How to Peel Garlic

Now what? Photo: Syukri Mohamad/Getty Images

The week began with so much promise: On Monday morning, all of Twitter discovered this video, which seemed to demonstrate a completely new, innovative technique for peeling garlic. Slide the tip of a paring knife into a clove, kinda twist it out, and voilà. Yet by Tuesday, enough people had tried it to reveal the truth of this particular culinary skill: not quite as easy as it looks! Indeed, like many life hacks designed to shave time off repetitive, tedious tasks, the reality of this particular trick didn’t quite live up to the initial fantasy. And so, cooks — home and professional alike — loped back to their kitchens to confront so many heads of garlic, newly divorced from their recent optimism and forced to once again question the way in which they will remove each fragrant little nugget from its brittle paper wrapping.

The good news, of course, is that people have peeled garlic for thousands of years, and, in that time, have developed some fine, totally workable techniques. Here, for anyone desperately seeking out real garlic-peeling advice, is a handy FAQ that should help.

Garlic is very annoying!
It’s not that bad.

Peeling it makes my hands stink.
You can always wear gloves. Soap and warm water work pretty well, too.

So what’s the best way to deal with it?
Here is a video of Jacques Pépin demonstrating the tried-and-true smack-and-peel technique, which has worked out pretty well for him during the seven decades or so that he’s been cooking.

But he’s a fancy French chef! I don’t exactly have “knife skills,” or even “a sharp knife.”
It’s true that this will be more difficult if you use, say, a 10-year-old knife that you keep loose in a drawer and clean in the dishwasher four times a week.

So now I have to buy a new knife?
Approximately 99 percent of cooking is prep tasks like dicing onions and mincing garlic. You can get a decent knife for $12. Then just make sure it stays sharp, and everything becomes easier. Here is a very helpful primer.

Okay, but this is still a one-clove-at-a-time situation. I want to make this 44-clove garlic soup.
That method where you shake a bunch of garlic between two bowls actually works pretty well.

They sell peeled garlic right in the grocery store. Why am I even going to waste my time doing it myself?
The prepeeled stuff is more expensive and less delicious. It really won’t save you too much time in the long run, either, but by all means go for it if you want to.

What if I just buy one of these plastic garlic-peeling gadgets?
Jacques Pépin would never use a plastic garlic gadget. You probably don’t need to, either.

Fine, so I’ve got all this garlic that I’ve peeled and it didn’t actually take all that long. Now what?
Alton Brown’s got a pretty good version of 40-clove chicken that you could check out.

How to Peel Garlic