It happens: We buy or pick lettuce with the best of intentions, but before we eat it all, it wilts, or worse, gets slimy. With a little care, though, most lettuce will keep for at least a week or two, and some varieties will stay fresh and crisp for about a month. For the longest-lasting lettuce, keep it cool, dry and free from bruising. (Paper towels are the best trick – stay tuned.)
Core Before Storing
If you have a whole head of crisp lettuce, it’s best to remove the core first. Just don’t cut the core out with a metal knife, or the cut edges will turn brown. Instead, use a plastic serrated lettuce knife or just brute force.
Iceberg lettuce can be cored easily by smacking the head, core side down, on a countertop. The pressure breaks the leaves from the core and projects the core into the head. Then, voila! you just pull the core out. Other types of crisp head lettuce, like romaine or butterhead, can often be cored just by grabbing the core and giving it a strong twist.
Keep Stored Lettuce Dry
Once cored, lettuce should be stored unwashed in the refrigerator. Whenever you have a hankering for lettuce, take what you need and wash it at that time.
If you have loose-leaf lettuce, whether picked from your own garden or purchased, it’s best to wash it before storing. After washing, put it through a salad spinner or gently pat it dry, being careful not to bruise it.
Best Storage Containers
Lettuce can be stored in a plastic bag, a sealed glass or plastic container, or even a salad spinner. That said, lettuce (other than iceberg lettuce) bruises easily and it’s best kept protected in a container.
Iceberg lettuce is super easy: Just toss it whole into a bag. Other cored, crisp and unwashed, head lettuce will do best in a sealed container.
If you’ve washed any type of lettuce and aren’t able to use it immediately, the best choice for storage is right in a salad spinner after spinning it dry. The basket in the spinner allows the lettuce to drain and keeps the air circulating so that the lettuce stays dry. If you don’t have a salad spinner, use a sealable plastic or glass container. Put a paper towel in, too, to absorb excess moisture. (One on top and one on the bottom works best.) Check the paper towel daily. If it’s soaking wet instead of just damp, remove it, and replace it with a dry sheet or two.
That’s it! By taking a few easy steps before tossing it in the fridge, you can enjoy fresh, crisp lettuce for a longer time.
What advice would you add for making lettuce store longer? Share your tips in the section below: