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What Keeps Cut Lettuce Fresh the Longest? Vacuum-Packing vs. Plastic Bags

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Not long ago I wanted to see how long cut lettuce would last after it has been vacuum-packed in a Mason jar compared to other methods for preserving cut lettuce. So I did an experiment right here in my very own lab kitchen.  This is the result–with pictures. I hope you enjoy the read.

THE LETTUCE EXPERIMENT

In anticipation of post-Superbowl guilt and regret regarding food choices and excess, I’m revisiting the whole idea of vacuum-packing lettuce this week.

Several commenters on the first post of this blog, An Amazing Way To Make Chopped Lettuce Last Longer, have asked questions about using other methods to preserve lettuce.  

Disclaimer:

Remember, you can’t really be sure how fresh the lettuce in the store is and I realize it could be a factor.  Nevertheless, I pretty much ignored that fact since it is out of my control.  I always try to buy the latest date I can find–as I’m sure you do also.

Setting up the experiment

On Sunday, January 17, I cleaned, chopped, and vacuum-packed Romaine lettuce fresh from the store. I always use a regular knife–no plastic knife or hand tearing here because I don’t have time or patience for that.

In addition to the vacuum-packed lettuce, I  prepared a plastic bag full of lettuce with a paper towel to absorb moisture.  I also packed lettuce in quart jars but did not vacuum pack it, just screwed the lid on.

After the Second Day: 01-18-10 lettuce

Second Day

The Lettuce Experiment  - 01-20-10 lettuce

Fourth Day

The Lettuce Experiment  --  01 22 10 lettuce

Sixth Day

After the sixth day   --  01 24 10 lettuce

Eighth Day

After the 10th day  -  01 26 10 lettuce

Tenth Day

The Lettuce Experiment  --- 01 28 10 lettuce

Twelfth Day

After 14 days: 1-30-10 lettuce jars

Fourteenth Day

Want to know the best part?

What you cannot see here is how moist the lettuce is in the vacuum-packed jars compared to the other lettuce. Which means it’s crisper.  Of course, there are no brown edges like the plastic bag lettuce and lettuce from the unsealed jar because there is no oxygen inside a vacuum-packed jar.

Let me reiterate that ALL LETTUCE WAS STORED IN THE REFRIGERATOR for the entire two weeks.

Only Romaine lettuce was tested.  I would expect results with other types of lettuce to vary.

Observations from this experiment

1.  Up until the fourth day, there doesn’t appear to be much difference in the brownness of the edges.  However, the vacuum-packed lettuce is crisper and moister compared to the others.  

2.  Unsealed chopped lettuce goes downhill after four days.

3.  If you do not cut the lettuce, the results may be different.  However, my whole reason for vacuum-packing lettuce is to make a grab-and-go salad that requires absolutely no preparation on a busy workday morning.  This means I have NO EXCUSE for not taking a healthy lunch–every single day.

Thinking about purchasing a vacuum-pack machine?

1.  If you want to pack lettuce as I have shown, you ABSOLUTELY MUST have a wide-mouth lid attachment.  You cannot pack lettuce in plastic bags.

You may also use plastic canisters sold with some systems but my experience with them is bad.  They crack. Quickly.  Don’t waste your money.  Besides, the glass quart jars are cheap and you’ll want several of them.

2.  Do you regularly shop at warehouse stores?  If so, you can use it to freeze smaller portions. (Remember the plastic bags are expensive to buy.) Vacuum packed food does not turn icy as it does in plastic wrap or regular plastic bags.

3. Do you like to seal your flour, sugar, cornmeal, pasta, rice, etc?  Quart and half-gallon canning jars work well.  Again you will need the wide-mouth lid attachment.

4. Do you like to keep your leftovers? If so, this is a great way to store them in the freezer while maintaining maximum freshness. Avoid the “icies”.

The meaning of all this…

If you don’t cook much, don’t buy much food, don’t think more than one day ahead about what you will eat, and/or have no interest in storing lettuce or fresh produce longer than 3-4 days, I would not recommend a vacuum-pack machine.

If, on the other hand, you cook a lot, buy in quantity, or want to get serious about eating right even though you have a tight schedule, think about buying this Food Saver vacuum-pack machine.

Why not try it?

Vacuum-packing chopped lettuce in a Mason jar has made my life easier. Hoping it will do the same for you.

Posts related to vacuum-sealing cut lettuce

Which Vacuum-Pack Machine Should I Buy to Vacuum-Pack Lettuce Inside a Jar?
Yes, You Can Use a Handheld Vacuum-Pack Machine to Seal Lettuce Inside a Jar
How To Vacuum-Pack Lettuce Into a Jar for Less Than $6 (Plus a Video)
Is a Plastic Knife a Substitute for Vacuum-Packing Lettuce?
Can I Add Other Foods to My Vacuum-Packed Jar of Lettuce? 

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