Garlic is a standard ingredient in many cuisines, from Italian to Mexican. Cutting garlic can be difficult, especially for those without prior experience. The good thing is that you can learn how to cut garlic with a few simple steps and some practice.
Recipes often call for sliced, chopped, minced, or crushed garlic. Each type of cut has its own merits, depending on what you’re cooking. Slicing garlic will yield longer and thinner strands than chopping or mincing. Mincing garlic will result in tiny clumps while crushing results in what looks like a puree.
This article will detail all you need to know about cutting garlic cloves, from selecting the best garlic to proper peeling and cutting techniques.
How to select garlic
Garlic is a seasonal vegetable despite being available in grocery stores year-round. Locally grown fresh garlic is available from mid-summer to early fall. However, it doesn’t mean that the garlic you buy off-season is of lesser quality.
For this reason, the garlic you buy must have all the right qualities. Pick a garlic bulb with firm, plump bulbs without discoloration or mold. It shouldn’t feel dehydrated or feature squishy or spongy textures no matter the season.
Watch out for sprouting and green shoots in the cloves. These indicate that the garlic has been stored for too long and will taste bitter or grassy. The best way to avoid these unpleasant tastes is to buy garlic at your local farmers’ market.
Tools you need to cut the garlic
Several tools can make cutting garlic a whole lot easier. Below are the tools you need to cut garlic successfully.
As obvious as it sounds, make sure to get a sturdy cutting board. The best cutting board material is wood because it contains antibacterial properties and is aesthetically pleasing. Plastic and glass are also suitable, but they will dull your knives quickly.
A garlic press is an ideal tool for crushing garlic. It presses the cloves through a grid of sharp tiny holes, forcing the garlic through the holes and creating a pulpy paste. This tool is handy if you plan on using garlic in a marinade or sauce.
A chef’s knife
A sharp chef’s knife is the most versatile cutting tool. You can use it to slice, dice, and mince garlic. A chef’s knife usually measures between 6 to 12 inches, so it will be easy to cut even the biggest garlic cloves in just a few quick swipes.
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Silicone garlic peeler
The silicone garlic peeler is a small rubber tube filled with a garlic-shaped divot. The divot creates a channel for you to roll the clove in, which among other benefits, removes paper and skin from the garlic.
How to peel garlic
To peel garlic, place the clove on the cutting board, then position the side of your chef’s knife on top of the garlic clove and smack it with the heel of your palm. The gentle impact will cause the clove to split apart from its skin.
After removing a few outer layers, you can grip the end of the skin and tug it outwards. If the skin doesn’t budge, use the knife to cut a small slit in the skin and continue tugging.
You can also peel garlic by placing the cloves inside a silicone garlic peeler. Position the peeler with the cloves on a cutting board and roll back and forth several times with your palm. The cloves will pop right out of the peeler with ease.
How to cut garlic
Before you cut the garlic, ensure that you peel it first. There are several ways to cut the garlic, and different recipes will call for different cuts, so it’s helpful to know your options. The four main types of garlic cuts include:
How to slice garlic cloves
Slicing is the most common way to cut garlic. This technique will result in thin slices, but you can adjust the size of the slices to your liking. A chef’s knife or a Santoku knife is the best tool for this job.
Below is a step by step guide on how to slice garlic:
- Lay the garlic clove on your cutting board with the side facing down. Ensure that it’s flat and stable on the surface.
- Hold the garlic using your less dominant hand with your fingers curled inside, so the knuckles are closest to the knife. Ensure that your fingertips are tucked behind the knuckles.
- Hold the knife with your dominant hand. Grip the handle tightly and place the blade’s edge on the garlic clove.
- Make crosswise cuts for thin slices. Start from the root end of the clove and cut across in thin slices.
- If you are using a chef’s knife, keep the blade’s tip on the board as you move it in a rocking motion. A santoku blade is thinner, so you’ll have to lift the entire blade to make slices.
How to chop garlic cloves
Chopped garlic cloves will create a mixture of small chunks and thin slices. It’s best to use a chef’s knife to chop garlic. Ensure the knife is sharp so you can chop the garlic with ease.
Below is a step by step guide on how to chop garlic:
- Lay one side of the garlic clove flat on your cutting board. Ensure that the side is stable on the surface.
- Hold the knife with your dominant hand such that your middle, ring, and pinkie are close to the blade. Curl the forefinger on one side of the blade and your thumb on the opposite side.
- Slice and discard the root end of the garlic clove. The root end is the bottom of the garlic clove, which can be tough and woody.
- Hold the garlic clove with your non-dominant hand and place the blade on it. Ensure that your fingers curl inside so the knuckles are closest to the blade.
- Maintain the point of the blade on the cutting board and make steady rocking motions with the full length of the blade. Make four or five slices crosswise, then another four or five slices lengthwise.
- Collect the chopped garlic pieces.
How to mince garlic cloves
Mincing garlic cloves is similar to chopping, but instead of creating a mixture of small chunks and thin slices, it’ll result in fine pieces. You can either use a chef’s knife or a mini chopper.
Below is a step by step guide on how to mince garlic:
- Place the garlic clove on the cutting board and hold it with your non-dominant hand. Ensure that the garlic piece is stable on the surface.
- Hold the knife with your dominant hand and place the blade on the garlic clove. Ensure that your fingertips are curled inside, so the knuckles are closest to the knife.
- Cut the root end of the garlic clove and dispose of it. The root end is the rough, woody end of the garlic clove.
- Chop the garlic using the steps above on “how to chop garlic cloves.” The chops don’t have to be precise, but they should be small.
- Place then chopped pieces at the center of the cutting board and use the knife to scrape them into a pile.
- Hold the knife above the pile with the tip on the board and the heel raised. Place the less dominant hand flat above the tip of the knife and use rocking motions to mince the garlic.
How to crush garlic
Crushing garlic cloves is one of the easiest ways to prepare garlic. You can use a garlic press, mortar, and pestle for more refined results. However, using a chef’s knife and some salt to act as an abrasive will yield the same results.
- Place the garlic on the cutting board and cut off the woody root end. Ensure that your fingertips curl inside so the knuckles are closest to the knife.
- Chop the garlic using the steps above on “how to chop garlic cloves.” Ensure that the garlic pieces are small.
- Sprinkle some salt on the chopped garlic and press down with the flat part of the chef’s knife. The salt acts as an abrasive and helps crush the garlic.
- Use the flat edge of the knife to scrape the garlic into a pile and crush it until it once more. Repeat the process until the garlic becomes a fine paste.
Tips on preparing and cooking garlic
Garlic is an important part of many recipes. If you want to maximize the taste and flavors of garlic, try out these tips:
- Crushing garlic cloves releases more flavor than chopping. In a basic sense, the smaller the pieces of garlic, the more intense the flavor of the garlic will be.
- Finer pieces of garlic will burn faster than larger pieces. The garlic will get slightly browned and burnt in a few seconds at medium heat. Therefore, you should be quick when cooking with garlic.
- When cooking acidic foods, wait a few seconds for the garlic to release allicin before adding the acidic substance. Allicin is a compound in garlic that gives it its distinct smell and taste, and the acid in foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits can prevent its release.
- If you don’t want garlic’s intense and pungent flavor, you can boil it in water before cooking. Boiling unpeeled garlic will hinder the release of allicin.
- Placing garlic cloves in the microwave for 15 minutes will make peeling easier.
- Add some crushed garlic at the end of cooking to enhance the taste of your food.
How to store the whole bulb and cut garlic
Whole bulb garlic can last for six months under optimum storage conditions. The ideal temperature for storing whole garlic is 60º F—65º F. Ensure the area you keep the garlic is dry, cool, and well-ventilated to keep the garlic bulbs healthy.
Peeled garlic will last for a week when stored in a refrigerator. Cut garlic pieces have a shorter shelf life of one day but can last two or three more days if covered in olive oil.
FAQs on garlic
Understanding how to cut garlic bulbs is the first step to enjoying this versatile ingredient. Whether you want it sliced, chopped, minced, or crushed, you can apply any of the steps mentioned in this article to make your cooking experience with garlic a lot more enjoyable.
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