Garlic is one of those ingredients that most people just couldn’t be without. It is the secret ingredient in many of the world’s tastiest dishes, from aioli to stir-fries, and it also has some pretty impressive health benefits. The only downside is the thin, papery skin that seems so difficult to remove. But it may surprise you to know that even the skin has many different uses. Read on for some tips and tricks for making the most of garlic skin, plus some fuss-free methods for removing it.
Health benefits of garlic
If you needed any more reasons to eat garlic, as well as tasting delicious, it is an extremely nutrient-dense food, with a number of important health benefits.
May help support heart health
Garlic is thought to contain substances that cause blood vessels to dilate, helping support healthy blood flow and pressure. Studies have found that taking garlic supplements can help to significantly lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertension sufferers. It has also been found to reduce both overall and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.
May help prevent chronic disease
Garlic is rich in antioxidants, which help to fight the effects of harmful substances called oxidants that cause damage to your body’s cells. Oxidative cell damage can cause premature ageing, and may lead to several chronic diseases. Antioxidants are a great way to fight these harmful effects, and this, combined with garlic’s ability to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, is thought to make it particularly effective at combating brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
To find out more about how garlic can help to keep you healthy, take a look at our guide to the health benefits and uses of garlic.
How to peel garlic
Peeling garlic is notoriously tricky, and if you take too long about it, you can end up with fingers that smell of garlic for days. Luckily, there are a few tricks you can use to make the job easier. Try one of these easy shortcuts and you’ll have those tasty cloves free in no time.
Using a knife
Perhaps the simplest way to peel garlic is to crush it slightly with the flat side of a wide knife to loosen the skin. Place the garlic clove on a cutting board, lay the flat side of your knife across it, and press down gently but firmly. You should hear the skin crack slightly as it loosens. After this it should be much easier to remove. This method works well, but it can be time consuming if you need to peel a lot of garlic
Cutting the head in half
This method is great for if you need to peel an entire head of garlic. The principle of using pressure to loosen the skin is the same as in the first method, but on a larger scale. First, slice the garlic head in half, then take a wide knife and press down on each half. This should push the cloves out of their cases, so you can just lift the skin away. You do have to press down quite hard for this to work, but if you’ve got the muscle it’s a real time saver.
Using hot water
This method uses steam to loosen those pesky garlic skins. Put your garlic cloves in a bowl and cover with very hot, but not boiling water. Leave for 1 minute to allow the steam to do its thing, then remove the garlic carefully, with a teaspoon. Once it is cool enough to touch, you should be able to peel it easily.
Using a jar
Another easy way to loosen the skin on your garlic cloves is to seal them inside a clean jar and shake vigorously. The impact against the side of the jar should loosen the skins in the same way that pressing them with a knife would, but this method allows you to work on several cloves at once.
Using the microwave
Similar to the hot water method, this uses steam to loosen the skins. Wrap your garlic cloves in a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave for 15 seconds, until just warm. Rub the cloves with the paper towel, and the skins should come away easily.
Using a paring knife
This method is a little more tricky, but once you get the hang of it, you can remove the clove from the head without its skin, all in a few seconds. Place your garlic clove root side up, and insert the tip of a paring knife into one clove, close to its edge. Twist the knife to detach the clove from the roots, then pull carefully, while jiggling it around slightly. If you get it right, the clove should emerge skin-free.
How to use garlic skin
Once you’ve peeled your garlic, don’t be tempted to throw those skins away. They still hold a lot of flavour, as well as many of the nutrients and health-boosting compounds found in the clove itself. Here are just some of the ways you can make use of those leftover garlic skins.
Garlic skins have plenty of flavour but an unappetising texture, so they’re perfect for adding to stocks, where they can be strained out with everything else once their flavour has been extracted. They can also be added to a bouquet garni with various other herbs and used to flavour soups, sauces and casseroles. Simply tie everything up in cheesecloth and it will be simple to remove when you’ve finished cooking.
In bread dough
Many bakers use garlic skin as a secret ingredient, grinding it to a powder with a pestle and mortar, and adding it to their bread dough. This adds a mild garlic flavour, along with extra nutrients like antioxidants and vitamins A and C.
Add nutrients to compost
If you don’t want to cook with garlic skins, you can still stop those nutrients from going to waste by putting them back into the soil. Garlic skin makes a great addition to compost, and the plants in your garden - perhaps even some new garlic plants - are sure to feel the benefit.
Recipes with garlic
If all this talk of garlic is making you hungry, here are some deliciously garlicky recipes to satisfy those cravings.
Vegan garlic scones: these irresistibly crumbly savoury scones are the perfect teatime treat. Serve with your favourite vegan spread and a sprinkling of vegan cheddar.
Avocado salsa with ginger and garlic: another vegan-friendly snack, this tasty salsa is perfect for loading onto chips or adding to burritos.
Sichuan beans with ginger and garlic: this Chinese-inspired side is bursting with flavour, and takes just 20 mins to prepare.
Garlic mozzarella bread: a real comfort food classic, this simple but delicious cheesy garlic bread is great as either an informal appetiser or a side.
Spicy garlic prawns with kale: a quick, healthy meal, ideal for weeknight dinner, this Asian-inspired dish takes just 25 minutes to make from start to finish.
Barbecued pork chops with garlic and lemon: garlic and lemon make the perfect marinade for tender, juicy pork chops, making this tasty barbecue recipe a real crowd-pleaser.