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I Tested 6 Popular Garlic Peeling Hacks – See How They Stack Up

You know, when a recipe calls for a clove of garlic, and you’re like, “So, what you really mean is three cloves, right?”

Garlic heads and cloves, peeled and unpeeled on a teak platter next to a red and white tea towel.
Hmm, that’s enough garlic to last me for a week.

If that’s you, you’re in good company.

Garlic is the one kitchen staple I go through the most. I could plant nothing but garlic in my garden, and I’d still end up needing more. Maybe I’ll grow some garlic in pots on my windowsill. That should keep me in garlic for a while.

When you walk into a kitchen and smell garlic cooking, you know something yummy is about to take place.

It’s great in everything – soup, roasted veggies, meats, ice cream.

(Okay, maybe not that last one.)

If you love to cook, you probably figured out long ago that fresh garlic has the best flavor.

Unfortunately, peeling garlic is a pain in the butt.

A jar of partially peeled garlic cloves sitting on a blue wooden background.
Peel yourself, will ya?

The garlic skin is glued onto the clove and nothing short of splitting atoms will separate the two. This is why there are so many gadgets out there for ‘easily’ peeling garlic. And why the internet is filled with just as many garlic peeling hacks.

Do they actually work?

Ah, dear reader, as usual, I’m here to help you out.

I tried six popular garlic peeling hacks to find out how well they work. Because as we all know, there are plenty of websites out there that are happy to continue regurgitating whatever is popular – whether it works or not.

Nope, not in my kitchen. I’m hacking the garlic hacks, so you get the truth.

Let’s get peeling, shall we?

Before you can peel garlic you have to remove it from the root base of the bulb. This is pretty easy to do. Just put it on the counter and give it a few chest compressions. The pressure will release the cloves.

Hands one on top of the other, smashing a head of garlic.
First aid for garlic, heh.
The same hands revealing the smashed head of garlic.

Garlic Peeling Hacks

1. Prick Out Cloves with a Paring Knife

I really wanted this one to work, mainly because it looks so cool.

I'm holding the head of garlic with one hand while poking the paring knife into the side of one of the cloves.

Think of it – you’re in your kitchen looking like a rock star, zipping clove after clove out of the bulb with your paring knife and a flick of the wrist. Dinner guests would be amazed, your children would ask for seconds of their vegetables, and the wine would always go perfectly with the meal.


But it doesn’t work.

My knife just twisted a messy hole in the side of the cloves. I ended up breaking off chunks of the clove,  while the rest stayed firmly attached not only to the skin but also to the bulb.

Hands trying to prick a garlic clove out of the skin with a knife.
Do the thing, darn you!

I dug around and found this guy on YouTube who explains how to do it. You have to cut around the base of the bulb to release the cloves before you can poke each clove with the knife and pluck it out.

Hands cutting the base of a clove of garlic.
This could end badly.

It’s time-consuming, and I kept thinking with one tiny slip, I would end up with a paring knife in the palm of my hand.

Even after that, I still ended up with a mangled head of garlic rather than ninja garlic peeling skills.

A mangled bulb of garlic sets between two hands with a paring knife on a blue wooden table.
Not quite how I imagined this turning out.

In the end, it’s too much of a hassle to get it to work for it to be considered a decent garlic peeling hack.

2. Soaking Garlic in Water

An orange bowl filled with water has garlic cloves soaking in it. The bowl is sitting on a cutting board with a head of garlic next to it. There is a white and red kitchen towel in the lower corner of the photo.
Enjoy your bath little garlic cloves.

Place your garlic cloves in a bowl of water, wait fifteen minutes and then roughly rub the garlic cloves between your palms.

My blurred hands rubbing garlic cloves together over the bowl of water.
Rub, rub, rub.

This one did work.

My hands are spread open wide, showing the wet, peeled cloves of garlic.
Not too bad, almost all were peeled.

However, it took closer to half an hour for the skins to soften up enough for the cloves to slip out. And in that half hour, I could have peeled the garlic by hand and finished cooking.

This will be a good one if you need to peel a lot of garlic, say for pickle-making day. I would set up a bowl filled with water and put the cloves in it before bed, so they’ll be ready to peel in the morning.

Otherwise, this hack takes way too long for everyday cooking.

3. Rolling the Garlic

You are rolling the cloves firmly between your palms.

I am using a chef knife to cut the root tip off of a clove of garlic on a cutting board. The rest of the bulb of garlic is setting next to my hands.

Yup, it works, but you need to cut off the tiny root end first. It also kind of hurts, and because of the pressure and friction you’re creating, the garlic begins to release its wonderful aroma – right onto your hands.

I am rubbing a garlic clove between my hands to peel it. My hands are blurry in the photo.
Again with the rubbing. I’m going to start a fire.

