Garlic is a kitchen staple that adds bursts of flavor to many savory dishes. It effortlessly adds complexity and depth to dishes. Only a handful of things can offer a more savorly scent than that of frying fresh garlic in olive oil. Aside from this, garlic has numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, and helping to lower cholesterol levels.
This may come as a shock to many, but garlic comes in different varieties. The two broad categories are
- Softneck garlic
- Hardneck garlic
The ‘neck’ in the name points to the stalk that grows upwards and at the center of the bulb. Hardneck have rigid stalks, while softneck garlic has flexible and soft stalks at maturity. Aside from this, hardneck garlic has more complex flavors than softneck garlic, which reflects the region they were grown. Nevertheless, most grocery stores stock softneck garlic since they have a longer shelf life and a mild flavor that’s perfect for many recipes.
The smallest amount of garlic you can purchase is a bulb. Garlic bulbs are made up of several individual cloves (usually a dozen) depending on the type of garlic. The bulb is covered in white papery skin, and individual cloves have a thin layer of skin that you’ll need to peel before cutting garlic.
Peeling, cutting, and chopping cloves of garlic are crucial steps in preparing garlic for your recipe. However, these steps can be difficult, especially if you do not know the right way to go about it. For this reason, many people prefer jarred and pre-minced garlic.
While you can buy pre-chopped garlic at your local store, they’ve weaker flavor because of aging. So if you want to elevate your cooking skills, you should learn how to peel, slice, chop or mince garlic.
Here’s how you can prepare your garlic.
Before you remove garlic skin, you’ll have to break the head of garlic into individual cloves. You can do this in two ways; you can separate the cloves with your fingers or place the head of garlic on a chopping board with the root stem facing up and firmly press down with your hand. The pressure will separate the individual cloves from the bulb.
Using your fingers is ideal if you only need a few cloves. On the other hand, the second option is fast but needs some strength to do.
Note: You can opt to roast the garlic bulb whole. After roasting your bulb in the oven for a few minutes, the cloves under the skin will turn into a butter paste that you can spread on toast before dipping the bread in olive oil. So essentially, you don’t have to peel your garlic or remove the cloves from the bulb, but in many cases, you’ll have to.
Remove the Skin
Now, this is where things start getting fun.
Take an individual clove. Place it on your chopping board. You can decide to slice the pointy ends off, but it’s not mandatory. Next, take your knife and place its flat side on the clove. Ensure you use the part closest to the knife’s handle to achieve maximum force.
Press down on the knife with your palm until the garlic clove crushes under it. Be cautious when you do it and keep your fingers from the knife’s sharp edge. Also, when you press down, make sure your hand is at a 90-degree angle with the blade to prevent the knife from slipping.
When the garlic is crushed, the thin papery skin will loosen. At this point, you can remove it easily with your fingers and discard it.
And just like that, you have peeled garlic cloves. You can repeat this process with as many whole garlic cloves as you need for your recipe. With practice, you should be able to peel your cloves in a matter of seconds.
Slice, Mince, Chop
After peeling the cloves, it’s time to cut them to smaller sizes. You can opt to use full cloves in a soup, but many recipes will somehow require you to cut the garlic.
Note: the smaller you cut garlic cloves, the stronger the flavor. For a garlic clove to release the flavor it packs, you should beat it up so that the enzymes can get to work. This is the reason finely minced garlic releases more flavor than garlic that’s coarsely chopped. On the flip side, garlic that’s coarsely chopped holds up better to higher temperatures, and as such, it does not burn easily. In the same breath, sliced garlic produces the weakest flavor.
Chopping garlic is best done with a chef’s knife. First, place the garlic cloves beside each other on the cutting board and place the chef’s knife at 90-degrees to the board. Next, firmly take the knife into your hand and place it on your garlic clove.
Place your other hand over the top side of the knife. Push the knife up and down with the blade’s end resting on the cutting board with a rocking motion. Rotate the knife’s blade as you need to slice the garlic cloves. After chopping the garlic, use the spine of your knife to pile the chopped garlic in one area of the cutting board and repeat the cutting process. Continue this process until the cloves are sliced into the size you desire.
Mincing garlic is like chopping garlic but only into finer pieces. Of course, you could use a gadget or a garlic press to mince the garlic, but this isn’t a must. Moreover, many garlic cloves will get stuck in the garlic press with a garlic press.
The easiest way to mince garlic is to chop garlic until it’s fine enough.
