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How Do You Peel Garlic? [moved from General Topics]

I just read I think my umpteenth article on the secret to peeling garlic. What I don't understand, though, is why so many people think peeling garlic is a difficult task. One of my first kitchen memories is the thwack of my mother's cleaver as she smacked garlic to remove it from its skin. It's pretty much the same technique I use today and it peels a clove in less than five seconds. How is everyone else doing it?

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  1. One of the first sounds I remember hearing is the thwack of my mother's cleaver as she smacked garlic to remove it from its skin. It's pretty much the same technique I use today and it peels a clove in less than five seconds.

    That's what I do as well.

    The mysteries of peeling garlic is sort of like the mysteries surrounding how to peel hard boiled eggs or how to cook rice.

    For some, it will forever baffle them.

    Sort of like a culinary blindspot, I guess.

    1. If I want to slice it whole--maybe in my garlic mandoline--I extricate the big cloves I want to use, cut off the ends and give each one a full finger twist. The skin slips off fairly easily and they're ready to slice. Otherwise, a nice thwack of the chef's knife does the trick.

      1. I only discovered this method this year. I wish I'd known about it long ago -- would have saved a lot of time. My parents didn't have any cleavers at home. (In fact, I didn't start using cleavers until I lived with some guys from Hong Kong and Macau when I was in college.)
        But not every dish calls for crushed garlic, so some feel that other methods are better for certain dishes.

        1. And there's this discussion from the other day with still more suggestions

          1. If only shallots responded to this technique as well....

            1 Reply
            1. re: Karl S

              I actually do that with shallots too, although I tend to have to look for them from across the kitchen.

            2. I detest peeling garlic and I make a trip to the Korean/International grocery store every couple of weeks (at least) to buy their pre-peeled garlic. I know people say that these pre-peeled garlics have a weaker flavor than home peeled, but when I am cooking dinner in a pinch it is worth it to me to not have to mess with the garlic. At least in the US garlic cloves are big. I have lived in places where the cloves are tiny and juicy (but this kind of garlic has great flavor!) so when you peel them it is extra hard and the juiced make the paper skin stick to your fingers. If I *must* peel garlic, I usually go for putting the head in a plastic bag and stepping on it to break up the cloves, then whacking each clove with the back of the knife and taking off the husk.

              1. Yup, cleaver, smash, peel, repeat.

                And you don't have to smash the thing to a paste; I find sometimes I want to be able to slice the garlic afterwards, so a light hit results in the garlic splitting. I can then peel and slice the garlic using a razorblade, so it liquifies in the pan (kudo's to those that get that movie reference). If I need crushed garlic, a healthy smack with the cleaver, peel and lightly chop to break up the clove.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: bwinter714

                    Yes, I do the same, and no, one doesn't need to smash it hard, just enough to break the skin.
                    But, I stay away from razors. far away. Unless they are many-multi-bladed and in the shower. But a single razor in my hands.... I shudder.

                    1. re: bwinter714

                      Nice Goodfellas reference, probably my favorite scene in the movie.

                    2. I don't use a cleaver but my technique is similar - cover the clove with the wide flat part of my trusty chef's knife, whack the knife with the heel of my hand. Presto! Peel comes right off.

                      1. If I have to peel A LOT of garlic, I put them on a flat service and take a heavy cutting board or pan and go to town. Saw Fabio from Top Chef do it, and it's an awesome trick to save time.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: peasantpalate

                          If you have to peel a LOT, like an entire bulb, watch this trick...I am meaning to try this out very soon...I think it will scare my kittehs, though, LOL:

                          1. re: Val

                            That's crazy, I'm going to have to try that!

                            1. re: bwinter714

                              Looks like camera voodoo magic to me.

                              1. re: peasantpalate

                                possibly a hoax...but I will try it anyway...I think I'll be laughing too hard to accomplish said goal though...you'd have to SHAKE that sucker very very hard it seems!

                                1. re: Val

                                  This instant garlic peeling video is making the CH rounds; I posted it on another thread last week, after I saw it in Saveur mag's email.

                                  My results: it depends on the type of garlic. I bought very tight heads, known as softnecks, that are very hard to peel, with tight skin. Not knowing that there was a difference (hardnecks and softnecks are the two main types of garlic, beyond that, there are many garlic cultivars; I had to do some research on this) I tried the bowl technique, with VERY limited success. I went back to the smash and peel technique for the rest of the head, with some difficulty as well, due in fact to the type of garlic I was using, that it was quite fresh, early maturing, the skin was tight, etc.

                                  So, if you want this bowl technique to work, buy hardneck garlic. Otherwise, it's back to smashing and peeling the cloves, one by one.

                                  "Garlic comprises two main categories: hardnecks and softnecks. (Elephant garlic is actually a type of leek.) Hardnecks, which thrive where winters are cold, are believed to be the original descendants from wild garlic, sending up a flower stalk as they mature. The cloves are typically larger, more flavorful, and easier to peel than softnecks."

                                  "Softnecks grow well in a wide range of climates and growing conditions. Tight skins make them harder to peel, but also make them good for long storage. Given the right conditions, many softneck varieties can easily keep for up to a year. Due to their pliable stems, softnecks are always the best choice when you want to grow garlic for braiding."

                                  Read more: http://www.herbcompanion.com/gardenin...

                            2. re: Val

                              That was actually pretty cool...

                          2. Cool! It looks real to me, but it looks to me like the catch is that you have to have two LARGE, MATCHING, METAL bowls for it to work. Plastic is too soft, ceramic too heavy (and unlikely to have those little lips to grab onto), and anything smaller won't allow the cloves to accelerate enough in their up-and-down transit to hit hard enough. Hence, unless you need to do this a lot and can thus justify buying them, this technique is basically only good in a restaurant setting, where two such bowls would be commonly found.

                            Edit: Oops! Meant to post this under Val's video from vegan.com, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8103...

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: BobB

                              I just threw half a dozen cloves into a 7" jar, screwed on lid and shook hard for ten seconds. Five out of six were clean, last one needed a light pull. But if I'm already working at the cutting board with a knife I certainly wouldn't bother with getting a jar dirty.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                Good idea - I didn't think of using a jar but that makes sense. Now I just have to remember to save the next tall jar I empty...

                                1. re: escondido123

                                  wow, good to know escondido123!!! thanks!

                                2. re: BobB

                                  Yes, intriguing and I do have the need to peel three bulbs of garlic here and there, but I concur with all the contraints that would make it not very practical in my home.

                                  However... how about a good old saucepan with lid? Anyone who would volunteer to see if that works?

                                3. I have one of those rubber peeling tubes -- imagine a toilet paper core made out of rubber or silicon.

                                  Drop a couple of cloves into the tube, lay it flat on the counter, and roll it back and forth under my hand with just a little light pressure -- voila! Naked garlic in just a few seconds.

                                  Before I found the tube (for just 2 euros -- about 3 bucks) inexplicably at the gift shop at a major tourist site -- I used one of those rubber discs that you use to open stuck jar lids. Just roll the garlic up in it and roll it on the countertop.

                                  Best part? Naked garlic and no stinky fingers.

                                  1. I just pinch the cloves lengthwise between my index finger and thumb. The paper splits and just about jumps off the clove. Sometimes I'll have to assist a little, but not much.

                                    Plus, I like to sit in front of the TV at night while smelling my fingers! LOL

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Novelli

                                      now THAT is a disturbing sentence.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        HAHAHA! I know, I'm such a knucklehead!

                                        1. re: Novelli

                                          Reminds me of an old joke, not even a little bit repeatable here … but I like the smell of garlic on my fingers too. I used to have one of those tubes, but figured out after a while that it was just one more thing to fuss with, especially since I was probably going to have my (t)rusty 4" Sabatier handy anyway. I just place the side of the blade on each clove, give it a good press with the other thumb - doesn't half to be that hard - and then when they're all pressed just cut off the stem end and take the skins off. Maybe if I was getting ready to do that Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken it would start to feel like a real chore, but I've avoided that so far.

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Yah, it's not tricky, almost as hard as boiling eggs.

                                    2. I often separate the cloves from the head, place them in a small microwave safe bowl and nuke them for 10 to 30 secs...... Or until I hear them "singing" from the steam build up. They need to cool for a bit before you can slip the skins off.

                                      4 Replies
                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                          You have to keep a close eye/ear on them..... And snatch them out, the second they start to "sing."

                                          1. re: Kamanda1953

                                            Hmmm, perhaps worth further investigation...

