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Do you tear your lettuce into pieces or cut them up with a knife when making a salad ?

I usually tear into pieces. Or sometimes cut them. I really see no difference. What's your preference ?

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  1. The only reason not to use a knife is that it will cause the edges of the lettuce to get that rusty-brown color if the salad isn't consumed right away. It's more of a problem if you return the unused portion of a head that has been sliced to the fridge. Other than that, it's a matter of preference. Some people prefer the more natural appearance of torn pieces, others like the long shreds of sliced lettuce.

    6 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      Is it true that the lettuce will turn a rusty brown color around the edges. Last night I picked some basil. I decided to experiment. Half I cut with a knife and the other half I tore into pieces.After a hour no difference.

      1. re: emglow101

        My understanding is that depends on your knife. If you have a carbon steel knife, then it will cause browning at the cut surface. If you have a dull knife, then it may also cause browning. If you have a sharp and stainless steel knife, then probably no difference.

      2. re: greygarious

        I cut my lettuce with a knife, put it in the fridge in a sealed container and it keeps until it's used up (sometimes as much as a week) without browned edges.

        1. re: Jeri L

          What kind of lettuce, and knife, are you using? Iceberg lettuce is infamous for turning brown if cut with a metal knife.

          1. re: greygarious

            Whatever comes in my organic produce box. Romaine, leaf, butter. Not generally iceberg, I'll grant you that, but on the rare occasions I've used iceberg (mostly for tacos) I don't recall a problem. I use a plain ordinary kitchen knife. I'd always heard "tear, don't cut", but a number of years ago I thought, "Bagged salad is cut. It's the air, not the method of cutting." Maybe I just have the touch.

            1. re: Jeri L

              Bagged salad is sometimes packaged in a mixture of gases (not just plain air) to delay browning and spoiling.

      3. Depends on the lettuce. I tear iceberg, and I cut romaine.

        1. a small amount of servings (2-6) that I'm prepping ahead - torn.

          a large amount (10-20, think a camping trip/cookout) that's expected to be consumed very soon - chopped.

          other factors come into play that are too numerous to list; type of lettuce, type of salad, is my Grandmother (AKA Herb Caen's female alter-ego) whispering in my ear? etc.

          1 Reply
          1. Years ago "they" whoever "they" were (I've slept since then) said that you should tear rather than cut because it wilted the lettuce. So for several years I tore it in pieces. Then went back to cutting with a knife. I just like the crispness of the lettuce against the knife blade. I don't know how else to describe it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: miss_belle

              Yep - the crispness reminds me of juicy - I know exactly how you feel!

              1. re: miss_belle

                Agree - cutting lettuce is very satisfying somehow. It slices straight and easily, makes a delicious crispy sound, and you really can't eff it up.

              2. Chop. Chop, chop, chop. I pick up a huge package at Costco and try and chop up enough for a few day's worth. I keep it in sealed plastic containers in the frig. I've never had any turn brown. It's the romaine hearts.

                1. Use a plastic knife to avoid browning ... Most stores that carry kitchen items will have them.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: hawkeyeui93

                    CI tested one of these on two kinds of lettuce and concluded that it wasn't worth it:

                    In their test, the lettuce cut with steel knives did indeed brown at the cut edges a bit faster than the others, but we're talking _12 days_ after cutting. The plastic knife lettuce turned brown a day later (at 13 days), and the hand-torn lettuce about a day after that (after 2 weeks of storage!).

                    My sense is that if you're preparing lettuce today but you're not going to eat it until the end of next week, a little bit of browning is not your only concern.

                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                      I'm not one for gadgets, but the plastic knife I use for cutting lettuce for years seemingly works when a metal knife did not. Tearing is even cheaper.

                      1. re: hawkeyeui93

                        Sorry, I meant a day later than the metal knives. So the test showed that the plastic knife was better, but the advantage only showed up for lettuce stored for a long time. I'll edit to make that clearer.

                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                          I edited too when I realized my post made little sense. In all fairness, my MIL buys us kitchen gadgets that I often do not use. The plastic lettuce knife is one I use on occasion and if I am cutting lettuce for a large party. Otherwise, I tear.

                          1. re: hawkeyeui93

                            Right, in some real-life situations, like a party where the lettuce might sit out unrefrigerated for a few hours, browning could become an issue much faster.

