How To Store Lettuce Heads Vs. Lettuce Leaves

It's helpful to keep lettuce on hand in any form. You can use it for salads, as added crunch on sandwiches, or to make a healthy wrap. It's frustrating though when lettuce turns brown quickly. It sometimes seems to happen overnight.

There are many types of lettuce that come in different forms; usually as a lettuce head or lettuce leaves. When lettuce goes bad quickly, it likely has to do with a lack of preparation when you bring the lettuce home and improper storage after the lettuce is prepared.

According to Does it go Bad, many lettuces can last in the refrigerator for at least a week, and a head of iceberg lettuce might last up to 21 days when cleaned and stored properly. This is because the outer leaves on a tight head of iceberg protect the inner leaves. When any lettuce is cleaned well and stored in a way that protects it, you'll get more days out of it. Keep in mind, though, that a head of lettuce has different storage needs than lettuce leaves.

Storing a head of lettuce

The first step in preventing a head of lettuce from going bad is to pay close attention in the store. Choose a head of lettuce with no brown spots. Make sure it looks crisp and fresh. Once you get your head of lettuce home, don't open it up and wash it (via Hitchcock Farms). It can be hard to ignore any produce when it needs to be clean, but a head of lettuce has moisture inside that protects it while it's stored, keeping the lettuce crisp. Added moisture might make it spoil sooner. Instead, clean the lettuce as you use it.

The refrigerator is the best way to keep any lettuce fresh since the cold temperature will help it last longer. You can keep a head of lettuce in whatever it came in, such as a plastic wrap or plastic bag. Choose a crisper drawer in the refrigerator, preferably one designated for lettuce only. Set the vent on the crisper drawer to a high humidity level so the lettuce head doesn't dry out. Heads of lettuce are fairly simple to take care of. Remember to wash any leaves you pull off to use.

Storing lettuce leaves

Lettuce leaves are loose leaves that have been removed from a head of lettuce and bagged for the store. They're quite convenient and help to make a salad quickly. However, just because the leaves are already bagged and possibly washed, doesn't mean they don't need a little extra care to help them last longer.

For bagged lettuce or any lettuce leaves, the first thing you should do is wash the leaves with cool water, preferably in a salad spinner, which is helpful in removing excess moisture. Once the leaves are clean, it's important to make sure that they are dry. Lisa McManus, executive tastings and testings editor at America's Test Kitchen, tells Insider, "Any bacteria or other contamination on the greens that they may have picked up in the soil during picking and handling, etc. is going to thrive in a damp environment, and that will make the greens wilt and spoil faster." You can dry the leaves with paper towels.

Once the leaves are clean and dry, you'll need to add back just the right amount of moisture before they are stored. Do this by wrapping them in a slightly dampened (not soaked) paper towel to help maintain the right amount of moisture and place it all in a plastic bag before storing it in your crisper drawer in the refrigerator.