Ginger is one of those rare aromatics that is as much at home in savory cooking as it is in sweet. It has wonderful health properties, including being a great natural stomach settler and the first thing I reach for when I am feeling nauseated. It is anti-inflammatory, so a good thing for sore muscles and aches and pains, and can help to manage blood sugars, cholesterol, and even might positively impact brain health.
But mostly I like it because it is delicious. Ginger comes in many forms, and sometimes you can wonder what to use when. So, here is a handy guide.
Fresh ginger is available in the produce section of your local grocers and is a wonderful addition to your cooking. Look for firm ginger hands with a taut peel. It should not look wrinkled or feel soft. To use, peel the thick taupe skin off, then slice, chop, or grate. If you want good ginger flavor but not the fibers or bits, grate it then squeeze the ginger juice out of the grated ginger for all of the punch with none of the texture.
Frozen ginger is available in packets that usually have the ginger portioned in one teaspoon nuggets. It is a really useful thing to keep on hand in case you either cannot source fresh ginger, or if you only need a small amount. It is a little less intense than fresh ginger, so I often use extra in recipes that require serious ginger punch. Can be used in either sweet or savory cooking.
Watch: How to Peel and Mince Ginger
Dried or Ground Ginger
Dried or dehydrated ginger is sold both in pieces or chunks, mostly for tea making, and in powdered or ground form, which is used for cooking. To make tea, just steep the chunks of dried ginger in boiling water for five minutes, then strain. Use ground ginger as any ground spice in recipes that call for it. Can be used in either sweet or savory cooking.
Candied ginger is sold in slices, chunks, and little crumbles. It is fresh ginger that has been simmered in a sugar syrup until cooked and candied, and then is dried and usually tossed in granulated sugar to prevent clumping. The slices and chunks can be eaten out of hand or dipped in chocolate as a confection, or any of them can be used in baking. Any recipe that calls for ginger in a batter (gingerbread, spice cake and the like) can have candied ginger added if you want pops of intense flavor. Best used in sweet cooking and baking or eating straight.
Stem ginger is candied ginger that is stored in the cooking sugar syrup and is available in cans and jars. This ginger is as sweet as the dried candied ginger pieces, but the texture is softer and you get the bonus of the syrup it is packed in. This is best used in baking, but the syrup can be amazing in cocktails or to make your own homemade ginger ale by stirring some into soda water. Used in sweet applications.
This is a ginger jam that is available in jars and is usually chunky. You can use wherever you would use any jam or preserves, but it is also good as an ingredient in things like candied carrots, or barbecue sauce, or cocktail meatball sauce, anywhere a bit of sweet heat might be welcome.