3 Ways to Prevent Sautéed Greens from Clumping in the Pan

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

I’ve been buying big bunches of Swiss chard and other greens at the farmers market lately and adding them to just about everything from frittatas to skillet dinners like these Crispy Pan-Fried Beans. One problem I keep having is that the wilted greens tend to stick together in clumps instead of mingling nicely with the rest of the dish. Does this happen to you? I have some thoughts on how to keep this from happening.

1. Slice Greens into Thin Ribbons

My first trick is to chop the greens into very thin, short ribbons before adding them to the dish. I usually cut them in half through the stem, stack them on top of each other, and then cut them in half again along the length before slicing them crosswise into thin strips.

2. Add Greens as the Last Ingredient

I also add the ribbons as the very last ingredient and stir them gently into the rest of the dish as they start to wilt. This way, the ribbons wilt around the other ingredients as they cook instead clumping up. Because they’re so fresh this time of year and because we’ve sliced them so thinly, they only take a few minutes to steam to perfection.

3. Don’t Overload the Dish with Greens

And finally, although I am usually of the opinion that if some greens are good then MOAR GREENS! are better, I have to restrain myself if I really want to avoid big clumps in my dish. When the proportion of greens is significantly greater than the other ingredients in the dish, those greens just tangle together in unavoidable clumps. I’ve found that a half bunch of greens is usually a good amount for an average dish that serves four to six adults.

These strategies aren’t quite perfect. I still find myself teasing a few clumps apart as I’m serving — C’est la vie!

Do you have this problem with wilted greens too? What do you do?

This post has been updated. Originally published 8/14/09.