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Cooking Tips

A Faster, Easier Way to Prep Kale

Lots of kale in little time.
By Published Feb. 25, 2021

Kale isn’t my first choice of green. (I’m just going to be honest.) But it’s one of those foods I’m learning to love. My roommates have also been on a huge green smoothie kick, so there’s been plenty of kale prep in my kitchen recently. 

Kale prep: It’s not the most efficient. Do you carefully slice around the stem? Make a V shape? Can you just chop it whole? 

Here at ATK, we work with a lot of kale, and there are two main methods we use to prep kale: one standard, one not so obvious. I came across the not-so-obvious version on a recent episode of America’s Test Kitchen, when my colleague Keith Dresser was stripping kale for our Swiss Chard and Kale Gratin recipe (start a free trial to try it). He illustrated a faster and easier way to strip kale.

Here’s how he does it:

  1. Grab the end of the stem with one hand. Pinch the thumb and index finger of your other hand on either side of the stem as you strip the leaves from the bottom to the top of the stem.
  2. Pile the leaves on the cutting board and then run the knife across the leaves in one direction to cut 1-inch-wide strips. Turn the strips 90 degrees and chop them into rough pieces.

This is the other method we recommend, which at first glance seems to require a little more work.

  1. Stack three or four leaves on top of each other, large to small, aligning their central ribs.
  2. Fold the stack of greens in half along the central rib.
  3. Trim the central rib using one knife stroke. Repeat with the remaining leaves.
  4. Chop the leaves crosswise into 3-inch pieces.

Keith, who also developed a collection of Pan-Steamed Kale recipes, offered up his thoughts on why he thinks the first method is the fastest and most efficient way to strip kale. 

“If you are set up right you can clean a ton of kale quickly. It's just one motion to pick up a leaf with one hand and strip it. It works best because the central stem is so rigid and the leaves tear away easily. Plus, kale is so curly that getting it to sit flat on the cutting board to cut the stem out is a challenge.”

After testing both, I concurred with Keith on his kale stripping thoughts. I was most surprised by how easily the leaves fell off the stem as I ran my fingers along it. It was a completely fluid motion, and they slid off without any problems. It was then easy to stack the leaves and chop them. 

With the second method, the trick of folding the leaves over to cut along the stem helped with the curliness of the kale and made the process easier. However, in the time I spent just stacking and folding, I could have already stripped multiple leaves of kale using the other method.

All in all, as I continue my kale journey, I will be employing the pinch-and-pull trick Keith suggested. It is much quicker and perfect for prepping large amounts of kale in a small amount of time. 

If you're interested in more vegetable tips and ideas, check out these articles:

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