How to Mince Garlic Like a Pro
Mincing garlic is a key kitchen skill that you’ll use in everything from creamy tzatziki to Mediterranean marinades to sauces. That said, I’m always surprised to learn how many of my cooking class students don’t know how to peel and mince garlic cloves quickly and efficiently the way pro chefs do it. (Hint: No kitchen gadget does it better than your trusty chef’s knife, although this fork vs. garlic hack is an interesting idea.)
Tips for Mincing Garlic
First, let’s define “mince.”
Mincing leaves you with very small pieces of garlic (about the size of a grain of couscous) and delivers a more intense and instant flavor punch than sliced or chopped garlic. That’s because when the cell walls of garlic are damaged, the compounds alliin and alliinase react with each other to create the aromatic, sulfurous compound allicin. The more the cell walls are disturbed (either by chopping, mincing, or smooshing in a garlic press), the more pungent the garlic flavor.
Use a stable cutting board.
Mince garlic right before using it.
Because minced garlic will become more pungent with time, mince it right before you’re going to use it. As for that little brown end on the garlic clove where it was attached to the head, you can cut it off and discard it, or leave it be. It’s a matter of personal taste. It is tougher than the rest of the garlic clove, but once it’s minced, it’s barely noticeable.
Minced garlic should be cooked briefly.
Because of its fineness and pungency, minced garlic is best sautéed or stir-fried briefly — usually 15 to 30 seconds is plenty to release the aromas of the garlic into the oil and cook out the sharp, raw flavor. Any longer and you risk burning the garlic, which will make dishes bitter; that’s why you’ll usually see it added after onions and other aromatics are already sautéed to tenderness.
Minced garlic can also be used raw.
Minced garlic is also used in raw applications like salad dressing, dips, and marinades where you want garlic flavor, but don’t want to bite into a chunk of uncooked garlic.
Recipes Using Minced Garlic
Use your hands to break the head of garlic apart into separate cloves. Break off only the number of cloves you’ll be using immediately and leave the rest of the head intact; it will last longer in your pantry this way without drying out. Discard the papery skins around the cloves.
Break the inner peel away by gently crushing the clove: Put the flat of a chef’s knife on the top of the garlic clove with the sharp end of the blade facing away from you. Place the heel end of your palm on the blade with your fingers bowing upward away from the sharp of the blade. Lean your weight into the knife until you hear a crack or pop sound, that’s the skin around the garlic clove breaking open.
Peel away the garlic skin and discard. Once the skin has been loosened, it should fall away easily. If, it doesn’t give it a brief smack with the side of the knife again.
Thinly slice the garlic lengthwise into slices. Make sure to hold your fingertips inwards when touching the garlic to avoid cutting yourself.
Turn the sliced garlic 90 degrees so that the slices run parallel to you. Steady the top of the knife with your non-dominant hand and chop the garlic with a rocking motion; the tip of the knife will never leave the cutting board, but the handle end of the knife will fan out, moving left and right and up and down over the garlic to cut it into very small pieces.
Stop once or twice to carefully brush any garlic stuck to the knife blade back onto the cutting board so that it all gets evenly minced.
Continue chopping until the garlic is minced into evenly tiny pieces, about the size of a grain of couscous.
Use garlic within 15 minutes of mincing for the best flavor, it will become more pungent and bitter as it sits.