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How should I approach peeling a clove of garlic to get the skin off most quickly? Is it different if I'm doing a bulb whole?

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Good question. This has to be one of the most laborious tasks in food preparation, so any tips to make it easier are highly valued! –  Noldorin Aug 4 '10 at 14:55
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17 Answers 17

up vote 79 down vote accepted

Even with a whole bulb, break it into cloves.

Put clove(s) on a cutting board. I usually cut off the root end of each clove. Lay a large chef's flat on the clove, then smack the knife to crush the clove. This breaks the skin of the clove and makes it much easier to peel.

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The day I was informed of this trick was the day after I'd laboriously peeled over a dozen heads of garlic. –  ceejayoz Jul 13 '10 at 22:04
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Be sure to NOT use a ceramic knife. It can easily break. –  Dinah Jul 14 '10 at 0:41
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@Dinah - nor on a fiberglass plate; broke one of those once –  zanlok Dec 9 '10 at 23:26
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Use this when you’re cooking with guests around: it never ceases to impress people who haven’t seen it before (especially when they go home and try it themselves), and to draw knowing appreciative looks from those who have ;-) –  PLL Feb 6 '11 at 2:19
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Here's a tip to go along with this...don't store the garlic in the refrigerator...keeping it out helps keep the garlic peel dry enough to separate easily from the garlic when slightly crushed. –  jwalkerjr Mar 7 '11 at 5:32
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The trick is that you're bruising the clove of garlic a little bit so the paper will release easier -- if you're using a bulb or less, it's not too bad to do the side of the knife press method.

... but if you're cooking up a recipe that calls for a dozen heads, there's an alternate trick:

  • break the head into cloves
  • put the cloves into a sealable hard-sided container much larger (10x or more) than the garlic
  • shake the hell out of it for about 15-30 seconds
  • pull out the cloves, and the paper should come off easily.
  • if there's any cloves that are still difficult, shake longer, or more vigorously.
  • repeat for the remaining bulbs.

You can do this with two metal bowls of the same size, pressing together the lip on the rims while shaking. I don't recommend plastic containers, as you might impart a garlic flavor to them that will be difficult to remove.

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+1 for "shake the hell out of it" –  JYelton Jul 13 '10 at 23:10
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like this idea for multiple cloves. –  Sam Holder Jul 16 '10 at 10:12
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Food processor with plastic 'dough kneading' blade will also work, with some damage to cloves. Separate cloves from paper based on flotation: cloves tend to sink in water, paper is floaty. –  Wayfaring Stranger Apr 20 '12 at 0:45
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I take a hint from TV (and my fiancee): smash each clove with the flat part of the knife until the skin breaks, then you can easily take it off.

If you are peeling the whole clove, then you can just smash the whole thing with the flat part of a bigger knife (safety first) and take all the goodies out.

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Smash n snatch is the simplest by far. –  hobodave Jul 13 '10 at 20:58
    
great jargon, guys.. goodies and snatching.. haha –  zanlok Dec 9 '10 at 23:28
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Two methods that work great.

1: Put the garlic cloves into lukewarm water and wait 20-30 minutes.

2: Put the garlic cloves into a tupperware and shake.

I'd use method one for peeling large batches of garlic that you can store in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and method two for immediate use.

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sounds like #1 might have flavor consequence (adverse) –  zanlok Dec 9 '10 at 23:25
    
That would happen in boiling water, not lukewarm water. As far as I can tell there is no side effect to this method. –  BaffledCook Dec 10 '10 at 9:16
    
I separate the cloves and put them in boiling water for just a minute or so. The temperature doesn't penetrate very far so there is no flavour consequence and the skin just slides off. This is just for sliced or whole cloves. For crushed garlic I crush then peel. –  slim Jan 13 '11 at 16:12
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Great video on peeling garlic.

It's basically the same method as that described in Joe's answer: Smash the head, put it all (if you need a whole head of garlic) in a large metal bowl, put another metal bowl on top, but upside down, so that the rims overlap, and shake hard for several seconds.

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1. Please summarize the information contained in links you post - a bare link is not an answer. 2. Please do not post obfuscated URLs here. –  Aaronut Oct 3 '11 at 2:30
    
i'm voting you up, because even though your post was against teh roolz, it's still the most efficient way, and it addressed the question perfectly. –  franko Oct 3 '11 at 2:36
    
@franko please read the how to answer page and the original meta post on the subject. This is not about rules, it's about answers containing only links being poor quality answers by definition. "Here's a link" or "here's a video" does not address the question, it just tells readers to go somewhere else to address the question. –  Aaronut Oct 3 '11 at 4:27
    
i will do that, thanks. –  franko Oct 3 '11 at 13:39
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I call these Garlic Cannoli.

