"HAVE YOU ever used a salad spinner?" the enthusiastic saleswoman asked as she enumerated the virtues of the one I was buying.
Actually, I've always been old school, washing lettuce in a big bowl, then giving it another rinse in a colander. With a plate on top of the colander, I vigorously shake the leaves dry.
But it's clear that I'm a lettuce loner. Nearly everyone I know seems to have had a salad spinner. But -- hardly anyone I polled said they consistently use them. One friend even said that she'd converted hers to a lingerie dryer.
Judging by how many of these devices appearing on store shelves these days, manufacturers are hoping to entice us to put our salads back on the spin cycle. In testing six new or popular models, I rated them on ease of assembly and use, appearance (especially whether the bowl was attractive enough for serving) and, of course, how well they dried the lettuce leaves. I deliberately started with overly drenched greens, and whirled each gadget for 30 revolutions.
All the spinners have basic elements in common. There's an outer bowl that houses an inner colander and a snap-on lid with a spinning mechanism. And that's where things get interesting: Pick from cranks, knobs, levers and a plunger.
If this were a beauty pageant, the crown would go to the new Zyliss, with its clear green bowl. Even the colander is pretty enough to double as a fruit basket. But the Zyliss and another newbie by Oxo have features that seem superfluous. Both models have lock buttons, which I mistakenly assumed had some functional use. After struggling with this notion for a while, I realized that the lock buttons actually were just there to create a flat surface for storage, by keeping the lid mechanisms down.
The Oxo and Zyliss also have instant stop buttons, in case you're too busy to wait 30 seconds for the whirling to stop on its own. This emergency brake is pretty silly.
The simplest and least expensive model, by Copco, was easy to use but didn't dry the lettuce as well as the other two bargain spinners by Farberware and Cuisinart.
The most ambitious design is found on the new KitchenAid Salad and Fruit Spinner, which has dividers, so you can keep your green grapes from co-mingling with the strawberries. The big, clear plastic bowl would have been OK for casual serve ware but is marred by the product name in bold print.
Did any of these gadgets send me spinning in delight? Maybe not, but I have to admit that they all dry lettuce more efficiently than my old bowl-and-colander routine.