Kitchen Basics: Ginger

January 16, 2012

In her bi-weekly column, Kitchen Basics, Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen demystifies essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos. Whether she's showing us how much brown sugar we're meant to "pack" (or is it cram?) into measuring cups or how to detect when our onions are properly caramelized, Susan is the nonna we never had -- until now. Now, go on and get cozy under her wing.

This week, Susan demonstrates how to peel, slice, julienne, and dice ginger.

susan pachikara ginger

Susan

I took a class on the cuisine of Levant in culinary school. One day, the instructor stopped by my work station while I was sautéing an onion with some garlic. When I told him that I really wanted to toss in fresh ginger, he laughed and replied, "Ah yes, the holy trinity of Indian cooking!" 

Fresh ginger brings verve to Indian cuisine, Chinese cuisine, and dishes from many other regions of the world. If you’ve resolved to part with the routine in 2012, seek out the citrusy aromatic in the produce department. Ginger looks like an odd shaped hand with knobby fingers. Break off a piece or two from a plump stem with smooth skin. Avoid chucks of ginger that are wrinkled. You can store it unwrapped in the fridge for up to one month. 

ginger fresh and wrinkled

How to Peel Ginger

It’s best to remove the skin (which has the shade and roughness of a paper bag). Begin by breaking off any small knobs and cutting off the rough end.

ginger ginger
rough end

Many people use a spoon to remove the skin. You can also use a vegetable peeler.

Spoon method: In one hand, nestle the ginger between the base of your index finger and the base of your thumb. With your other hand, clasp the spoon between the stem and the head. Scrape the edge of the spoon against the skin as you move it up the side of the ginger. Rotate the ginger and repeat until all the skin is removed. 

peel ginger with a spoon

Vegetable peeler method: Hold a piece of ginger vertically on a cutting board. Run the vegetable peeler down the ginger. Turn the ginger and repeat until all the skin in removed.  

peeler ginger

How to Create Ginger Matchsticks 

Some recipes, such as stir-fries, call for long, thin slabs or sticks of ginger. Here’s how to prep ginger for those dishes.

Place a piece of peeled ginger on a cutting board. Hold a chef’s knife in one hand. Pinch the ginger with your other hand to hold it in place on the cutting board. Square off the ginger by cutting the rounded sides to form four right angles. After cutting the first side, rest the flat surface you just created on the cutting board to stabilize the ginger, and continue to cut the ginger into a rectangle. 

ginger

To create thin slabs of ginger: Pinch the ginger with your extra hand to hold it in place on the cutting board. Slice the ginger by moving across the ginger lengthwise until it is cut completely. As you do this, remember to keep your fingers curled in and out of harms way.

To create matchsticks (julienne): Stack the slabs you just created. With your extra hand, hold the stack at one end to keep it in place. With your other hand, slice along the length of the ginger, through the stack.

How to Slice Ginger 

Place a piece of peeled ginger on a cutting board. Pinch the ginger with your extra hand to hold it in place on the cutting board. Position the knife at one end of the ginger and slice into the ginger widthwise. Move the knife across the length of the ginger until it is sliced completely. 

slice ginger

How to Mince/Dice Ginger 

Hold a chef’s knife over the ginger slices. Place the other hand on the back of the knife. Rock the knife back and forth over the slices and mince finely.

mince ginger

If you've already created matchsticks, group sticks together so the ends align, and cut crosswise to form a small dice. 

dice ginger

How to Grate Ginger  

Hold the microplane in one hand at a 45-degree angle, with the tip resting on a cutting board. Hold a piece of ginger so one end touches the grating surface. Slide the ginger down the microplane. Tap the tip of the microplane on your cutting board to remove any ginger that is clinging to the microplane. 

grate ginger microplane

I’d love to see your tips for preparing ginger! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.

Are you new to cooking? Tell me what skills you'd like to learn and your idea could be featured in an upcoming post!

Want more basic tips from Susan? Check out her previous post: Kitchen Basics: Zesting Citrus.

All photos by Susan Pachikara.

Susan writes the blog Cardamom Kitchen to share her culinary experiences as an Indian-American rooted in the Midwest. 

susan cardamom kitchen

5 Comments Add a Comment
  • Missing_avatar

    Lisa Cohoe says: I didn't know you could store ginger in the fridge unwrapped. I always put in a small sandwich bag. Perhaps it would keep better unwrapped because the cut end gets kind of soggy after a few of weeks in the fridge. I never thought of freezing it. May have to try that too. I have heard people speak of the benefits of ginger tea for a cold.

    over 2 years ago Reply to this »
  • S2

    Susan_P says: Ivy, thank you for speaking to its medicinal properties. Ginger is a spice. It is also often also referred to as an "aromatic" thanks to its fragrant aroma.

    over 2 years ago Reply to this »
  • Missing_avatar

    SueGunter says: I freeze ginger. It keeps beautifully and is very easy to grate when it is frozen.

    over 2 years ago Reply to this »
  • S2

    Susan_P says: Sue, thank you for the helpful tip!

    over 2 years ago
  • Missing_avatar

    IvyM says: Hi Susan, love the topic and pics again! As you are probably aware, we use ginger religiously. One great usage for it is to make an infusion with hot water, and lemon. Great for when you feel a cold or cough coming on, and eating the ginger provides most benefit! Question for you, is ginger considered a spice? Ivy

    over 2 years ago Reply to this »

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