Garlic adds a burst of flavor to any dish. Whether you're planning to make a simple and versatile garlic butter or a complex Three Garlic Pasta, it's important to master the basic knife skill necessary to mince the allium. Here, we're sharing exactly how to mince garlic, ensuring that your favorite dishes capture the flavor of the powerhouse ingredient just right.
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How to Mince Garlic
Grab a cutting board and knife ($39.99 for four, amazon.com) with a nice wide blade. Once you've removed the cloves you need from the head of garlic, mincing requires just three simple steps: trim, smash, rock. First, use the knife to trim the root end of each clove. Second, place each clove (or a couple of cloves at a time, after you're feeling confident) under the flat side of the knife and apply pressure with the heel of your hand to peel it. You need to press only hard enough to split the skin so you can peel it away, but don't worry if you splinter the clove itself—it's getting chopped anyway. (In fact, if you have very large cloves, it can be helpful to smash them a little so the general height of your cloves is roughly even.) Lastly, rock the blade of the knife over the peeled garlic until the pieces are the size you want—likely very fine. Make sure that whatever the size, they're relatively even so they will cook evenly when added to your dish.
Determining the Best Size to Mince
Unless your recipe specifies a size, you should think in terms of flavor. The rule of thumb is this: The finer the garlic, the bolder the flavor. Because chopping garlic ruptures its cells, the more you mince, the more you release the compound that gives garlic its signature scent and flavor, called allicin.
Whole or slightly smashed garlic cloves deliver a gentle garlic flavor to your dish. Big chunks or slices of garlic will deliver a stronger but still mild flavor. Minced garlic will have a bolder flavor, and pressed or grated garlic will have the strongest flavor. Small pieces will also burn more quickly, so consider at what step you're adding the garlic to the dish and what heat you're cooking over. It's best to cook garlic over low heat; if you can't, keep high-heat cooking to 30 seconds or less and be sure to scrape and stir the garlic constantly.
How to Clean Up After Mincing
One tip is to use garlic quickly after prepping. The longer it sits, the stronger the aroma becomes, which can wreck your dish and also make it harder to remove the odor from surfaces. Because the garlic flavor can transfer to foods that are sliced or chopped after cutting garlic, be sure to properly wash and store your knife when you're done mincing. You should also wash the cutting board thoroughly.