The Jar Hack That Can Actually Make Peeling Garlic Fun

For as crucial an ingredient as garlic is in people's kitchens, as much as you may love the taste of the most garlicky garlic recipes, peeling the pungent vegetable isn't exactly one of the huge joys of cooking. Far from it, removing that fibrous, papery skin can be an exercise in tedium, particularly if you need more than a few cloves. Sure, many people know to smash the clove with the side of their knives, but even with the skin loosened, you'll still end up spending time painstakingly picking it off with your fingernails, and very likely cleaning the garlic out from under them later.

But have you tried shaking the garlic? No, seriously. You can peel garlic by shaking it. More specifically, you can place the cloves in a glass mason jar, put the lid on tight, and shake the jar vigorously for around 30 seconds. When you reopen the jar and pour out the garlic, most of the skin should have completely fallen off the cloves and they should be ready for chopping, mincing, crushing, or whatever else you have planned for them in your recipe.

The hack has been making the rounds on the internet for some time. Why it isn't more well-known among the general populace isn't quite clear, but from the look of some of the videos that showcase the technique, it seems to be effective. 

'It works great'

"I gotta tell you, it works great," Institute of Culinary Education chef instructor Kierin Baldwin told CNet. Though, according to Baldwin, in most restaurants the cloves of garlic aren't shaken in a jar, but in between pans. "In a lot of the restaurants that I worked in, the prep guys would actually put two small pans together and shake a bunch of garlic cloves in order to peel them."

Daily Meal has in the past recommended a similar technique for peeling garlic using two metal bowls, placing the edges together to make them into a shaking container. This will work just as well. Its drawback is that metal on metal doesn't stick together all on its own, to say nothing of teflon or other sealants that coat cooking pans. It's not difficult to imagine a home cook who doesn't quite have the coordination of a professional accidentally letting the bowls or pans fly apart, garlic and peel alike scattering everywhere.  

The advantage of the jar is that it provides that same function, but it can be sealed, eliminating the possibility of loud metal clangs and errant garlic all over your counter and floor. But whether it's pans, bowls, or a mason jar, the basic concept is still the same. Between the constant motion and the friction of repeatedly hitting the sides, the skin comes right off.

Making cooking fun

There is a small caveat to this technique. According to Cook's Illustrated, it is best to remove the white outer layer of skin on a whole head before dropping it in the jar. This makes sense considering that the outer skin is a bit thicker than the skin we find on an individual clove. But from there, you can drop the whole head in, sans outer skin but otherwise intact, and start shaking. It does the trick quickly and efficiently. Best of all, after you're done, your fingers won't reek of garlic. 

This isn't the only ingredient or food that we are told can be effectively peeled in a shook mason jar. Some readers may recognize the trope from past advice on how to peel hard-boiled eggs, though in that case it's recommended to add a bit of cold water to the mix to stop the egg from cooking. 

In any event, the jar-peeler method highlights an easily forgotten truth about cooking: that it should be as fun as it is commonsensical. This isn't to say that nothing should be challenging. But if you find yourself repeatedly frustrated by something as unassuming as a clove of garlic, perhaps a shift in perspective is in order. Or maybe just simply switching out one of your fancy kitchen implements for an everyday household item.