Comment permalink

Prepping Garlic: A Contentious Issue

Garlic, that delicious little bulb beloved by many, has often caused disputes in the kitchen. It has a papery outer skin which should be removed before cooking. You would think we could all agree on that, but even here there is dissent. Some people advocate not peeling the garlic before roasting it. Simply toss the cloves into your recipe whole, and peel them later as you eat your dish.
But for the most part, it comes down to getting that skin off. I had one particularly OCD and stubborn roommate who insisted on peeling each clove individually, by hand, without any other means used. He would just sit there and pick at it until it came off. Drove me nuts.
I learned the "smash and cut" method from a friend who is a genuine certified CIA graduate and former high-profile sous chef. You set the clove on the cutting board, lay the flat of the knife atop it, and give it a good pound with your free hand. Then cut it at the butt end and slip the clove out of the paper.
But other chefs insist that you must never do this, because it bruises the clove.
Then again, today a Metafilter user published a post highlighting an instructional video from Saveur Magazine's Executive Food Editor titled "How to peel a head of garlic in less than 10 seconds." To sum up the technique, you separate all the cloves (which Coleman does by the expedient of smashing the bulb from above with his fist) then put them in a stainless steel bowl. Invert a second bowl atop the first, then shake the whole thing up and down like mad. And when you are done, perfectly peeled cloves of garlic will result.
I haven't tried this (I don't have two bowls that fit together that well) but other users on the thread report using the technique with mixed success. It seems to work better for some types of garlic than others. Still, though, it's an impressive way to peel an entire bulb of garlic in one fell swoop!
And next? Many people insist that you mince the cloves by hand with a knife. Others (myself included) swear by the hand-held garlic press. I read a comparison test once which discovered that you do get better garlic taste if you mince by hand, because it releases less of the juice. But I don't care, if I have to mince more than two cloves, I definitely use the garlic press.
Regardless of what technique you use, I think we can all agree that those jars of pre-minced garlic are pitiful at best. Fresh garlic is where it's at!