17 Tools You Need to Make Better Salads, According to a ‘Salad Freak’
With these recommendations from cookbook author Jess Damuck, it’ll be easy to go beyond that boring bag of iceberg.
Before Jess Damuck became a self-proclaimed “Salad Freak,” the food stylist and recipe developer spent years making salads for Martha Stewart. During a time she lovingly called the “Martha Years,” Damuck worked for the lifestyle queen in a number of capacities, including preparing Stewart’s lunches, often prompted by instructions like “‘I’m in the mood for something light and fresh and truly delicious.’” These lunches became known as “three-hour salads,” referring to the time Damuck spent perusing farmers’ markets, meticulously plucking droopy leaves and focusing on their preparation. She’s made “a million” meals for Martha.
Damuck went on to embrace her obsession with salads in her new cookbook Salad Freak. As one can easily guess, the book is dedicated to salad – though it also stretches the definition with dishes like a pizza piled high with greens, and a rich, savory Swiss chard-topped breakfast yogurt. Damuck eats salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and teaches you how to do the same. But really, it’s a book that shares how to prepare meals that feel fresh – meals that lean into seasonality, and simple, intentional, beautiful preparation.
But between properly washing greens and slicing the umpteenth radish, making more salads – and more interesting salads – may feel more achievable in theory than in practice. However, if the prep work is the only thing stopping you from reaching your goals, there’s a way around it. In fact, there are 17 (and probably more) ways around it – a set of essential tools can make salad preparation quicker, easier, prettier and, well, better all around. We chatted with the Salad Freak herself to talk about what you might want to add to your kitchen arsenal. You and your salad bowl will thank you for it.
"I definitely think the most important thing is a salad spinner. I love the OXO salad spinner, just because of the size and how easy it is to use. I think that’s the real thing that changes salads for some people. They’re like 'I don’t need that,' but you’re going to need to clean a lot of lettuce, and it really makes it so much easier. And not only does it clean it really easily, but it also dries it, which is very important. A vinaigrette doesn’t stick to wet lettuce. It’s also a great way to store [greens]. If you’re spinning and making a salad, you can pour the water out, and put the whole thing in the fridge and it’s the perfect environment to store lettuce. I find if I’m able to spin it ahead of time, then put it in the fridge, it crisps up. Ten minutes is enough."
"You’re gonna need a good mixing bowl. I have a couple stainless steel bowls that I love. They’re easy to clean and affordable, so I definitely recommend them. I also love eating salads out of big stainless steel. Any set of stainless steel bowls — like I honestly get mine from Amazon. It doesn't need to be a fancy set or anything. Just get a nice wide one."
"It’s very important to have a great knife that you’re comfortable using. Santoku knives are great for cutting vegetables, especially if you’re still working on your knife skills. I always recommend those for people getting their first good knife. It’s a really good quality knife that’s not so precious that you’re afraid to use it."
"I also think having a paring knife is great and, again, I don’t really get a fancy one. I like the Kuhn Rikon ceramic ones. They have them at most home stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond or Williams-Sonoma."
"This may not seem like a salad-making essential, but just wait until you start chopping nuts with one of these."
"A Japanese mandoline is another thing I use in a lot of recipes in the book. I use it every day at home. They may be a bit scary to people, so I always advise people to not go super-fast. No matter your knife skills, you can never go as fast as a mandoline."
"OXO also makes a julienne peeler. And it’s one of my favorite things. I love that one. The julienne peelers make it that specific shape that would take forever otherwise."
"Another must-have is definitely a Microplane. I use it a lot for zests and sometimes for cheese."
"A citrus squeezer is my favorite type of citrus juicer. There are so many types of juicers. I feel like a reamer is a bit too messy."
"If you’re making a lot of salads, a produce bag is important for storing leftover produce in the fridge. You should wash your produce as soon as you get home from the market, or the grocery store. It makes everything last so much longer. OXO makes a larger plastic box, which is great because nothing gets squished in the freezer. The Debbie Meyer reusable green bags are found in most grocery stores, and make your greens last many more days than without it."
"A good peppermill is really important. I love freshly ground pepper, and it makes a huge difference."
"I love my Joyce Chen scissors. Those are great for herbs. If you have any kind of herb garden, those are great for precision cuts."
"Another thing I never thought I would use is a green stripper that my boyfriend gave me. I use it all the time now. What I like about it is that it really cleans the greens and you’re not wasting anything."
"I suggest having a few of each size and buying a quality brand like Nordic Ware that isn’t flimsy and will last quite a while."
"One thing that people have made fun of me for is that I have a special plating spoon. The one that I use is called a Ruhlman spoon. It has a bent handle that’s perfect for spooning things on top or making that 'chef-y' swoop on a plate."
Editor's Note: Quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity