Salad

Why You Should Mix Salads With Your Hands (Bye-Bye, Tongs!)

January 23, 2018

When you ask a cook to list the most useful tools in the kitchen, (impeccably clean) hands are consistently at the top of the list. The good news is you’ve always got them at the ready and, provided you keep them clean in the kitchen, they can do the job of many pricey gadgets, often better. One of the best ways to put your hands to work in the kitchen? Tossing salads.

As a rule, salads should have just enough dressing to coat the ingredients, with nothing extra pooling at the bottom of the bowl. I’m always shocked when a recipe says to prepare the greens, make your dressing, and toss everything together, inevitably leading to leaves just swimming in an overwhelming amount of dressing. Once that dressing goes in, you can’t get it out, so gauging the right amount is key.

Sturdier greens could use a longer massage. Photo by James Ransom

Next time you’re making a salad, lose the utensils, wash your hands, add about 1/3 of your dressing to the recipe—or eyeball the increments because, let’s be honest, do you really need a recipe for salad, anyway?—and mix the whole thing with your hands. You want to feel that the coating is light, not too wet, with no puddles at the bottom; feel and taste as you go. (Tongs are not as good at predicting whether the greens are well-saturated!) This method ensures perfectly tossed, lightly coated salads, whether using a vinaigrette or something creamy.

Shop the Story

Unlike salad tongs that inevitably bash and bruise ingredients, especially more delicate greens like gems, baby arugula, or mâche, your fingertips can do the job while keeping everything sprightly. And when it comes to tougher greens like kale, mustard, or sturdy spinach, massaging a few teaspoons of dressing into leaves first before adding more helps tenderize the greens by breaking down those fibrous walls. (For more on how to give kale a soothing rub-down, wander this way.) Another bonus: your hands help evenly distribute “add-ins,” everything from nuts, seeds, cheese, croutons, and fruit. Clumps of avocado, begone!

This winter, I’ll be tossing robust kale salads with punchy lemon vinaigrette, feta, and crispy breadcrumbs, as well as my go-to entree-style salad of arugula, farro, roasted winter squash, toasted almonds, and sherry vinaigrette with my hands—a messy job, yes, but one that will get me perfectly-coated, never-crushed greens every time.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I just started tossing with my hands. I put a little Maldon salt on the greens with the vinegar and toss that first. It really gets the flavors going. Then, I add a drizzle of EVOO. It’s unreal how delicious this simple process can be. Somehow that salt and vinegar process changes everything!”
— susan H.
Comment

How do you feel about getting touchy-feely with salad? Let us know in the comments!

6 Comments

Mary A. January 29, 2018
We ate salad every night when I lived home with my parents, also mixed it with our hands and ate it at the end of our meal or as another side. I still try to serve it most nights when we have dinner at home.
 
susan H. January 28, 2018
I just started tossing with my hands. I put a little Maldon salt on the greens with the vinegar and toss that first. It really gets the flavors going. Then, I add a drizzle of EVOO. It’s unreal how delicious this simple process can be. Somehow that salt and vinegar process changes everything!
 
Jude B. January 26, 2018
I once got fired from a restaurant in Los Angeles for tossing salad with my (clean) hands instead of tongs. That restaurant is no longer in business.
 
Starmade January 26, 2018
Alice Waters mentions in her memoir (one of the most fun books I've read lately) her enjoyment of mixing salad with her hands. It would not have occurred to me to do this, but my mom (who NEVER did this in my youth, but lives with me now because she has memory challenges) forgets that people eat with utensils and does more and more with her hands. Last night she started mixing the salad with her hands and instead of handing her utentils I thought what the heck, if Alice does it why not us, and put my own hands in the salad with mom's, and did understand why Alice likes to. (I still get upset when mom rips into my cakes with her hands, though that's another issue -- perhaps if I start making things designed to pull apart it will help).
 
BerryBaby January 23, 2018
That’s how our mother did it. Oil, vinegar, clove of garlic, salt, pepper, hand tossed...always.<br />Salad was served at every dinner.<br />Maybe that is why I love salad...💕
 
Author Comment
Jodi L. January 24, 2018
Love that @berrybaby! We had salad for dinner every night with my mom doing the same thing. We learned well!