Ginger, a powerhouse ingredient used in both sweet and savory applications, is known for its spicy, fiery bite and floral pungency.
Often mistakenly referred to as a root, ginger is actually a rhizome, an underground stem that stores food and produces roots and buds. It is part of the Zingiberaceae family, which also includes turmeric, cardamom, and galangal (a close cousin to ginger).
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Here are four things to know about prepping fresh ginger.
How to Peel Fresh Ginger
Paring knives and peelers remove too much of ginger’s flesh. A curved spoon is much easier to maneuver around the root, making it easy to remove the peel while leaving the flesh behind.
To quickly peel a knob of ginger, hold it firmly against the cutting board and use the edge of a teaspoon to scrape away the thin, brown skin.
How to Slice Fresh Ginger
Ginger should be sliced against the grain because it has long fibers running through it lengthwise that can be chewy and stringy. Cutting against the grain (or perpendicular to the fibers rather than parallel to them) breaks down the long fibers.
To slice ginger, cut it crosswise (against the grain) into thin rounds.
How to Grate Fresh Ginger
Ginger can still have a fibrous texture when minced or coarsely grated. To shorten the fibers so that they are less noticeable, grate the ginger to a fine pulp. Tip: Freeze the ginger to make it easier to grate.
To grate ginger, peel a small section of a larger piece of ginger and then grate the peeled portion using a fine or rasp-style grater. Use the unpeeled ginger as a handle.
How to Smash Fresh Ginger
Smashing ginger releases flavorful oils. This technique works best when you want to impart the flavor of ginger to a liquid, such as broth.
To smash ginger, slice it into rounds and then, using the heel of your hand, carefully apply pressure to the flat side of a chef’s knife.
A nub of ginger can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for prolonged storage. Once the ginger begins to shrivel and dry out, its flavor will be less pungent, so it’s best to buy small pieces and use it while it’s fresh.
Here are some of our favorite recipes that call for fresh ginger.