I believe there is no such a thing as too much garlic. I tend to double or triple the amount of garlic in a recipe without batting an eye. I’ll take garlic in almost any dish or form, including raw on a loaf of bread (aka “roman soldier” style, or so I read in a book once).
So you can imagine how thrilled I was to buy eight heads of garlic for my ScienceFare experiment this week. I was hoping the clerk would ask what it was for, just so I could ramble excitedly to a stranger about my love for garlic. (Didn’t happen. This is apparently not as sketchy as, say, twenty pounds of corn starch, but that’s a different story).
With all this garlic eating, I’m on a constant hunt to improve the most annoying part of the process: garlic peeling. The classic technique of smashing the clove of garlic by putting your fist over a knife (see picture below) has been pretty effective. But then I came across this video* on Saveur, where garlic was peeled using impact forces from banging them against the metal bowls. And then I heard about silicone tubes, which peel garlic using frictional forces between the garlic and silicone. And then I realized, I needed to know exactly what was the fastest way to peel a clove of garlic – by crushing, impact, or friction – which brought me to the supermarket and 8 heads of garlic.
So, first test, which technique is fastest?
Test 1: IMPACT vs. FRICTION vs. CRUSHING
I timed how fast it took to peel a single clove using each of the three techniques mentioned above: 1) IMPACT (the mixing bowl technique), 2) FRICTION (the silicone technique), and 3) SMASHING (the knife technique). You can see the results in the table below (values in seconds).
|5.5||10.3|The silicone friction technique proved the fastest and most consistent of all the techniques for peeling a single clove. The classic knife smashing technique was a little slower on average, and a bit less consistent- some cloves can be tricky to peel this way. The mixing bowl impact technique featured on Saveur was definitely the slowest. I stopped two of the trials after a minute without a peeled garlic clove because, frankly, my arms were tired.
The clear winner on speed is the silicone tube and friction. Additionally, the mixing bowls were not consistently good at peeling a single clove, but I didn’t want to give up on the bowls just yet. The Saveur video involved throwing a whole head of garlic into the bowl at once. Does the impact technique perhaps work better in bulk?
Test 2: The IMPACT technique in bulk
I threw half a head of garlic into two steel mixing bowls, and shook the begebus out of them for 15 seconds. Amazingly, 56% of the garlic was fully peeled after a rough shaking! Disappointingly, 44% of the garlic was right where I left it 15 second before, skins intact. So it did work better in bulk, but still not all of the cloves got peeled.
Disappointing results, but there are several differences between how I am doing the impact technique, and how the editor on Saveur did the technique. Perhaps I’m just doing it wrong?
Test 3: The IMPACT technique revisited, aka is my kitchen defective?
Because I don’t live in an industrial kitchen, I don’t own two giant metal mixing bowls like they do on Saveur, but perhaps that is the key to the impact technique. Metal is quite strong, and the larger mixing bowls give the garlic more space to accelerate and impact the walls of the bowls, potentially providing greater forces and “peeling efficiency” compared to small bowls.
So I tested it out. I didn’t have two metal bowls on hand, but I did have two plastic bowls that were similar in size to the metal bowls. So I did two tests, one with both big bowls (one metal and one plastic), and one with both small bowls. Just as in test 1, I threw a handful of garlic cloves into the bowls and counted the numbers that were peeled after 15 seconds of shaking.
|Test 1||Test 3|
|big+small||big bowls||small bowls|
The large bowl test peeled more (but not all) garlic cloves as compared to the small bowls. So it seems my thinking was correct, the large size of the bowls in the Saveur test contributed to their peeling efficiency. But even in this case, some cloves were left unpeeled.
In summary, the silicone tube friction technique definitely won on a clove-by-clove basis (Test 1), but the mixing bowl impact technique was able to peel over 10 cloves of garlic in 15 seconds (Test 2), a feat that even the silicone tube can’t match. The problem with the impact technique was twofold: 1) it couldn’t peel all the cloves of garlic at once (Test 2 and 3), meaning some cloves would need to be peeled with a second technique, and 2) it needed two large mixing bowls to be effective (Test 3), which might not always be available in the typical home kitchen (I actually borrowed one of the large bowls from a friend). I found the Saveur impact technique more difficult to perform in my kitchen than advertised on the internet.
On the plus side, I now have enough garlic to feed a roman army (literally), which makes me a very happy camper.
Credit to Hannah Jaris for the pictures, data recording, and funny faces while I shook myself red and exhausted.
*I’d also note that his garlic-head fist punch was much more difficult to do in practice than it seemed on the video.