The definitive guide to peeling 11 of the trickiest foods

Don’t shell a boiled egg; squeeze it out. Don’t use your nails on an orange; try a knife

Squeezing out a hard-boiled egg. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Squeezing out a hard-boiled egg. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

 

When the Toronto foodie Valentina Bachkarova-Lord recently posted a video of her favourite way to peel a bulb of garlic, Twitter went crazy. “ALL THIS TIME??” was the viral reaction, as in: “We’ve been doing it wrong all this time?” Just months before, there was a similar furore over a pineapple-peeling hack in which two manicured hands literally pulled apart a pineapple; no slicing or dicing, no juice, no mess. It would appear that – right up there with grumpy cats and happy dogs – peeling produce “the right way” is a surefire means of grabbing the world’s attention.

Beyond garlic and pineapple, there are hacks for peeling avocados, eggs, ginger, mangoes, onions, oranges, pistachios, pomegranates and potatoes. (Also kiwis: the peeling trick being that you don’t need to peel a kiwi, just eat it whole, like an apple. Bonkers.) But do they actually work? I put 11 to the test.

Hard-boiled egg

Add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to your boiling water (to increase the alkalinity and make the egg easier to peel). When cooked, run the egg under cold water until just cool enough to handle, then crack at either end to make holes. Now you have two options: if you’re up for a challenge, hold the big end up to your mouth with one hand, and blow hard to catch the egg with your other hand as it flies out of the small end. Or else, squeeze lightly until it plops out. Both work.

Pistachio

Using one pistachio shell to open another. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Using one pistachio shell to open another. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Instead of shredding your fingertips and breaking your nails trying to pull open nuts that have barely split, use an empty pistachio shell. It is thin enough to slide into any gap, however slim, and hard enough for you to be able to lever it and prise the closed nut open. A revelation.

Ginger

Using a spoon to get into the knobbly bits of ginger. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Using a spoon to get into the knobbly bits of ginger. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Many a food blogger’s favourite hack: you use the edge of a teaspoon to just scrape the skin off. The spoon gets into all the folds and creases a knife just can’t deal with, meaning you can use the whole root, knobbly bits included. And it is so easy.

Onion

Slice vertically, then horizontally, for cubes of onion. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Slice vertically, then horizontally, for cubes of onion. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Not a hack so much as proper chef’s training. Slice the bulb vertically straight down the middle, through the root. Peel the papery outer layers off one half, then lay it flat-side down on your board and, holding firmly by the root, slice from the pointy end to just above the root, keeping the latter intact. Slice again at right angles to these cuts to obtain a pile of perfectly diced onion.

Pineapple

With anything other than a snack pineapple, it has to be the knife. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
With anything other than a snack pineapple, it has to be the knife. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

The viral video shows someone pulling the fruit apart, segment by easy segment, like you might a cinnamon bun traybake. However, as countless failed attempts to replicate it prove, this only works if you have what’s called a “snack pineapple”, and not the whoppers from Costa Rica sold at Sainsburys and my local street market. Even rolling one of these firmly across your work surface a couple times to loosen the fibres, and scoring it in places before attempting to pull it apart, only results in all the juice on the floor and a mound of unappetising fibres. Nah. Use a knife.

Avocado

Run a dessert spoon between the flesh and skin of your avocado. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Run a dessert spoon between the flesh and skin of your avocado. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Slice in half, then whack the stone head-on with the sharp edge of a big knife and twist and pull the knife out to remove the stone. Then run a dessert spoon between the flesh and skin of each half, to remove intact before slicing thinly. Smoothly does it.

Potatoes

Score your spuds to help them out of their jackets. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Score your spuds to help them out of their jackets. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Score a raw spud around its waist in a very light, continuous line, then boil until tender. Once cooked, you’ll see the peel pulling back from the cut, ready for you to slide off in a single movement.

Pomegranate

Score your pomegranate following its white membranes. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Score your pomegranate following its white membranes. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

By far the most aesthetically pleasing of these culinary hacks. Cut around the calyx – that spiky protrusion on one end – until you can pull it out. You should now see the seeds grouped into segments divided by white membranes. Score the skin of the pomegranate on the outside, from top to bottom, following those membranes. The fruit will then fall open like a flower.

Garlic

The Bachkarova-Lord way – which involves holding a bulb root-side-up, sticking a paring knife into clove after clove and, with a small amount of pressure, twisting them out of their papery sheaths – doesn’t work for me, until I find the YouTube channel Glen & Friends Cooking’s explanation. The trick is to first score the unpeeled head, all around the base of the cloves, where they meet the root. Once you have done that, twisting them out, one by one, with your knife is a doddle. But it is only worth doing if you need a heck of a lot of garlic. For a clove or two, pressing with the flat of your knife is perfectly acceptable.

Mango

Use a glass to separate mango flesh from skin. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Use a glass to separate mango flesh from skin. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Another revelation. Stand your fruit on its end and rotate it so you can slice straight down on either side of the pip to remove it. Hold one of the halves, skin side down, in your palm and work a glass between the flesh and skin from one end all the way to the other. You end up with a satisfyingly solid piece of mango in your glass and a pip you can still suck on, because – let’s face it – that is part of the fun.

Orange

Three cuts and you can make a concertina orange. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian
Three cuts and you can make a concertina orange. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Slice off both ends of your orange, then set it on one flat end and cut it vertically, from top to bottom into the centre. Then, simply unroll into a flat array of ready-parted segments. – Guardian

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