How to peel garlic

Ah. I can fondly remember the time when I hadn't the foggiest idea how to peel garlic. I would labour for ages upon one clove, frustrated and smelly (me, not the clove. Well, maybe also the clove). And then, lo and behold, by a curious stroke of luck, I learned 3 methods of doing so with little hassle. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method, of course, and each chef and kitchen-user has his or her own favorite. I will present the 4 methods I know, with their advantages and disadvantages, plus, of course, a grading scale.
The criteria
I used the following criteria when appraising each method:
  1. Speed - it is important to be able to peel large amounts of garlic quickly, when cooking for 60 guests. Also, if you just want one clove of garlic, you'd like to have it quickly, and not slave for 10 minutes trying to battle with the peel. 10 on the scale is 1 second, 1 is several minutes.
  2. Ease - related to speed, but not entirely the same. It shouldn't be a hassle to peel garlic.
  3. Intactness - you may want to read the above writeups for a discussion on what crushing garlic does to it. You may want to crush your garlic or you may want not to crush your garlic. The point is, after you have peeled the garlic, you should be able have the choice whether you want it crushed or not. You may want whole cloves for decoration, or want to slice up thin slices, in which case having a pulp of a garlic after you've peeled it is no good.
  4. Smell - yes, there are ways to get rid of the smell of garlic. I have yet to find one that works no matter how much you've got on your hands. After I peel garlic, I'd rather not smell of it for 2 days.
  5. Overall: 25% speed, 20% ease, 40% intactness, 15% smell

The original method

Take a clove of garlic, and start peeling it with your hands. Become very frustrated. Peel layer after layer after layer. Work really hard to get that last layer off. Watch your fingers slip off the garlic peel, and listen to yourself curse with vigor and gusto.

The only method where the garlic comes out complete and intact.

Very smelly fingers. Slow. Bad-temper inducing.


  1. Speed : 1
  2. Ease: 1
  3. Intactness: 10
  4. Smell: 1
  5. Overall: 4


Take a clove of garlic, and put it on a surface that won't be broken by being smashed with a large blunt object (for example a cutting board). Take a large blunt object, with a largeish surface area (such as the bottom of a pan), and smash the garlic forecefully. The garlic will now be a bit of a pulp, and the peel is easy to take off. If it's not, smash it again, more forcefully. You can do multiple garlics this way. Also, the pansy method is taking a large butcher knife and crushing it under that (under the flat of the knife), using your hand for pressure.

Quick and enjoyable. Very little smell stays on the fingers, due to minimal contact with the garlic. It is definitely the most fun way of peeling garlic. (Not in the grading system, admittedly, but should definitely be noted). It is a good method to impress people with, as violent means to non-violent ends are often amusing.

You get a pulp of a clove, so this is good only if you want crushed garlic, or have some other amorphous use for garlic.


  1. Speed : 9
  2. Ease: 8
  3. Intactness: 2 (you can hit it softly)
  4. Smell: 8
  5. Overall: 5

Knife handling

Take a clove of garlic, and cut off both ends. Hold the knife to the length of the clove, and push it in so that it is all the way through the peel. Then push the knife out, towards you, so that it grabs the peel from the inside, put your finger on it, so that the peel is between the knife's edge and your finger. Take off all the peel in one motion. You may have to push the knife a bit into the body of the garlic, but the peel should all come off in one go. This is a bit difficult on bulgy garlics, as the peel seems to be a bit stuck on some, but generally it works all right. This is also a good way to peel onions.

I've seen several chefs teach this, so it must be good.

More garlic handling than 'crushing' and 'the plastic tube', especially if you don't get it right the first time. It's a bit harder to master than the others.


  1. Speed : 6
  2. Ease: 5
  3. Intactness: 9 (you cut the ends off)
  4. Smell: 6
  5. Overall: 7

The plastic tube

The only method where you actually have to buy an accessory, but it's not a very expensive one. There is a little tube made of soft plastic, a bit thicker than a plump cigar. You stick the cloves in there and roll it back and forth or the counter, or table or whatnot, putting light pressure on the cloves, and lo and behold - out come the cloves, all peeled.

Your hands never come into contact with the garlic, so there is no smell. It is very simple to use, and basically does a great job.

You have to buy a tube, and you may end up squishing the garlic slightly.


  1. Speed : 8
  2. Ease: 10
  3. Intactness: 8
  4. Smell: 10
  5. Overall: 9

Other noders' methods

Here are some other noders' takes on how you can peel garlic:

ariels's method
"Related to The Tube: crush it between your fingers. Unless you have Fingers of Steel (tm), you get relatively unscathed garlic."

Lometa's method
"There is also a way to put a clove in the microwave for a few seconds and the skin will slip right off hmmm I put it in a recipe around here but can't recall which one or how long and all that." Then after a little search, Lometa added: "Here it is: Garlic bread and there is another helpful hint about garlic in Angel Hair Pasta with Chicken too."

czeano's method
"I just start slicing the garlic most of the way through; the peel comes off like the shell of a shrimp, (usually) all in one piece."

sneff's "we gotta peel a shitload of garlic" catering method
"Place entire bulbs - up to 2 or 3, into a tea towel wrap up firmly, and bang away with a rolling pin. The amount of force you use determines the final outcome. Hit hard and the skins slip away with no effort (yet the cloves are crushed) - hit softer for a more intact clove - with a bit more peeling effort."

drinkypoo's method
I cut the end off the bulb to skin it, then crush the cloves SLIGHTLY (perhaps I should say 'crack'?) with the side of a chef's knife. The skins come off easily after that and the garlic is not very crushed.

Regarding the smell - Teiresias says "Have you tried washing your hands with a little milk?". Also, there is an interesting idea involving stainless steel in the above writeups.