This year marked our very first garlic harvest! We were excited to try our hand at growing garlic for the first time, and we were pleased to be able to harvest several dozen cloves. Even more exciting was the prospect of bringing it into the kitchen, and using it in our cooking.
What wasn’t so exciting? Figuring out how to peel the darned things!
Peeling garlic isn’t exactly challenging, but it can get time-consuming and frustrating after a while.
Luckily, there are some ingenious ways to peel garlic out there – here are some of my favorite.
Start With the Right Garlic
Before you start peeling garlic, it’s crucial that you start with the right cloves! There’s nothing worse than cracking open your garlic only to find that it’s poor quality. Skip bulbs, either at the grocery store or in your garden, that look shriveled, soft, or brown. You want a nice, fat bulb with dry skin.
When you get the garlic inside, stash it in a cool, dark place, ideally in an open container like a mesh basket. You want to keep it away from produce or other food that might absorb its odors (but stashing it with onions is fine).
Don’t refrigerate your fresh garlic heads, as they won’t last as long (although storing cloves that have been peeled this way is recommended).
9 Ingenious Ways to Peel Garlic
Method 1: Crushing
This method of peeling garlic is one of the most popular, it’s easy to do, and requires no special equipment. You just need a chef’s knife!
Start by loosening the head of garlic. Separate the cloves and pull out as many cloves as you need for your recipe (or separate all the cloves if you plan on peeling a big batch all at once).
Put a clove on the cutting board. Position your knife so that the flat side is on top of the clove. Hold the handle of your knife tightly and put the heel of your hand on the flat side of the knife. Press down firmly until you hear the clove crunch (be careful not to cut yourself!).
Next, you will remove the loosened garlic clove skin and discard it. You can chop, slice, or mince the garlic as needed, or you can use a garlic press to make your life a little easier!
Method 2: Shaking
One of the easiest ways to peel garlic? The shaking method!
To do this, you will put your garlic in a standard mason jar (a quart size is perfect). Slightly loosen the head, and put all of the cloves into the jar. Screw the lid on as tight as you can to prevent yourself from making a mess.
Next, shake the jar vigorously for roughly twenty seconds. You should be able to see by then if the cloves were peeled. Shake them for a few more seconds if there are still some peels remaining on the cloves.
Then, unscrew the jar and dump the cloves onto a cutting board. You can remove the cloves and toss the skins. Then you can chop and slice the garlic as needed for your recipe.
Method 3: The Bowl Trick
You can also peel garlic with a bowl. Start by pressing down on your garlic bulb with the palm of your hand. This should separate the cloves. Keep in mind that you might need to use two hands to apply enough force.
Then, you will want to place the garlic cloves in a large bowl. There should be plenty of room for the garlic to move around inside. Put a plate on top of the bowl, upside down, then hold them together and shake vigorously. The peels should fall right off, just as they did with the shaking method above.
You can get rid of your peels, and repeat as needed for additional cloves of garlic.
Method 4: Microwaving
Another easy way to peel garlic? Get the microwave involved! Simply put a bulb in the microwave and cook it for about 20 seconds. Remove it, let it cool for a moment, then remove and peel any remaining peels. Use the garlic as recommended in your recipe.
One tip? If you use this trick to peel your garlic, I would recommend using up the garlic right away. It will get too soft if you don’t (or if you try to store it).
Some people recommend wrapping the garlic bulb in a damp paper towel before placing it in the microwave – this can help the skins fall off more easily.
Method 5: Use a Garlic Peeler
Isn’t modern technology great? Believe it or not, there’s actually a specialized tool you can use to peel your garlic – and obviously, it’s called a garlic peeler.
To use this tool, which is basically a rubber or silicone tube, you’ll put the clove inside, and press and roll it on the counter, just like you’re making a baguette. It will only take about five seconds for the peel to come loose.
Method 6: Get Hot Water Involved
Again, as with the microwave method, this is a garlic peeling trick you’ll want to use only if you plan on using your garlic cloves right away.
However, it’s incredibly effective. Simply submerge your separate garlic cloves in hot water for one minute. The skins will slip right off! It’s as easy as that.
Method 7: Use a Mallet
Have some pent-up frustrations you wouldn’t mind taking out on some garlic? Try this trick!
Start by separating your cloves. Pull as many as you want off the head and put them on a cutting board.
Then, place them under a dry cloth, which will prevent them from flying all over the place once you start working. A basic kitchen towel should do the trick.
Pound on the cloves of garlic with a mallet. Often, you’ll only need to do this once or twice, which will crack the shell and make the clove easier to peel. This method works in a similar fashion as the knife blade method, but it’s easier in that you can tackle multiple bulbs of garlic at once.
Now, when you’re doing this, remember that the goal isn’t to smash the cloves – simply to hit them lightly to get the skins to come off.
Afterward, you can remove the cloves from the outer shell. Simply lift up the cloth and remove the remaining skins (you might have to cut or trim some of the ends).
Method 8: Roll Your Cloves
Place your cloves of garlic in the middle of a silicone pot holder. Fold it in half, keeping it on a counter, and then roll the potholder with the palms of your hands.
This can take a few minutes until you notice the peels come off, but as a side note, it’s a great way to loosen any sore muscles in your hands!
Method 9: Get Cutting
If your recipe calls for chopped or sliced garlic anyway, you may just want to skip the steps above and cut them while peeling. You can just cut the cloves in half and then peel the skins.
Storing Peeled Garlic
I find it easiest to peel a bunch of garlic at the beginning of the week and then use it in my recipes all week long. I wouldn’t recommend trying to store garlic for more than a few days, though. After three or four days, it will start to lose its pungency and unique flavors.
To store freshly peeled garlic, put it in a tightly sealed airtight container. Stash it in the fridge, and be sure to examine it for signs of spoilage before you use it.
You can also freeze garlic. This does change its texture somewhat, but if you’re going to use it in a sauce or soup, it shouldn’t matter much. To freeze garlic, spread it out on a sheet pan and freeze it for one hour. You can then put the cloves in an airtight container for six months. It’s as easy as that!
Fresh garlic is the cornerstone of so many delicious recipes. From pasta sauce to marinades to soups, garlic is an ingredient that should be a staple in any kitchen. If you know how to peel fresh garlic, you’ll be able to whip up your favorite recipe in no time.
Consider some of these ingenious ways to peel garlic, and you’ll never go back to the powdered store-bought stuff again!
Oh – and one extra bonus tip? When you’re done peeling all of your garlic, you might want to spend some time caring for your hands. They’re probably pretty stinky!
Believe it or not, an easy way to remove the garlic smell from your hands is to wet them and then rub them on a bit of stainless steel (a stainless steel pot or sink will do). No more stink – it’s like magic!
Rebekah is a high-school English teacher n New York, where she lives on a 22 acre homestead. She raises and grows chickens, bees, and veggies such as zucchini (among other things).