Ginger is a staple in Eastern cuisines and a popular herbal remedy. But how much do you know about the best ways to prepare ginger for use in food and beverages?
I first made use of ginger through my time working in cocktail bars, where it lends a fruity and spicy tone to mixed drinks. Now retired from bar work, ginger is still one of my favorite ingredients — and I use it in everything from curries to stir-fries to salad dressings.
Taking the extra steps of cleaning and peeling your ginger will make the fresh and zesty flavor really pop in your favorite dishes. So please, allow me to explain both why and how to peel ginger for any recipe you want to make!
Exploring Ginger’s Unique Challenges
Getting the best flavor out of ginger is easier said than done. After selecting the best ginger, you’ll need to decide which methods of preparation will yield the right balance of spice and subtly fruity flavors in your recipe. That means deciding between peeling and not, and making sure you peel at the right time.
Why You Should Peel Your Ginger
You can think of ginger’s flavor in much the same way as potatoes. If you leave the peel on, you’ll get more of an earthy and dirty flavor. And while that might be okay for home fries, it’s usually not the flavor you want from ginger in a recipe.
When you peel your ginger, it leaves only the most flavorful and aromatic part: The tender inner flesh. And that pungent aromatic flavor is the reason that ginger is such a prized ingredient in Asian cuisines!
This is doubly true for using ginger as a tea. When you pour boiling water over an unpeeled ginger root, the peel will muddy the flavor and aroma. But if you peel it down to its yellow-white flesh, the ginger will have a clean and pleasant aroma and spice.
When to Peel Ginger for Best Results
There’s only one time that you should peel your ginger: Right before you use it.
Ginger’s peel acts as a protective barrier to keep its juicy aromas and flavors inside. Once you remove it, the intensity of the ginger will quickly degrade.
So when you’re peeling ginger to cook with, it’s best to cut or break off only as much as you’ll need. Don’t peel the whole ginger root if you’re not using it right away.
How to Store Ginger for Best Results
Along those same lines, ginger should always be stored with its peel intact. If you cut or break a piece off, cover the “open” end of ginger that’s left so it doesn’t shrivel and go stale.
You can store ginger at room temperature, but it will last longer if kept in the fridge. The less air contact your ginger has, the longer it will last — so consider wrapping it in plastic or canvas wrap when you store it.
Methods for Peeling Ginger
There are three main methods for peeling ginger, each with its own pros and cons. This section covers all three.
Method 1: Peeling Ginger With A Spoon
The best and most common way of peeling ginger is using a common soup spoon. The edge of the spoon is just sharp enough to peel the ginger’s skin off, but not so sharp as to put you at risk of getting cut.
To use this method, grab a spoon and follow these 6 steps:
1. Place the ginger flat on a cutting board
2. Firmly grasp one end of your ginger with your non-dominant hand
3. Hold your thumb on the back of the head of your spoon
4. Scrape the edge of the spoon downward along with the ginger, peeling away its skin
5. Turn your ginger root around and repeat
6. Flip your ginger root around and do it all again
Method 2: Using A Vegetable Peeler
Because of the awkward shape of ginger, using the long-bladed vegetable peeler is much more challenging than using a spoon.
That’s why I recommend only using a vegetable peeler if you have large, uniform nubs of ginger. Even then, the smaller size of ginger roots (compared to most vegetables) makes them harder to peel.
In short: You could do this, but it’s likely to be more frustrating than just using a spoon. And since every kitchen has a spoon, why not just use that?
Method 3: Cutting the Peel Off
Perhaps the fastest method of peeling ginger is to break it into individual root pieces and cut the peel off with your chef’s knife.
The problem? While it’s faster, this method leads to a lot more food waste. You’ll lose a third or more of the flavorful flesh of your ginger, and not save that much time in comparison.
My verdict: Cutting the peel off of ginger with a kitchen knife is wasteful and not a great way to peel it.
That’s it! If you keep the peel on your ginger until you’re ready to use it, then peel it with a common kitchen spoon, you’ll have a delicious addition to any recipe. And if you’re not using the whole ginger root at once, go ahead and wrap the exposed end to make it last longer.
And once you’ve peeled your ginger, you’ll be ready to cut it for your favorite dish — something I cover in detail in my article on how to mince ginger.