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How to Peel Garlic Three Ways

Garlic is a healthy ingredient with countless culinary uses, but it can be a pain to prep. Here are our time-saving tricks to peeling garlic.

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Whether you're crushing garlic for aioli, mincing it to sprinkle on bread, or puréeing it for a pungent take on gazpacho, you face an unavoidable step: getting that aromatic allium out of its pesky, sticky skin. ChefSteps Development Chefs Nick Gavin, Ben Johnson, and Riley Moffitt each have their own methods for peeling garlic quickly and easily. Read on, and let us know who you side with in the comments.

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Soak it, smash it, or shake it.

Soak It

Nick's method is the cleanest of the three. Because you're dipping your hands in water over and over again, your fingers won't end up smelling like garlic for hours afterward.


Tools: This method requires nothing but a bowl and some water from your tap.

  1. Separate a head or two of garlic into individual cloves.
  2. Put them in a bowl and fill it with enough warm water to cover the garlic.
  3. Give those cloves a few minutes to relax and loosen up.
  4. Pick a clove out of the water and peel off the skin. It should slip off easily; if not, let the garlic soak a little longer.

Freshly peeled garlic and clean hands. What more could you want?


Smash It

Ben's classic method is the stickiest and messiest, but it's quick and might be the most fun. Use the smashing method when you're short on time and the recipe calls for crushed garlic -- it's perfect for aioli or bruschetta.


Tools: A sturdy knife with a broad blade. Some upper-body strength wouldn't hurt either.

  1. Lay the flat side of your knife over a whole head of garlic.
  2. With your palm, press down on the knife until the head splits into cloves.
  3. Pull the cloves apart, then use your palm and the knife to smash them individually.
  4. Slip each smashed clove out of its skin.

Voilà! All the peeled, crushed garlic you need for your favorite salad dressing or one-pot pasta.


Shake It

Riley's method is a restaurant favorite, and as soon as you try it you'll see why. If you don't mind doing an extra dish or two and have lots of garlic to peel, this is the method for you. Shaking works best with older garlic that has had time to dry; if yours is too fresh, the skins won't slip off as easily.


Tools: You'll need a container you can close securely. Try a mason jar, any bowl with a plastic top, or a cocktail shaker.

  1. Put a whole head of garlic (or a couple of them) in your container and close it tightly -- you don't want to be tossing garlic all over your kitchen.
  2. Shake the container as hard as you can.
  3. Open the container and empty it onto your work surface.

At first it may look like you've done nothing but make a mess, but look a little closer. You'll see pale little ears peeking out from those papery husks. The garlic has practically peeled itself.


Want to see the three methods in action? Check out the video below from the ChefSteps kitchen for even more information on peeling garlic.