Some recipes require that you use thin slices of cloves instead of minced or chopped garlic. A regular chef’s knife may be adequate for the task, but a santoku knife is even better. This is because the santoku knife has a thin blade designed for these tasks.
Hold the clove of garlic down with your fingertips. Ensure they are curled under so that the knuckles are the closest to the knife and protect your fingertips. Now using the edge of the knife, make thin slices clockwise on your cloves.
Usually, different techniques depend on the knife you use. But if you choose to use a santoku, you should lift the entire blade between the slices and push it forward with your knife on the clove as slice them.
But if you use a chef’s knife, you should keep the blade’s end on the board and ue your free hand to push towards the knife. If this is your first time, you should proceed slowly to avoid cuts.
Other than using a cutting board and a knife, which are the primary tools needed to cut the garlic cloves, some alternative gadgets can come in handy.
- Food Processors
A food processor can make liquidy garlic paste which may or may not be combined with olive oil. The food processor can be useful in making dishes like guacamole and humus where you don’t want to have visible garlic pieces.
- Garlic Press
While you can make minced garlic using a cutting board and a knife, garlic press provides a quick alternative. All you have to do is place the unpeeled garlic clove in the gadget and push forward. The garlic will come out of it peeled. Then, you can cut the garlic bits that come off the press and continue pushing more cloves through the press.
But if we are being realistic, a garlic press is a gadget that will spend more time in storage than you’ll use it. After all, there’s nothing it does that a knife cannot do.
- Pestle and Mortar
The pestle and mortar are ideal for binding garlic flavors into other ingredients like ginger, chilies, spices, kaffir lime leaves, and other robust spices for paste or sauce. Although a pestle and mortar is a little more work to use compared to a food processor, the flavor profile resulting from the mortar and pestle is superior, given the bruising of every ingredient releases essential oils.
Slice and Cutaway
Knowing how to cut garlic the right way is a crucial skill to master in your kitchen. You’ll master the technique with some practice, and it’ll be natural. You may not need to buy jarred garlic ever again.
1. How Do You Get Rid of the Garlic Smell From Your Hands?
You can do this by washing your hands with baking soda, salt, or lemon juice. Then, rub your hands together and wash with clean water.
You can use the same ingredients to remove the garlic smell from your wooden cutting board. Give the board a good scrub, and rinse with some clean water.
2. How Long Does Peeled Garlic Store?
If you cover peeled garlic tightly, it should last for about a week in your refrigerator. Moreover, if you add your peeled garlic clove into an airtight container and put it in a freezer, it should last between three and four months.
3. Is Minced Garlic the Same as Garlic Powder?
No, they aren’t. Minced garlic is fresher than powdered garlic and has an even stronger flavor. Whether you purchase garlic bulbs and mince the cloves yourself or buy pre-minced garlic, the aroma and taste should be more intense than garlic powder.
Garlic powder is the best option if your recipe is water sensitive, like breaded chicken and meatballs. Because of their low moisture content, you’ll infuse garlic flavor without affecting the food’s texture. With garlic powder, remember less is always more. Generally, 1/8 of a teaspoon is equivalent to a garlic clove.
4. Do You Peel Garlic Before Cutting?
To clarify, it is recommended to peel garlic before cutting it. Removing the thin papery layer that holds the clove together will make the chopping or mincing process easier and faster. Leaving the skin on can cause it to get stuck in the knife and impact the flavor of your meal. Therefore, it is important to peel garlic before slicing or chopping it.
5. Which Part of Garlic Should Be Cut?
It’s best to begin by cutting the garlic clove’s pointed end when cutting it. This will make mincing or dicing it easier. Next, remove any remaining skin and slice the clove in half lengthwise. Finally, chop the halves into small cubes or strips as desired. Avoid over-chopping the garlic to prevent it from burning quickly and becoming too flavorful.
6. How Do You Cut the Tip Off a Garlic Bulb?
To remove the tip of a garlic bulb, slice into the center of the top using a thin-bladed knife. Peel away any excess layers and cut through the white flesh below by slicing downwards. After that, throw away the tip and use the remainder in your recipe.
7. How Do You Cut Sliced Garlic?
To adjust the texture of garlic in your recipe, you can either chop it into pieces or use a garlic press to get a finer texture. Should you opt for pre-minced garlic, be careful with the quantity as it tends to be more potent than fresh garlic. The amount recommended in your recipe may be too much.