Fresh, Candied, or Powdered: Tips for Cooking with Every Form of Ginger

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I don’t know about you, but as the days get shorter and colder, I find myself gravitating toward gingery recipes and adding this warming spice to everything from toddies to slow-cooked braises. A little goes a long way, though, and I’ve learned to respect the mighty power of the ginger root in all its various forms. Do you have a favorite way to cook with ginger?

When it’s fresh, ginger is full of bright citrusy aromas and flavors as well as its signature gingery pungency. I like fresh ginger the very best in savory dishes, like soups, stir fries, and braises. Grated on a microplane, the ginger melts into sauces and adds a warming background note as well as a spicy kick. For a more subtle ginger flavor, I slice the fresh root into rounds, use them to infuse the soup or sauce (or a warm toddy!), and then pick them out before serving.

I save crystallized candied ginger for baking. Diced small, you can fold these chewy golden bits into things like scones, cakes, and cookies. You won’t taste the ginger unless you actually bite into a piece, but when you do, it’s like finding a spicy ginger surprise.

Powdered ginger is also best for baking since it won’t add any extra liquid to throw off the recipe. Powdered ginger is much more potent than fresh, guaranteeing a punch of ginger flavor in every bite. It doesn’t have the same bright aromas and flavors as fresh and can tend toward bitter if too much is used.

In all cases, buy and use every sort of ginger as fresh as possible. Fresh ginger root should feel very firm with very little withering around the ends. It keeps well in the crisper drawer in the fridge for a week or two. Powdered ginger loses its perky flavor over time and should be used within a year of buying it. Crystallized ginger will keep in an airtight container for months, but will gradually lose moisture and become tough.

What are your favorite ways to use ginger?

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