With this method, you end up with sore hands that smell like garlic.

I am showing the peeled garlic clove in my hand.
Yup, it works.

However, if you want to save your hands, they make these little silicone tubes to roll the garlic in. (I used to own one but gave it away because I never used it.)

For me, having to grab a special single-use kitchen gadget slows me down in the kitchen. Not to mention it takes up space in my drawers. Your mileage may vary; give it a try.

4. Shaking the Garlic Between Two Bowls

Okay, let’s talk about this one. I see it everywhere.

And it does work, with a few caveats.

A blue bowl with the cloves from a bulb of garlic.
Okay, here we go.

I found I got the best results using a much larger bowl and putting a metal pot lid over the bowl. I think having the metal to crash into helps a great deal.

About ten seconds in, and half are peeled.

The garlic needs a lot of room to bang around, and as the peels come off, they create a cushion protecting the garlic you’re trying to knock about. If you’re doing lots of cloves, you may want to stop shaking for a moment and pull out a handful of the empty skins.

It took me 30 seconds of solid shaking to get good results.

a metal pot lid, the empty blue bowl and peeled garlic cloves and their skins are decoratively arranged on a blue wood tabletop.
Three cloves out of an entire bulb ended up unpeeled. Not too shabby.

I noticed that because the garlic is being banged, it starts to release its juices, which causes the papery skins in the bowl to stick to the peeled cloves. I had to rinse my peeled garlic off when I was finished.

Overall though, it does work for an entire bulb of garlic. I use a lot of garlic when cooking but not a full bulb all at once. I’m thinking maybe I’ll peel a bulb of garlic using this method at the beginning of the week.

I can store the peeled cloves in a jar and grab them as needed.

5. Shaking Garlic in a Jar

Yes, it works.

Half-peeled garlic cloves in a clear jar on a blue wood background.

Sort of.

It’s a bit like the bowl idea, only on a smaller scale, and it works best for 2-4 cloves.

I had to shake the garlic for a full 30 seconds to get 3.5 out of 5 garlic cloves peeled. As you can see from the final photo, one still has the skin clinging loosely to it, and the other clove was nowhere near being peeled.

a clear jar emptied of the peeled garlic cloves and skins on a blue wood background.
Eh, it did alright.

Plus, you have to have an extra piece of equipment, the jar. Granted, it’s not as big as bowls, but it’s still extra stuff to gather while you’re cooking and wash when you’re finished.

Maybe save this one for when your kiddos are helping. Kids love breaking stuff, and if you hand them the jar and tell them to shake the stuffing out of it, they’re going to love it.

In the end, it’s extra work for just a couple of cloves of garlic. Meh.

Takeaways and My Favorite Way to Peel Garlic

Look, the thing about peeling garlic is this – it’s hard. If there were a quick, easy way to do it, we’d have figured it out centuries ago, and everyone would be doing it already.

You rarely need an entire bulb of garlic for a recipe, which makes several of these hacks kind of silly.

Once you’ve removed the skin, you need to use the garlic quickly. Peeled garlic will start to lose its flavor and develop brown spots. You’ve got a week to use it all up, as long as it’s stored in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.

Most of us are only peeling one or two cloves at a time. So here is the champion garlic peeling method. It’s quick, it’s easy, and you’ve already got everything you need right in front of you.

6. Whack it With a Knife

This method is the way I’ve always peeled my garlic. For the most part, I only need several cloves at a time while cooking. And garlic keeps better if it’s left in its skin, attached to the bulb.

This is my favorite tried and true method because of the simplicity of it. I’m already using the tool I need – a knife. I don’t need to get extra equipment or spend extra time waiting. Everything is ready and right at my fingertips.

Trim off the tiny end root, place the garlic on its flat side on a cutting board, then give it a solid thump with the flat edge of your knife blade.

Boom. Done.

The garlic skin is removed through blunt force. (This doubles as a stress-relieving technique too.)

I am positioning a garlic clove on the cutting board with one hand and holding a chef knife with the other.
Flat side of the clove down.
I have put the flat of the blade over the garlic clove and I'm using my other hand to firmly press down on the flat of the blade.
I am showing the peeled garlic clove between my finger tips.
Peeled garlic. Easy.

That’s it – no shaking, no rolling, no soaking. Just a quick whack, and the next thing you know, you’re mincing garlic.

It saves time, and it always works.

While some of these other hacks work, for the most part, I chalk them up to a lot of other kitchen hacks – a novelty.

I love to cook, but that doesn’t mean that I want to be inefficient with my kitchen time. If I’m going to adopt a new technique, it’s got to be good. And most of these are only okay.

Hmm, now I’ve got all this peeled garlic on my hands. What should I do? I think it’s time to make Cheryl’s lacto-fermented garlic, and I can top up my jar of honey-fermented garlic.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,