Garlic is an interesting ingredient. You can use it in almost anything – it gives savory dishes an extra kick of flavor nearly everyone loves. It works well as the main feature in dishes like pesto, and it can play a quiet supporting role in all kinds of soups, sauces, and other meals. However, many people have never actually worked with fresh garlic. Either they use garlic powder, or they get pre-minced garlic they can simply spoon into their dishes.
It's no wonder why – garlic bulbs can be fairly intimidating. They seem hard to peel at first glance, they're incredibly sticky and, if you're used to working with powder or pre-minced garlic, it can be hard to tell exactly how much you need. Fortunately, a little practice – and a few easy-to-use Pampered Chef products – can have you cooking with garlic like a pro in no time! Here are a few tips that will make you an expert:
Don't Do More Work Than You Need To
If you want freshly minced garlic, you don't have to bust out your chopping board and work tirelessly to get the garlic into tiny bits. Not only will this take forever, but it's also likely to make your forearms sore after a while.
Save yourself some of the trouble with a garlic press. This is a handy little contraption that effectively minces the garlic for you. You put the garlic – peeled or unpeeled – into the compartment, and you give it a squeeze. The garlic comes out of the little holes, and it's ready to go! Our press also comes with a brush that lets you remove any minced garlic that gets, so you don't have to get garlic all over your fingers. The brush handle is perfect for scraping the minced garlic cleanly off the press and into your food.
Another part of garlic prep you might be spending too much energy on is peeling the cloves. If you try to peel it with your fingers the way you might an onion, you're going to have a hard time. There are a few tricks for making it easier – for example, you can use the flat side of your knife to crush the clove against your cutting board, which loosens the skin considerably. You can also use our Garlic Peeler and Slicer Set, which, like our garlic press, is designed to allow you to work with the cloves without ever getting any smelly, sticky residue on your hands.
"Washing your hands will remove the residue, but not the smell."
So what happens if you do get garlic on your fingers? Well, there are a lot of myths about how to get the scent off, most of which have inconsistent results. One method that seems to work fairly well is rinsing your hands with mouthwash. It's unclear, however, whether this actually gets rid of the smell or simply masks it – at any rate, mint is usually a more pleasant aroma than garlic anyway, so the odds are good it's worth a try.
As far as the stickiness is concerned, simply washing your hands with soap and water should do the trick. However, it's a good idea to put any items you used to prepare the garlic into the sink to soak right away. Fresh garlic is hard to clean once dried, and this will save you some trouble down the line. You can also rub your fingers and hands against stainless steel – if your sink is made of this material, you can use that. If not, you can use pretty much an stainless steel utensil – there are even small steel products out there for this purpose exactly!
Now that you know how to work with garlic without doing too much work or smelling like you're trying to ward off vampires, here are a few quick cooking tips:
- Once you cut garlic, the bulb's flavor starts to increase. If you want a stronger garlicky flavor in your food, mince your garlic as early as possible during the recipe. For a milder flavor, wait to chop it until it has to go in the recipe.
- When picking a head of garlic from the store, look for one that's firm and has all-white skin. If it's mushy or soft, or if its skin is discolored, there's a good chance it has started to go bad. If the garlic has sprouted, that doesn't mean it's gone bad – however, the sprouts are bitter, and that flavor will spread into the garlic itself. Here's a trick: if they're smaller than the width of your thumbnail, you can cut them off – longer than that, however, and it's best to avoid these bulbs.
- If you're used to using garlic powder, you can easily sub for the fresh stuff in your recipes. A clove of garlic equals 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Store garlic away from other foods, as it will spread its aroma and alter the flavor of the neighboring produce. Fresh garlic will thrive if stored in a dry place at a cool-ish room temperature (about 60º F).