How to Cut a Head of Lettuce

5 from 3 votes
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Discover the secrets to cutting a head of lettuce like a pro! I’ll show you how to cut lettuce to achieve the perfect texture and presentation for salads and sandwiches.

Learn how to cut a head of lettuce with this simple step by step guide.

Instead of grabbing a bag of pricey precut greens, learn how easy it is to cut lettuce to save money. You’ll be surprised how much one head yields, more than double that of store-bought convenience options. Who knew? This is great for making a big salad for a crowd or meal prepping for the week.

The rounded shape and endless leafy layers may seem tricky to break down. Don’t worry! I’ll show you how to cut a head of iceberg lettuce into wedges, chopped pieces, and shreds. The mild flavor makes it a versatile ingredient to add to crisp salads and as a crunchy topping for burgers, wraps, tacos, and more!

How to cut iceberg lettuce

There are different types of lettuce and leafy greens, but this tutorial focuses on round, crisphead-like icebergs. I will teach you the most common cuts, including wedges, square-shaped pieces, and shreds. Check out my how to cut romaine guide for breaking down large, flatter leaves.

Prep the lettuce

Person holding a head of lettuce and cutting the stem off with a chefs knife.

Lay the lettuce on its side to trim off part of the stem, about ¼ inch. The bottom of the stem begins to brown once harvested and cut, so trim off that area. Carefully peel away any outer lettuce leaves that are wilted, bruised, or browned.

Cut in half

Person cutting a head of lettuce in half on a white cutting board.

It starts with cutting the lettuce head in half to make smaller pieces. Stand the head with the stem side down on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut it in half lengthwise to yield two halves. From here, cut into wedges, shreds, or chopped.

Uses: Remove a few leaves from the core and use the halves as a gluten-free, low-carb burger bun. Use the outer leaves to make chicken lettuce wraps or to add to sandwiches or smash burgers.

Cut into wedges

Place the halves cut side down on the cutting board. Cut them in half lengthwise to create four wedges. Trim off any tough stem so it’s easier to eat, but keep the leaves intact so it holds its characteristic shape. This is a popular cut used for classic wedge salads. It’s easy to add dressings and toppings to large pieces of lettuce for a stunning presentation.

Uses: Wedge salad or garnish for a platter.

Cut into shreds

Person cutting a wedge of lettuce into strips.

Once the lettuce is cut into wedges, shreds are easy. Make crosswise cuts down the wedge for short shreds, or slice the lettuce lengthwise for super long pieces. Cut into ⅛ to 1/2-inch wide thin strips or shreds, depending on the recipe. This creates a very light, crisp, and delicate texture.

Use: Top on burgers, tuna sandwiches, wraps, chicken tacos, salads, and garnish for platters.

Chopped lettuce

Use the lettuce halves to chop them into smaller bite-sized pieces. Working one half at a time, place them cut side down on the cutting board. Trim any remaining stem by making a “V” cut to remove the more rigid end.

Make about 1-inch wise parallel cuts lengthwise to make strips. Turn and make perpendicular cuts crosswise to create square-shaped chopped pieces. This size makes it much easier to pick up with a fork for salads.

Uses: Caesar salad, Cobb salad, or Greek salad

Wash

Chopped lettuce being rinsed with water in a salad spinner.

Always wash the cut lettuce or wedges in cold water to remove dirt and debris from the field. Place chopped pieces and shreds in a salad spinner. After rinsing the lettuce, then spin it to dry.

Large wedges can be plunged into a large bowl of cold water, gently shaken to remove the excess water, then dry the lettuce on a clean towel. Now it’s ready to add to delicious dishes!

Storing lettuce

Use these methods for properly storing lettuce heads and cut pieces to prolong the shelf life and crisp texture.

  • Whole Heads of Lettuce: Keep intact and do not wash. Wrap the lettuce head in a lightly dampened paper towel, replacing if needed. Place them in a plastic bag from the store or a large resealable plastic bag. Leave it open at the top for air circulation. Store it in the crisper drawer to keep it fresh. The heads of lettuce will last about 1 to 3 weeks.
  • Chopped Lettuce: Place a lightly dampened paper towel on the bottom of a storage container or in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the cut lettuce and cover, leaving a small opening. If using a bag, seal it, leaving a few inches open to allow air circulation. The lettuce will last about 3 to 7 days.

