Salad tongs are tongs which have been specially designed for tossing and serving salad, although they can often be used on other foods as well. This basic kitchen utensil comes in a variety of guises, and it can be very useful to have at home.
Typical salad tongs are a single-piece utensil which hinges or flexes, allowing the arms of the utensil to be brought together like a pincer and released. It is also possible to find salad tongs in two separate pieces which are handled with both hands, although many people prefer the one-piece design since it eliminates the necessity of scrabbling through the utensil drawer for an errant tong.
A variety of materials can be used to make salad tongs, and they have advantages and disadvantages. Wooden salad tongs are less likely to scratch utensils and damage delicate salad ingredients, but they also tend to absorb flavors and stains from the foods they are used with. Wooden tongs also require special care, since they need to be washed carefully and allowed to dry completely to avoid cracking.
Metal salad tongs are more durable, but they can scratch salad bowls and service plates. They also tend to damage fragile ingredients like fresh fruit and greens, causing bruising, tears, and rips. For people who are very focused on presentation, metal salad tongs can ruin the look of a carefully constructed salad. However, metal tongs can be run through the dishwasher, and they do not pick up odors and stains, a definite plus.
Plastic salad tongs blend both worlds, incorporating the softness of wood with the easy care of metal. Depending on the plastic, plastic salad tongs can resist staining, or invite it, especially if they become nicked and scratched with time. Silicone tongs can be ideal, since they resist cracking, staining, and smells along with being easy to care for and gentle on salad bowls and plates.
In addition to being used to handle salads, salad tongs can be used on other foods which require tonging. Most are heat-resistant by nature of their materials, making them suitable for barbecue, although the soft-edged design can make salad tongs useless for gripping heavy foods like corn on the cob or steaks, as the food may slide out of the tongs if the cook is unwary.