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How do you process garlic?

garlic

I’ve been cooking with garlic my whole life and chances are, you have too. Initially, I used to just purchase garlic fully encased in its papery husks and smush them out with the flat side of my knife. But now a lot of stores carry cheap containers of the peeled varieties, so I can’t think of a convincing reason to go back to the rudimentary version.

So then the question is how do I process garlic? Perhaps finely slicing it similar to this scene in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas is a good method, and writer Anthony Bourdain certainly backed it (at least for pasta dishes) in his book Kitchen Confidential. But seriously, raise your hands if you really do this.

I tried this mafia technique a few times and found it to be an inefficient pain. And my translucent paper thin slices most certainly did not “liquify in the pan with just a little oil” like I hoped it would.

Starting out, I tried many varieties of garlic presses, which are designed to hold a few cloves and all that is needed thereafter is a firm grip. But I always hated the slow and inefficient mechanics of presses and found them to be a pain to clean. You can’t just throw them in the dish washer, you have to pick out leftover garlic slivers or they tend to dry out and stick onto the press.

And then for many years I used a mincing technique with repeated motions from my chef’s knife until a handful of garlic transformed into a crumby pile. But the problem with this technique was I couldn’t get enough “garlic” from my garlic. So I added salt to it while mincing, which extracts its juices thereby making it more pastelike. I did this for another number of years until I eventually got fed up with how much time it took and how messy-smelly-sticky my hands got.

So then I switched over to a small electric processor, which certainly saved time but cleaning was still a pain.

Enter the microplane. It is efficient, grinds garlic to my desired consistency and is a cinch to clean with just a soapy sponge. To top it all off, I can grind each clove down to that tough area on the tip and just throw it away thereafter. (I used to slice that piece off one by one.) Incidentally, this is also my preferred method for ginger root.

So now I turn it to you my cooking friends. How do you take your garlic?

by Gene Lee, Food and More blog

37 comments Add your comment

Niki

August 31st, 2011
7:01 am

I’ve been grating my garlic on a microplane for years – so much easier than mincing or slicing. I hate to admit, but I think I saw Rachael Ray do this on her show and adopted it from there.

mrmambo

August 31st, 2011
7:17 am

I use a Kuhn garlic press (Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press)–I hate cleaning them out, too, but this one is great. I like the Microplane, but it’s messier on my hands and you have to scrape it out some.

The Kuhn press is angled to make pressing really easy and it’s what I turn to when I have to do a ton of garlic or even one clove quickly. It’s easy to clean, as it flips open, can go in the dishwasher, and the metal version is virtually indestructible (mine is 5 years old and looks like new).

Carla

August 31st, 2011
7:22 am

Nikki, I think I learned this tip from Rachel Ray too! Love my microplane. I’ve got a great Pampered Chef garlic press that “In Theory”..you can flip opposite and it is supposed to clean out that squooshed papery mess that get’s stuck in there. It also came with a special tool that also removes that stuff. But really, I haven’t used it since the microplane.

cls@live.com

August 31st, 2011
7:56 am

Why not just buy fresh diced garlic that comes in tub or jar? Really, what is the downside?

Sue

August 31st, 2011
8:02 am

I don’t know what they do to the already-minced garlic that comes in tubs in stores but it’s awful. The chunks are somehow rock-solid and don’t disintegrate or meld well into food during the cooking process. They remain intact and jarring in the final product.

Rodney

August 31st, 2011
8:16 am

Most times I will try and mince it as finely as I can, then rub the flat of the knife back and forth over it to get a sort of paste. I know it’s probably just me and my wishful thinking, but it seems like it helps the garlic breakdown when cooking.

Reds

August 31st, 2011
8:24 am

I do keep a jar of the minced stuff in the fridge for quick fixes (as I generally like chuncks of garlic :) ), but I use the knife smoosh and mince method, or the microplane when I am going for fresh. Just depends on what i want the final result to be. I think smoosh and mince is my favorite for the sense of garlic gratification though. I think it’s got to do mostly with the smoosh.

PapaDoc

August 31st, 2011
8:32 am

Depending on time and mood, I will either slice as finely as I can and then mince, or in most cases, use the microplane. I am working on enjoying the process regardless.

Mark

August 31st, 2011
8:55 am

It depends on what I’m cooking. sometimes I use whole garlic cloves in roasted dishes and just take off the paper & cut off the root end. Sometimes I microplane. Sometimes I smash & chop. And sometimes I just pull out that big plastic jug of already chopped garlic that I buy from Costco and spoon it out.

Vic

August 31st, 2011
8:56 am

I keep a jar of store-bought minced garlic in the fridge for most dishes.

But sometimes I’ll use my mandoline to slice it almost paper thin. If you try this, a Kevlar or protective glove is a good investment.

Matt Freedman

August 31st, 2011
9:02 am

We used to get big tubs of pre-peeled garlic at the BuHi Farmer’s Market, but then I read that pre-peeled garlic means losing a lot of garlic flavor. And I don’t have the most sensitive palate, but when we tested this theory, even I could tell the difference.

Now we get whole heads of garlic and do the smash-with-knife, brush off skin, chop coarsely thing. It’s similar to the goodfellas method but not as finicky – if you get a few larger pieces, who cares, really? this is home cooking, not a starred michelin restaurant.

Final note: we bought some garlic at YDFM for the first time last week and it’s head-and-shoulders, quality-wise, above basic grocery store garlic. So pungent when you smash the clove! If you like garlic, ya gotta try it – even if it means driving there from the West Side :)

Matt Freedman

August 31st, 2011
9:04 am

Does anyone grow garlic in their garden? Is it easy?

