Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I tried making alioli at home, but in the first step (turning the garlic into a fine paste), I didn't make much progress. I chopped the garlic fairly finely first, but when I tried crushing them with a wooden spoon in a wide low mug, the little pieces just ping off.

What's the trick? Is there some way of softening them up first?

Note that I'm not making it in commercial quantities, so the amount of garlic I'm using would scarcely reach up to the blade on my immersion blender.

share|improve this question
    
How did you crush it? –  Mien May 10 '12 at 8:41
    
What does it mean for pieces of garlic to "ping off" –  Ray May 10 '12 at 11:30
    
@Mien, wooden spoon in a wide low mug. –  Peter Taylor May 10 '12 at 12:23
3  
Your error is chopping the garlic. If you work with the whole clove it's far more manageable. –  BaffledCook May 11 '12 at 8:17
1  
@Mien, al·lioli is the Catalan spelling; alioli is the Valencian and Castilian spelling; aioli is Provençal and different in that it uses egg. –  Peter Taylor May 14 '12 at 17:56
show 4 more comments

8 Answers 8

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I make garlic paste quite often, using this technique I saw on Bobby Flay.

  1. Put the whole clove on the board.
  2. Lay knife flat, and smack it with your hand.
  3. Remove paper and root.
  4. Dice finely.
  5. Sprinkle with the quantity of salt your recipe calls for.
  6. With the knife relatively flat, grind the garlic into the salt with the knife. Typically, I'll make a pass in one direction with the edge on the board, leading with the spine, and then come back with the spine on the board, leading with the edge. You need a wide knife (at least a french chef's knife, cleaver or santuko) in order to keep your fingers out of danger. I apply the downward pressure with the top of my palm, with my fingers curled back.

Check this for a similar technique - http://www.howdini.com/howdini-video-6688064.html (The mincing starts around 2:40 After 5 or 6 passes, you should have a nice fine paste.

share|improve this answer
3  
You don't need to add the salt, but it helps as an abrasive. –  Chris Cudmore May 10 '12 at 14:22
add comment

Garlic Press

I like to use a garlic press for this sort of thing. You drop a whole clove or two in the device, squeeze, and you get a perfectly smooth garlic paste. The one downside is that it can be quite a pain to clean. Garlic Press

Microplane

There is also the Microplane (I'm not sure if there is a generic name for this type of rasp-style grater). Although I see it as ideally suited for hard cheeses and citrus zests, it generally does a fine job on garlic too. It means that you don't have to have on extra specialized tool. The downsides are again the cleaning (though not as bad as the press) and the likelihood of nicking your finger as you get down to the last bit of garlic.

Microplane Grater

Knife Skills

Here's a simple method that I use when I really don't feel like getting one more device out (or dirty). Lay the garlic clove on a cutting board and lay the side of a chef's knife over top of it. Then smack it with the heel of your hand hard enough until you feel the garlic yield under the pressure. The garlic has been "crushed" but is still holding together. If you dice it very finely at this point, it will have a much better "crushed" texture than if you do not smack it first. I do find that the other methods yield a superior result, but this method is often more than sufficient.

Knife Skills

share|improve this answer
1  
Use a wooden toothpick or skewer to hold garlic down to last bit on microplane –  TFD May 11 '12 at 20:54
    
Nice tip, TFD (pad) –  Ray May 12 '12 at 0:16
add comment

The traditional way is to use a mortar and pestle. It works with very small quantities.

If you don't have a mortar and pestle, try approximating one with a cup rounded on the inside for the mortar and something sufficiently round for the pestle, for example the end of a rolling pin. It won't be as good as mortar and pestle, but will give you something crushed.

Another option is to use the immersion blender on a whole head or two of garlic, then freeze the part you won't be using immediately. If you do so in small portion, you can always get out a single portion for seasoning a dish.

share|improve this answer
    
Actually I suppose the freezing would help soften them up just by itself. Blend then freeze sounds like a very promising idea. –  Peter Taylor May 10 '12 at 12:25
    
I found a bowl + a small cup worked pretty well before I got a mortar & pestle. I was using a metal cup, and just pressing firmly / grinding with salt, starting from whole cloves of garlic ... I'd steer clear of glass, as you don't want to pound and end up with broken glass everywhere. –  Joe May 15 '12 at 15:42
add comment

Strong plastic bag and a rolling pin

share|improve this answer
add comment

Cutting board and a flat, heavy pan. Just grab the edges of the pan firmly and apply your weight down, creating some arcing motions from side to side.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'd like to second the microplane zester. Produces the smoothest results exceptionally quickly. I also like the fact that I can get half garlic clove mashed to a paste. Most other methods work better on larger quantities. Here is a little video on how this works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alY0OUKUeCA

share|improve this answer
add comment

Having successfully made aioli, I find that a garlic press squeezes each clove just fine. What's more, it retains the thick part of the peel.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I use a variation on Chris Cudmore's method given elsewhere in this thread:

Instead of dicing the garlic (Chris' step 4) I use the back of the knife blade to 'slice' the garlic very thinly. This actually squashes the garlic to a paste instead of dicing it. This is usually enough for most recipes that require 'crushed garlic' and is actually faster than dicer. Chris' steps 5 and 6 are not usually required though for a really smooth paste I may go on to 'grind' the garlic too.

Note that the above technique requires a large, heavy, thick-bladed knife. The back of the blade must be thick (mine is 3 or 4mm) or it won't work. The best part of this (and Chris') method is that there is no fiddly washing up of processors, graters, crushers etc.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.