is really worth it for the very best looking and tasting salads. And now that I know this trick works, can I really call myself a salad specialist if I won't make this tiny adjustment to my routine?


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *