Cooking with garlic
Pinch, press, smash, crush – best ways to prepare garlic for cooking (with recipes)
Peeling garlic cloves can seem like an onerous chore, particularly if you develop a taste for a greater quantity of garlic in your culinary preparations. Nonetheless, a certain rhythm and efficiency is soon acquired, and the task becomes quick and automatic.Skip to next paragraph
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1. PINCH. If you have a relatively easy peeling clove, and if your fingers are fairly strong, you can simply pinch the clove between your finger and thumb, positioning either your finger or thumb along one of the edges of the edges of the clove. This causes the skin to buckle and crack and pull away from the flesh.
You can then use your thumbnail to pull away the root end or tip end of the clove and gain a purchase on the skin to begin separating it from the flesh.
2. WHACK. A standard and more effective variation on the theme calls for placing a clove on a cutting board or other similar surface, laying the flat of a chef’s knife on top of the clove, then lightly whacking the flat of the knife with your fist or the palm of your hand.
This easily buckles and cracks the clove skin and separates it from the flesh. At this point, it is easy to gain a purchase on the skin and peel it away. This is the method I most frequently use and recommend.
3. SMASH. Instead of lightly whacking the flat of a knife blade to crack the clove skin, you can give it a good slam to smash the clove flat. Crushing the clove immediately and thoroughly brings the enzyme alliinase together with alliin to form allicin and other volatile compounds, releasing the garlic’s tumult of complex aromatic flavors.
At this point, the flesh can be stripped off the skin and further minced or crushed. Depending on the particular cultivar, its age, and the stickiness of flesh to skin, the skin can be removed and discarded with varying degrees of effort.
I generally prefer buckling the skin and removing it prior to smashing.
4. CRUSH. Crushing garlic releases all of the garlic’s aromatic pungency. It also allows the garlic to be distributed thoroughly and evenly with other food.
Crushing garlic generates the volatile aromatic flavor elements, and cooking it in oil enhances its character and helps distribute its flavors for the culinary preparation.
It also is ideal for mixing with a dressing for fresh lettuce or greens. One can fully smash a clove with the flat of a chef’s knife, and then quickly mince the smashed flesh with the knife’s cutting edge. I almost always peel garlic before crushing it.
If salt is part of the preparation, it can be an ally in further crushing the garlic. Put the crushed garlic in a small bowl. Add salt, and use the back of a spoon to crush the garlic by using the salt as miniature grinding particles.
This method extracts the juices as well as grinds and quickly produces a garlic slurry.
5. PRESS. In the marketplace, one can find various tools and gimmicks for peeling garlic. I do not have much use for them. Once simple techniques are mastered, there is little need to complicate the process under the guise of simplifying it.
On the other hand, I frequently use a garlic press if I want crushed garlic rather than minced garlic.
Garlic press manufactures usually emphasize that no peeling is necessary. Although this may be true, some waste is inevitable, and there is often more mess.
If you decide to use a garlic press, get a good one. A garlic press should be well made so that it can withstand extended use.
The plunger should fit with little gap on the sides and fully extend into the chamber, so that the garlic does not escape up the sides and is thoroughly forced through the holes, leaving little wasteful residue at the bottom of the chamber.
The chamber should have many small holes so that the garlic is thoroughly crushed, but the press also needs to be compatible with your hand strength. More strength is required to force garlic through tiny holes, but better handle designs provide greater leverage and easier gripping.
The press should also be easy to clean. Some form of plastic device with protuberances that match the holes in the chamber to push out the remaining residue usually fills this role.
6. CHOP AND MINCE. Chopping and mincing are alternatives to crushing. Chopped garlic is coarser and in larger bits. Minced garlic is simply garlic that has been chopped to smaller bits. Mincing creates more of the aromatic sulfur compounds and is more flavorful in this regard, but a toothy bite of more coarsely chopped garlic is good as well.
Cooked in oil to a straw or light tan color, chopped or minced garlic takes on a wonderfully rich, sweet, nutty character. Chop or mince garlic as you would other foods. No specialized technique is required.