                                            1. re: StriperGuy

                                              Certain restaurants I worked in employed this technique, with the intention of using the blanched garlic in cooked dishes.

                                      1. If I don't want to squash them, one knife cut through a clove (the long way) loosens the skin enough that a squeeze removes it.

                                        1. One of my first kitchen memories is the thwack of my mother's cleaver as she smacked garlic to remove it from its skin.
                                          This exactly, although my memory was probably from my culinary teacher in school.

                                          Why use an extra tool, when you can whack and chop the garlic with the same cleaver (and probably in the same breath).

                                          There are two more advantages to doing this too:
                                          1/ a whacked garlic is so much easier to chop up, with much less worry of it slipping around or the knife slipping off it
                                          2/ the smacking is supposed to help release its juices (by breaking the cells?) to make it more aromatic

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: vil

                                            those are all reasons I love my silicon tube --

                                            no whacking -- just a firm roll -- and you have nekkid garlic and empty paper -- no sticky anything, anywhere.

                                            All it takes is one quick pass of the knife to halve or just slice a flat spot on the side of the garlic to keep it from wobbling. Then you can chop, dice, or mince it to the best size for your recipe.

                                            Sometimes I don't want the more-pronounced flavor of crushed garlic -- for things like Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, you don't want them crushed or cut in any way -- the sublime flavor of the garlic can only be achieved with whole cloves.

                                            1. re: vil

                                              But, vil, some insist that the flavors you get depend on the method you use to prepare the garlic. The flavors extracted by the whacking methods may not be the same as with other methods.

                                              (I posted a link to this Jamie Oliver video above
                                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaUtS2... )

                                              I used to use a garlic press all the time because Julia Child, in one of her old tv shows, had made a big point about how much she loved her garlic presses. So I figured that one peeled the clove by hand then crushed it in the garlic press.

                                              Then there's Anthony Bourdain, who wrote in "Kitchen Confidential," "Please, treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in "Goodfellas"; don't burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but *don't* put it through a press. I don't know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain't garlic.... Avoid at all costs that vile spew that you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic."

                                              1. re: racer x

                                                I got a decent garlic press for a wedding present (lo, these many years ago) -- and broke it a few years later. Not only did I not replace it, I've never missed it (or standing at the sink with a bent paperclip cleaning all the crud out of every little hole...even though I had an oxo one that was *supposedly* self-cleaning.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  Yeah, that's why I just about completely stopped using the presses for crushed garlic after discovering the whack method.
                                                  Any time saved by pressing was completely used up (and then some) by the amount of time it took to clean the press.

                                            2. Perhaps to synopsize this thread of the art of the peel of the stinky rose
                                              Let's examine, as Will Owen does, the result of the waft of the odors from our fingers
                                              Or, even as Veggo does, our nostril-digital spelunking
                                              Or, Sunshine842 with the roll of the peeling tube...

                                              It comes down to the question of whether we are whackers, or rollers.

                                              I must admit I'm both whacker and roller.
                                              For quick jobs, it's cleaver.
                                              For 50 cloves, it's roller.

                                              It's all our own choice in the freeing of skins from the Allium.

                                              1. My method for dealing with fresh garlic is to first separate the cloves by pushing my chinese cleaver gently into the side of the whole bulb a little bit then twisting the cleaver. Now I can break out the bulbs. Then I slice off the hard end of each clove. I don't worry about all the paper skin. When I have as many cloves as I want to use I put them in a saute pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and under low heat let the cloves sauté in their skins. I move the cloves around a bit. After a few minutes the outer skins are just starting to lightly brown. Remove from heat and let cool until you can handle them. Take each one and gently squeeze the flesh out of each clove. They easily slide out of the outer skin. Now you've got a semi cooked bowl of delicious cloves to use anyway you want. It's fun and easy and the slow heating of the flesh removes the 'raw' flavor allowing you to eat 'a ton' of them in/on anything.

                                                1. I do as you do, but with the flat of a large chef's knife. For large amounts of garlic (like 10 cloves or more) I place them all together on a cutting board and then use my larger butcher-block style cutting board and *slam* it over the cloves, thus smashing them all simultaneously. I've done this with as many as 20 garlic cloves and it's super easy. Then you just have to remove the skins and you've got yourself a boatload of peeled garlic.