If you are a fan of Asian food, you have almost certainly had ginger in one form or another. You may also have had it in a variety of European beverages or desserts. It is renowned among cooks for its versatility as an ingredient; however, it is not the most user-friendly spice. If you are not familiar with ginger, you will want to have an understanding of how to use before attempting to use it in a dish. Follow the dos and don’ts below to avoid ginger disasters.
Table of Contents
- Do learn how to peel fresh ginger.
- Do store both fresh, dried, and ground ginger correctly.
- Do prepare fresh ginger in ways that suit your dish.
- Do learn the difference between different forms of ginger.
- Do learn how to select fresh ginger at the grocery store.
- Don’t use fresh ginger the way you would use dried (and vice versa) if you can help it.
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Do learn how to peel fresh ginger.
It is not as difficult as it appears. Large pieces of fresh ginger in the grocery store will often have twisted shapes with knobs and bulges that make them appear difficult to peel. This is not as much of an issue as it might seem.
While it is possible to remove the skin with a vegetable peeler, it may also cut more deeply than necessary and cause you waste some of the rhizome. All you really need is a spoon. To peel, simply break off a piece of the root without any bends and scrape it with the edge of a spoon. The skin on most varieties of ginger is paper-thin and comes off easily.
Do store both fresh, dried, and ground ginger correctly.
As with any spice, proper storage is crucial for lengthening shelf life and ensuring that the spice is still flavorful and enjoyable when you need it. Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. It can last outside of the fridge but will dry out over time. Dried ginger can still be used, but will be difficult to grate or mince. Dried, ground ginger should be stored like any other powdered spice. Use an airtight container and store in a dark, cool spot.
Do prepare fresh ginger in ways that suit your dish.
Ginger is a pungent spice that can be both bitter and peppery. You will want to avoid those effects in your dish. This means that you should to prepare it using one of three methods when including it in a dish: mince it, grate it, or cut it into medallions that you can remove after they have released their flavor.
The choice between minced and grated ginger largely depends on the recipe and personal preference. Mincing is often preferred for dishes where ginger is meant to add texture, such as stir-fries, while grating is preferred for recipes where a smooth texture is desired, such as marinades or dressings. Ultimately, both methods can be used interchangeably, and it comes down to what works best for the recipe at hand.
Do learn the difference between different forms of ginger.
Your options when choosing from different types of ginger include fresh, dried, and pickled. Asian grocery stores often have the preserved variety and you may also be able to find crystallized ginger in your grocery store or you can make it yourself.
The flavors of fresh ginger root and dried ginger do have some differences. Fresh ginger has a strong, pungent flavor with a hint of sweetness that’s useful in Asian cooking. Dried ginger, on the other hand, has a more concentrated, spicy taste, and the powdered form tends to permeate a dish more than fresh (perfect for baking.) Pickled ginger (often called sushi ginger) has that unique fresh ginger warmth, but also delivers the expected pickled tang.
–> Learn More: Fresh Vs. Dried Ginger – How Do They Compare?
Do learn how to select fresh ginger at the grocery store.
Look for ginger that is firm. It should have the same firmness as a fresh potato. The skin should be intact as well. Ginger that has been sitting out for too long will feel slightly rubbery to the touch and may lose some of its skin. You will also want to use thicker, rounder rhizomes as these are easier to peel than the smaller ones.
Don’t use fresh ginger the way you would use dried (and vice versa) if you can help it.
While there are several different forms of ginger, the two most common in the U.S. are the fresh form and ginger that has been dried and powdered. The two can be swapped if necessary, but are not perfect substitutes for each other. Fresh ginger works well in savory preparations like Asian dishes like stir-fries and curries; the dried form works better in fruit pies and other baked goods like ginger snap cookies and gingerbread.