Garlic and ginger are my superstar fresh ingredients. I almost always add extra fresh garlic or fresh ginger to a dish (50-100% more…). Unless these are in the actual name of the dish such as”40 garlic clove chicken” or “ginger pork,” I personally prefer more, especially for marinades, pastas, and dumplings! For anyone newer to cooking, try recipes as written first before making modifications to your specific tastes and preferences.
Here are my top hacks for prepping garlic!
You can buy pre-peeled garlic cloves or garlic paste, but I think fresh tastes better. Plus you can store garlic bulbs at room temperature for quite awhile versus using up fridge space. I keep a couple onions and garlic bulbs in a wire basket in my pantry.
You will need a cutting board and a chef’s knife. If you’ve never used fresh garlic, first tear into the papery outer layers (just grab the stem, twist, and tear) to remove the outer layers and separate the individual cloves you need. Then trim the bottom hard end off each clove, straight through the peel. If your knife doesn’t go all the way through the peel, hold your knife in place on the cutting board and lift the clove up to separate them. It’s okay if some the peel comes off in this step.
If your cutting board moves at all, set it on a damp towel to keep it in place. Then, lay your knife blade as flat as you can over one clove while keeping the blade against the cutting board. The garlic should be around center or toward the larger end of the knife.
Hold the top of the knife handle with your non-dominant hand to keep it steady. Do not grip it – no fingers should be between the knife and cutting board. Line the palm of your opposite hand up over the garlic and the dull side of the knife. Give this a good push with the palm of your hand to crack open the garlic clove. You can give it a pretty healthy smash but don’t pulverize it unless you want crushed garlic paste. I don’t draw my hand back to build up momentum, but get most of the force from the weight of the knife and leaning some of my body weight into my palm.
Set your knife aside. Grab the garlic by the tail-like top piece of peel, give it a small wiggle, and pull. The peel should easily separate from the rest of the clove (if not, whack it again). Your garlic is ready to chop or use!
If you really hate mincing garlic, crush the cloves through a garlic press instead (and for a whole ton you can run them through a food processor or blender).
This tip comes from my mom. To get the garlic smell off your hands, you don’t need one of those fancy metal “garlic soap bars.” You can rub your fingers on anything convenient made of stainless steel and then wash them with soap. I like to use the kitchen sink itself when possible, or you can use a utensil, cooking spoon, or pan – whatever you have out already is great. Make sure to get the skin right at and under your fingernails as well.
And that’s it! Next up I’ll share a few tips on fresh ginger.