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April/May 2013

Salad Spinners

Obviously a good salad spinner needs to get greens dry, but that's just for starters.

How We Tested

We first chose the OXO salad spinner as our favorite in 1999, and although we’ve tested other brands over the years, we’ve never found a better one. It is newly redesigned. Could the maker improve on great? At the same time, new products have entered the market. We put eight through their paces, including the newest OXO model.

All salad spinners share a basic design: a perforated basket that balances on a point in the center of a larger bowl. The lid houses a mechanism that grabs the basket and makes it spin. Centrifugal force created by the spinning basket propels the contents of the spinner away from the center; greens are trapped while water passes through the perforations and collects in the outer bowl. But the spinning mechanisms, and other differences in design, affect how well salad spinners work.

Of the eight spinners we tested, two used a pump action, two had retractable cords, two had levers, one used a ratchet handle, and one had a crank. The crank was tricky to get started, and because the direction of the force being applied by the user was the same as the spinning of the basket, this model was prone to jump around on the counter. The ratcheting model was clearly designed for the right hand and proved awkward for lefties. Pull-string mechanisms work, but with time the retracting component can wear out so the string needs to be rewound manually. Plus, pulling the string away from the spinner can bring the lid with it. Lastly, when the string becomes wet or soiled, bacteria can grow. With lever mechanisms, because the force being applied is slightly off to one side, the spinner can become unstable. Our favorite method is the pump: The simple up-and-down motion takes little effort, and since it’s set in the center, the spinner won’t dance around on the counter.

As we were considering spinning mechanisms, we also noticed that spinners with conical shapes had smaller bases, which made them wobble at high speed. They were out of the running.

To test capacity, we made a Caesar salad recipe that calls for 2 pounds of romaine hearts cut into pieces. We recorded how many batches it took each spinner to dry the lettuce: two for the best performers, four for the smallest.

Turning to drying ability, we weighed the greens before and after washing and spinning. One salad spinner threw off about a tablespoon more water than any of the others. The worst performer, a collapsible model, trapped water; it left behind 76 grams of water on the greens. (To get greens completely dry, blot them with a clean dish towel after spinning.)

Concerned that violent spinning might bruise delicate herbs, we washed and dried a bunch of cilantro in each spinner and examined how well the spinners removed sandy soil. Every spinner cleaned the cilantro without bruising it, but long sprigs of cilantro did not fit comfortably in all models.

Once the greens are clean, it’s time to clean the spinners. Green baskets obscured any trapped greens when we were washing up; we preferred clear or white baskets. Complicated lids were also harder to clean, which made us appreciate one new model that comes apart for thorough washing and drying. And we were grateful for lids that compress for easy storage and stacking.

After all was said and done, our previous winner once again carried the day. Fourteen years and counting...

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB