Peeling and Dealing with Fresh Garlic

Photo: Thinkstock/NESSER3321

Garlic is a pantry staple, for reasons beyond scaring away vampires. These aromatic bulbs offer nutrients and sulfur-containing compounds that turn into allicin when the garlic is crushed, chopped or chewed. Allicin and its derivatives are responsible for many of garlic’s health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Although garlic is delicious and full of health-promoting nutrients, its lasting, pungent odor can make it a pain in the kitchen. When garlic is crushed or chopped, its essential oils are released and can be tough to wash off hands. These oils also permeate lung tissue, which is why garlic breath and sweat can last hours after eating.

Buying peeled or pre-minced garlic is one way to avoid garlicky hands, but why spend extra money and sacrifice flavor? Instead, use these tips:

Standard method: Cut the end of the clove and peel with your fingers from the cut part, starting at the woody ends (not the tapered tip). Often you can roll the skin right off without too much mess. Best if peeling only one clove.

Knife method: Place a garlic clove on a flat surface, then gently press (or smash, if minced garlic is your end goal) with the broad side of a knife. This should “crack” the woody exterior and make it easy to peel with your fingers. Best for peeling one or two cloves, as finger-peeling will eventually get messy.

Microwave method: By far the easiest and cleanest method, place any number of bulbs in the microwave and heat for 10 to 20 seconds. Carefully remove, since they will be hot, and the bulbs will slip right out of the skins. Best for recipes calling for multiple cloves.

Gadget method #1 – a silicone garlic peeler: Place a clove inside the tube, roll on a flat surface to gently loosen the peel, then tilt the tube to release the bald clove. The peel stays stuck to the inside of the peeler, which you can simply rinse away. Requires practice, as some cloves come out half-skinned. Best for peeling one or two cloves.

Gadget method #2 – a garlic press: You don’t always need to peel the garlic first. Simply take a clove of garlic and press it to mince. The garlic juices and flesh push through, but the skin is left behind. Best to use if crushing is your end goal. Some garlic presses are not well-suited for this method.

There’s no easy trick to stop garlic pieces from sticking to the side of the knife when chopping. To keep the mess at a minimum, chop, slide garlic off, then chop some more until pieces are the desired size.

Want more ways to use garlic in the kitchen? Check out “Healthy Kitchen Hacks: Garlicky Goodness”

To see the entire Healthy Kitchen Hacks series, click here

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Elana Natker
Elana Natker, MS, RD, is a nutrition communications consultant in the Washington, D.C., area, and overseer of the Sage Nutrition Network. Her blog is at, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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