My first job was working at an Italian deli. So you can imagine the amount of lettuce I had to core and shred to fill cooler upon cooler with subs for beach days along the Jersey Shore.
Everyone should know how to cut iceberg lettuce. Whether a novice home cook or a teen slinging sandwiches in a deli, iceberg lettuce is one of those ingredients you’re likely to encounter repeatedly.
From wedge salads to tossed salads, or shredded lettuce for tacos and sandwiches, this article will walk you through how to prepare iceberg lettuce for any application.
The steps are simple and easy to follow, so you can spend less time researching methods and more time doing the fun stuff in the kitchen.
3 Ways To Cut Iceberg Lettuce
What You’ll Need:
- A cutting board (stabilize it by placing a damp paper towel between the bottom of the board and your counter, this way, it won’t slip or slide and can prevent injury)
- A sharp chef’s knife
Method 1: Wedge
A wedge of iceberg lettuce is essential for the classic, restaurant-style wedge salad. Traditionally, the iceberg wedge is smothered in bacon bits and bleu cheese dressing, but don’t be afraid to mix it up!
Begin by peeling off any brown or wilted outer leaves from the head of lettuce and rinse it under cold water to remove any dirt or debris
Next, place the head on your cutting board and cut it in half from the top through the core.
Then place the lettuce half cut side down on the cutting board and split it in half again. Repeat with the other half, so you have four quarters.
Now, hold one quarter flat on your cutting board and place your knife at the point where the lettuce core meets the lettuce leaves. Turn the blade at a 45-degree angle, and make one slice that removes the core from the quarter.
You’ll be left with four iceberg lettuce wedges just waiting to be dressed up and devoured.
Method 2: Chop
Chopped iceberg lettuce is excellent for all kinds of salads. Follow these quick and easy steps to prep your lettuce in no time.
First, remove any outer brown or wilted leaves from the head. Then, wash and dry the lettuce.
Next, you’ll need to remove the core. You can do this by carefully cutting around the core at a 45-degree angle, cutting a cone shape into the head that will allow the core to slide right out.
Pro-Tip: To quickly remove the core, brace the head in both hands and slam the core into your cutting board. One or two good thwacks should do it. The core should completely detach from the leaves so you can pull it out with your fingers.
Once the core is removed, cut the head in half and place each half cut side down against the cutting board.
Now, cut one half into lengthwise strips about ¾ inch wide. To make the next step a little easier, keep the strips in place so that it still looks like a half head of lettuce.
Rotate the lettuce 90 degrees and cut across your lettuce strips every ¾ inch. Feel free to make these cuts narrower or wider depending on how large you like your pieces.
Repeat the last two steps on the other half of the lettuce, and you’ll have perfectly chopped iceberg ready to be tossed into a mouth-watering salad.
Method 3: Shred
Shredded iceberg lettuce has a multitude of uses. You can use it for garnish or to top tacos, nachos, or fajitas. Pile it high on subs and sandwiches.
It’s also the base for my favorite salad of all time. A bed of shredded lettuce topped with chicken salad, roasted red peppers, diced red onion, chunks of provolone, and a heavy drizzle of balsamic.
To begin, remove any brown or wilted outer leaves. Then wash and dry the head of lettuce.
Remove the core by carefully cutting around the core at a 45-degree angle, cutting a cone shape into the head that will allow the core to slide right out. Or, try my trick from the previous section and give the core a good thwack against the cutting board and remove it.
Now, cut the head in half and place one half cut side down on your cutting board.
Hold the lettuce in place and use your hand as a guide to cut ¼-inch slices from one end to the other. Feel free to tweak this measurement according to the size of shred you prefer; I like mine very fine.
Once you’ve shredded the entire half, repeat the same slicing method on the other half.
Tips for Storing Iceberg Lettuce
You’ll get the most extended amount of storage life from your iceberg lettuce if you store it whole in the fridge.
Wrap the entire head in paper towels and place it in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag. You can tear off leaves as needed, and the head will stay fresh for up to 21 days.
Alternatively, if you chop your lettuce before storing it, you can get about 7- 10 days of fresh lettuce. For shredded, you’ll get about 5-7 days when properly stored. Of course, the longer you wait, the more brown edges you’ll find.
For prepped lettuce, line an airtight container or resealable freezer bag with paper towels. Place the chopped or shredded lettuce between the towels and seal the container tight and store in your fridge.
Iceberg vs. Romaine: What’s The Difference?
Aside from their difference in appearance, iceberg and romaine lettuces have many different attributes that will make one or the other the best option for your dish.
Iceberg is exceptionally crisp, neutral in taste, low-cost, and has a long storage life. This lettuce is best served cold and straight from the refrigerator for an ultra-crisp and fresh salad.
Romaine has crunchy ribs and tender leaves. It has a slightly bitter taste that pairs well with salty or sweet dressings and is more nutritious than iceberg. Romaine is also tough enough to be cooked (grilled caesar, anyone?).
Here’s a teaching point from culinary school that really stuck with me. The dark green tips of romaine are the most bitter, so the tender and sweet hearts are the most sought-after part. On the other hand, iceberg lettuce gets blander the closer you get to the core, with the outermost leaves having the most flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need to clean iceberg lettuce?
Wash all produce before consuming it to remove dirt, pathogens, and chemical residue from pesticides. Iceberg lettuce is grown right on the soil, so it is best practice to peel off the outer leaves and give the entire head a good rinse.
Should you cut iceberg lettuce with a knife?
A sharp chef’s knife is perfect for cutting iceberg lettuce into wedges and shreds or chopping it for a salad. Alternatively, you can tear off leaves for a salad or sandwich.
How do you store iceberg lettuce once prepared?
Line an airtight container or resealable freezer bag with paper towels. Then, place the chopped lettuce between the paper towels, seal, and store in the fridge for 7-10 days.