2 Ways To Dress A Salad

The two best ways to dress a salad

This month, Tasting Table celebrates all things salad. Keep your cool with us.

If there's more than one way to skin a cat, there's certainly more than one way to dress a salad—but some work better than others. We've narrowed the possibilities down to two general methods, based on the viscosity of your chosen dressing. Whether you're using balsamic or blue cheese, follow these tips for the best-dressed salad in town.

For thin, light dressings, like Italian or balsamic vinaigrette, it's best to start with the dressing and work your way up. Line the bowl with dressing or pour a small amount right into the bottom of the dish. Then layer in all your salad ingredients, starting with the sturdiest (i.e., greens or grains) and leaving the most delicate for the top. Gently toss from the bottom up, giving everything a quick, even coating without bruising fragile add-ins, like pear or avocado.

For light vinaigrettes, line the bowl with dressing and toss from the bottom up.

Other salads call for more viscous, thicker dressings, like blue cheese, Caesar or ranch. For these, you'll want to dress your base greens before adding in toppings—you don't want to drown small ingredients, like chopped nuts or fresh herbs. Though any greens will do, sturdier greens, such as endive, romaine, iceberg and kale hold up best in the face of creamy condiments. Put them in a bowl, add the dressing and mix it up well to coat the leaves. Then add in the rest of your ingredients, give everything a quick toss (you do want some flavor) and transfer it over to your salad bowl or plate.

In both cases, be sure to add a pinch of salt, which will help soften tougher greens and bring out the flavor of your ingredients. You'll also want to make sure your greens are dry, as oily dressings will slide right off wet lettuces. And remember, even if you're a die-hard dressing lover, err on the conservative side—it's a lot simpler to add a splash of dressing than it is to remove one.