Serving suggestions

Crisp iceberg lettuce leaves are perfect for adding to salads or a topping. Try these tasty recipes for extra crunch in your dishes:

Frequently asked questions

How do I wash a head of lettuce?

Remove any wilted or bruised outer leaves. Rinse the outside of the lettuce head, then dry. The leaves can also be pulled apart and washed individually in a large bowl of cold water. Do the same for wedges. Rinse chopped or shredded pieces and dry in a salad spinner.

How do I remove the core of a head of lettuce?

Use a paring knife to cut away the core. Alternatively, firmly hold the lettuce head with both hands and smash the stem side onto a cutting board. This loosens the core. Pull from the stem end to remove the core.

How do you keep lettuce fresh after cutting?

Store in an airtight container or large resealable bag with a lightly damp paper towel. The moisture will help dampen the leaves to keep them fresh for 3 to 7 days.

Lettuce on a white cutting board broke down into strips, wedges, and chopped pieces.

Is it better to cut or tear lettuce?

Cutting lettuce with a chef’s knife is the quickest way to break down the leaves and provide more even shapes and sizes. The blade slices through the cell walls of the leaf, and over time, the damage will cause the cut areas to brown due to exposure to oxygen. Tearing lettuce is great for breaking it down into rustic bite-sized pieces. If the leaves are torn around the cell wall boundaries, they can rupture fewer cell walls, but the difference in browning is insignificant.

How to Cut a Head of Lettuce

Learn the art of perfectly cutting a head of lettuce from crisply uniform slices to fluffy, bite-sized pieces for salads, sandwiches, or any culinary creation.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients  

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce

Instructions 

  • Prep the Lettuce – Trim off the stem, removing any brown area. Remove any outer leaves that are bruised or wilted.
  • Cut in Half – Place the lettuce head on a cutting board. Cut in half lengthwise, yielding two pieces. Proceed to make wedges, chopped pieces for salad, or shreds.
  • For Wedges – Cut the two halves in half lengthwise. This will create four wedges. Trim off any tough stem from each piece.
  • For Shreds – Cut the two halves in half lengthwise. This will create four wedges. Working one at a time, slice crosswise to make short shreds. Slice lengthwise for long shreds.
  • For Chopped – Make an angled "V" cut to trim off the stem from each halve. With the cut side down, make 1-inch thick slices lengthwise down the half. Turn and chop to make 1-inch pieces. Repeat with the remaining half.
  • Wash – Add the shredded or chopped lettuce to a salad spinner. Rinse well with cold water. Spin until the leaves are dry. Submerge the wedges in cold water. Gently shake to remove the water. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Equipment

Notes

  • Yield: About 10 to 12 cups chopped for a head of iceberg lettuce.
  • Storing: Wrap a whole head in a lightly damped paper towel and store it in a plastic bag with an opening for 1 to 3 weeks. Cut lettuce can be stored in a container or large plastic bag with a lightly dampened towel, leaving a small opening for about 3 to 7 days.
  • Reviving Wilted Lettuce: Place the leaves or cut pieces in a container of ice water for about 15 to 30 minutes until crisp.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 12 servings
Calories 6kcalCarbohydrates 1gProtein 0.4g (1%)Fat 0.1gSaturated Fat 0.01gPolyunsaturated Fat 0.03gMonounsaturated Fat 0.003gSodium 4mgPotassium 63mg (2%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 225IU (5%)Vitamin C 1mg (1%)Calcium 8mg (1%)Iron 0.2mg (1%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Sher says

    In my world, you slam the head down on the core and pull it all out. Then you NEVER use a knife if you are not going to eat all of that lettuce or won’t be eating it for a while as the edges turn brown. I use a lettuce knife. Hard plastic with a serrated edge. 🙂

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’ll have to check out a lettuce knife! Would love to test the difference in browning on the leaves when cut.