                            1. re: hawkeyeui93

                              Not really on topic, but my lettuce knife is what my kids learned to slice with. Works well on pizza too.

                              1. re: Robin Joy

                                Agreed. It is a task that my 4.5 year old daughter really enjoys [and that I can give her with little supervision].

                    2. Both ways as well as using shears which work real well with Romaine.

                      1. I still remember a TV appearance by Vincent Price on a cooking show in the 60's or 70's urging people to tear their salad lettuce by hand. And when you heard that silky voice, you believed him!

                        (Although I do use a knife to cut lettuce thinly for huevos rancheros.)

                        1. Tear, always. Not really sure why just that it seems easy enough when I'm washing the lettuce.

                          1. Whether you cut or tear, please do one or the other, down to bite-size pieces. One of my pet peaves is needing a knife to cut greens in a salad at the table.

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: WNYamateur

                                WNY - that is indeed the hall mark and the standard.

                              2. Carol Truax, of The Art of Salad Making (Doubleday, 1968), claims that "only torn lettuce coats itself completely when turned in the dressing." It's an odd claim, but it does back up how I was taught to do the salad lettuces. I don't remember who it was that taught me this, but it struck me when I read it in the salad-making book. I don't remember preparing lettuce far ahead of serving time, so it doesn't seem like browning edges would have been a concern.

                                1. For 40+ years I've cooked at family/friend functions and the most often heard comment is about the crisp salad I make. I know "torn" is the proper way, but I chop iceberg and slice romaine thinly and mix them together. It is either that or the way I store the lettuce--core, wash, drain for awhile, wrap in a tea towel and put in a plastic bag. The lettuce stays crisp for days and has no significant browning--if a smidge, I just cut it off.

                                  1. this is actually a historical legacy; before stainless steel was widely and cheaply available, the metals used in knives would cause lettuce to oxidize and brown rapidly. they also tended to interact with the acid in dressings, causing off flavors should a diner be served lettuce pieces that necessitated knife usage at the table. in modern times, this isn't a concern. chop away!

                                    see bee wilson's "consider the fork" for tons of cool food history.

                                    1. I use a knife with romaine only. Otherwise it is always tear with my hands. I like the way it looks that way.

                                      1. Depends on the type of lettuce. Iceberg I usually cut. Everything else I tear or use whole. I very rarely buy iceberg as it simply isnt very interesting.

                                        1. For years, I tore. But then one day, after tearing a huge amount of lettuce which made my arm hurt, I decided no more tearing lettuce. I cut from then on (that also was a number of years ago). We always eat salad short after I make it. Also, I have never notices the edges of leftover lettuce turning brown, even with Iceberg lettuce.

                                          1. I have been making salads [predominately soft lettuce salads] for nearly 60 years. Here is some of what I have learned and gathered. Any lettuce edge will brown in time whether torn or cut or broken from rough handling. When you tear the leaf, you do so [usually] because you are going to serve the salad very soon. No time to brown. When you cut the leaf with a knife [steel or otherwise] it will not brown any sooner. Believe me I've experimented hundreds of times with this. The softer the lettuce, so to speak, the more quickly it will brown, that is what I have found to be the case. When cutting lettuce there is no substitute for a razor sharp knife [unfortunately, your fingers may not think so]. It leaves the lettuce leaf with a clean sharp edge and this is pleasing to the eye. Torn lettuce is no more pleasing to the eye than cut, I have found. It is the color, and texture variety that impresses. A simple sharp contrast of color on the top of the salad is usually the most pleasing and appetizing. So, a clean edged lettuce lends itself to that eye appeal. What "injures" most lettuce is the hacking motion so many pantry workers use. It tends to create lettuce pieces that are too varied and the eye does pick up on this, plus the chances of rough edges increases. Slice, take you time and envisage the end product. Tear or cut, but be consistent in result.

                                            1. And to chiffonade the leaves,don't you have to use a knife?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: DonShirer

                                                Yes. If the leaves are rolled tightly and are of similar size to begin with, the process can go quickly and the result can be very consistent, which is important most of the time. Here, a sharp knife and slicing stroke will produce a sharp clean edge, which does look good on the plate.

                                              2. Depends, if I want to say time, then I just use the knife and make one big cut at the stem and release most of the leaves. Otherwise, I tear the leaves.