Kay Stephenson

August 31st, 2011
9:20 am

Matt – considering how happy the wild stuff is to sprout and thrive any place I don’t want it, I can’t imagine that cultivated garlic would be hard to grow here in Georgia. I found a zillion articles (OK actually about 18 million) when I searched Google for “growing garlic”.

Gene Lee

August 31st, 2011
9:31 am

@Matt F. – Thanks for the YDFM heads up!

Allison

August 31st, 2011
9:33 am

I have a Pampered Chef garlic press that does a great job on garlic and gets cleaned in the dishwasher. Been using it for 10 years and it’s still going strong….

M. Johnson

August 31st, 2011
9:53 am

I use the smash and chop method. As a garlic lover, I don’t mind the smell on my hands.

The Microplane is reserved for grating cheese. Microplanes can be a pain to clean.

JMan

August 31st, 2011
10:05 am

There is minimal touching when you pull a clove off and smash with the side of your knife. This will separate the skin from the clove. The clove will be smashed. A quick mince holding your knife or mezzaluna will finish the job. Scoop up with your knife as a spatula and bada-bing you’re done. Use lemon to mitigate any smell on your fingers if you do wallow in it.

Kimbo

August 31st, 2011
11:06 am

I chop my garlic up, then add some course salt and grind it into a paste with the side of my knife. I don’t really find it to be very difficult or messy. The microplane method seems like a good one too.

I think one of the best things I discovered for peeling a ton of garlic at one time is two metal bowls. I can’t remember where I first saw this, but if you throw the unpeeled garlic cloves into one metal bowl, then cover it with the other metal bowl and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, it peels all of the cloves of garlic for you.

Wino

August 31st, 2011
11:10 am

Peeled garlic and minced garlic in a jar are greatly inferior to fresh garlic. Using fresh garlic is more important to the flavor than the method of processing.

Maggie

August 31st, 2011
11:24 am

Does anyone else think there’s something cultish about Pampered Chef?

observer 1

August 31st, 2011
11:38 am

i like super thin slices off one of those plastic japanese mandolins. “liquify’ is an exaggeration but if your oil isn’t too hot they will soften considerably in texture and pungency.

donkey200

August 31st, 2011
12:02 pm

Either mince, chop or microplane. Depends on what I’m doing with it.

John Kessler

August 31st, 2011
12:20 pm

I’ve always liked smashing the garlic with some salt into a paste with the back of my chef’s knife. One year our Czech babysitter went home for Christmas and brought us a garlic press for a present, saying, “Everyone in the Czech Republic uses these. I think they’d be very popular in America.”

1164mgc

August 31st, 2011
12:22 pm

I can’t stand the pre-minced garlic you buy in a jar. To me, it tastes bitter and therefore makes whatever I’m cooking taste bitter. I’m with Reds – I like to “smoosh and mince” and get gratification from the smoosh part:-) The whole process is therapeutic! Smooshing, chopping, getting rid of the papers stuck on your fingers, the pungent garlic smell that lingers – it’s ALL good! I probably use too much garlic in my recipes….

Reds

August 31st, 2011
1:17 pm

@1164mgc – no such thing as too much garlic. ;)

Reds

August 31st, 2011
1:18 pm

@ JK – that made me giggle.

Kenneth Braunstein

August 31st, 2011
2:26 pm

I use an alligator garlic mincer. The garlic does not burn when cooked. It creates small enough squares of garlic that you aren’t overpowered either.

José

August 31st, 2011
3:11 pm

I make Wojciech Szczęsny do it for me.

atlmom

August 31st, 2011
3:14 pm

Reds: I’m with you!!! we love garlic. I don’t always buy fresh, I have the jarred stuff. I got TONS this summer from the farmer (we’re in a CSA), and it was VERY pungent (which was fine with us!). We’re hoping to grow some in the fall…I’m sure that will be pungent as well…

Reds

August 31st, 2011
3:45 pm

I’ve always wanted to try the 40 clove garlic recipe, but have been hesitant. :)

If it fits...

August 31st, 2011
4:44 pm

How long does a garlic bunch stay fresh? I’ve had a clump on my counter for about 5 months.

atlmom

August 31st, 2011
4:46 pm

go for it reds! we went a long time ago to ‘the stinking rose’ in san fran. it was fantastic (except the garlic ice cream. I don’t recommend it).

classy chef

August 31st, 2011
5:52 pm

I just pop a few in my mouth like sunflower seeds and spit the skins. That’s how you know if they are fresh.

Southern Still Living

August 31st, 2011
6:38 pm

Smash and Chop…..pure and simple. Place the side of your Chef’s knife on the peeled garlic clove. Smash it with your hand not holding the knife handle, the chop it into finite pieces with the same knife. The simpler the better and always great garlic.

Rodney

August 31st, 2011
8:56 pm

@Maggie – this is way off topic, but I have one piece of Pampered Chef, a bread knife, that I’ve had since the 90s. I’ve never had it sharpened and it still slices and quickly and smoothly as the day I bought it. :)

Susie

September 1st, 2011
9:50 am

The microplane is one of the best tools in the kitchen because you can do everything from zesting, grating garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, onions to extract juices as well as the pulp. The microplane is actually a wood tool….but eventually made its way into the kitchen!

Maggie

September 1st, 2011
11:45 pm

@Rodney, that’s good to hear. Maybe I’m just bitter since I’ve never been invited to a PC party. Although I HATE those types of things. Such pressure. But there’s something about it . . . like it’s an exclusive club or something.