Garlic Peeler

Actually, they're simply called "garlic peelers." For Christmas, I gave my wife one of these as a stocking-stuffer. I had seen them in kitchen gadget stores for years, but was always reluctant to get one, believing it was another useless, cheap gadget.

I was wrong!

I used to peel garlic using a knife, but now, with this, I can peel a clove every 5 seconds. It's essentially a silicone or rubber tube. You place the clove inside and lightly press it and roll it on the counter (like you're forming a baguette). Penny for penny, I've never had such a useful gadget (except maybe a silicone spatula).

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Thanks. I saw one of these in the local store but didn't think they were useful. –  Muz Jan 27 at 7:59
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If you need to keep the cloves whole, there's a nifty little tool that looks like a piece of rubber manicotti, which is specially designed for this purpose. You put a clove of garlic inside, then roll it back and forth on the counter. The clove will pop out the end completely stripped of its skin.

If you don't feel like going out and buying a one-use gadget, a silicone baking mat will probably do the same thing.

If you're going to be chopping the garlic, I find that slicing the garlic in half from base to tip makes it very easy to peel the skin off.

I don't like smashing garlic with my knife for fear of losing a finger. Safety first.

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I used to have this tool; it was fantastic :) –  Joel in Gö Sep 1 '10 at 15:46
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I have this tool, but I find it easier to just roll the garlic in my hands. –  jjnguy Oct 19 '10 at 21:38
    
The tool doesn't have to be a unitasker - I use mine as a jar lid gripper too. Lay it across the top of the jar lengthwise, not around the rim. –  Kate Gregory Apr 20 '12 at 12:43
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Rather than the "smash" method, I cut a little off each end of the clove and then slice the clove in half, lengthwise. Once it is sliced, the skin peels off easily. Plus, the cut allows for the (2) slices to lay flat for mincing.

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lay down a knife horizontaly on the cloves and hit it. This will break the clove a bit. Now cut the top, and then the bottom and the shell will be gone.

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The side of the garlic clove closest to the core will usually have a flatish edge where the skin is thicker - if you slice at the base of the clove with the flat side down, and then rotate the knife 90 degrees, you will pull off this thick edge off easier, and frequently this will also take the rest of the skin with it.

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Break the bulb into cloves, breaking off the bottom and the dry stick that goes up the middle. For each clove, press the ridge that would have been at the centre of the bulb down hard on the chopping board, crushing it. This causes the skin to almost entirely separate from the clove; using a knife at the base it then comes off very easily, you can peel the whole bulb this way in a few tens of seconds.

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After you have broken it down into cloves, I usually smash it slightly with my thumb or the side of a knife, and the tough peel (the shell) cracks, making it quite easy to simply peel it by hand.

My wife uses this device that is basically a rubber cylinder that you roll the clove in and it breaks down the shell. It works OK, but I can clove for clove peel quicker than anyone I know ;--)

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I do it two different ways: First, if I've been working outdoors a lot and have good calluses on my hands, I'll take a scant palm full of cloves and rub my hands together with the garlic between them over the sink or bin, this takes off most of the skin and loosens what stays behind. Second, if the garlic has large cloves, will hold the bottom and the top of the clove, top by one hand bottom by the other and twist the clove, this loosens the skin.

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Usually don't smash the garlic, seems to change the flavor. –  Frankie Jul 20 '10 at 6:50
    
Smashing tends to leave the cells whole, whereas slicing/chopping goes through cells and releases more juice, for a stronger flavour. Both are good, for different recipes. –  slim Jan 13 '11 at 16:14
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The technique I use is just a little different from the "crush" method - I like to think of it as the "smack" method. It goes a little faster because you don't need to shift your hands on the knife very much.

After separating a clove, you place it flat on the cutting board and slice off the stem with a chef knife. Having sliced off the stem, you don't really need to "crush" the garlic to get the skin to separate - holding the knife normally by the handle, you can simply give the garlic one good smack with the flat of the tip, pick up the clove by the tail end, and poke it a bit with the knife and the garlic will fall out.

Optionally, something that I personally find easier is not to slice all the way when you are cutting off the stem. If you slice gently and lift up on the clove at the same time, when the knife reaches the skin on the opposite side, it doesn't penetrate the hard skin. The knife keeps the skin pinned down, and as you pull up on the clove, the skin will start to separate. This gives it a good start and makes the garlic part with its skin even more readily.

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Cut the end at both sides and down the middle to peel them.

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Try microwaving a clove for between 5-10 seconds and the skin practically falls off. Be careful not to leave them in too long, they'll explode and you'll have a garlicy mess in your microwave.

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10 seconds seems a bit excessive for a single clove of garlic. What wattage is your microwave? –  Marti Nov 25 '12 at 3:16
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I generally microwave garlic cloves (as suggested by nachito above). 3-5 cloves 12 seconds works for me. Alternatively you can heat a pan and put cloves in it for a few minutes just to heat them up. That will separate the skin easily.

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