Fresh ginger boasts a unique, pungent flavor, and large pieces can overwhelm your palate. That's why most recipes call for fresh ginger to be minced before being incorporated into the dish. Learn how to properly mince ginger, with tips for peeling and chopping the unique plant.
What Is Mincing?
Mincing is a culinary term for chopping something up into as small pieces as possible without turning it into a pulp or purée. There's no specific size assigned to mincing, as this will differ with different types of foods depending on their structure and their consistency. In general, you're shooting for pieces of about 1/8 of an inch to 1/16 of an inch.
Mincing helps to distribute the flavor of the ginger more evenly throughout a dish, so that you don't end up with a huge chunk in any one bite. While some people enjoy a good hit of ginger, if the pieces are too big they can overpower a mouthful of food. Ginger is typically meant to complement the flavors of a dish rather than be the main flavor.
How to Mince Ginger
Before you start chopping, take a look at the structure of the ginger itself. Ginger is a rhizome, which means that it's an irregularly-shaped rootstalk that sends out shoots from individual nodes in various directions. The simplest way to mince it is to start by slicing it across the node into individual coin-shaped slices.
You'll see that the ginger root is made up of juicy yellow flesh bound up by a network of thin fibers. When slicing these coins, your goal is to cut across the grain of the fibers. The direction will change as the rootstalks change direction. To produce one tablespoon of minced ginger, you'll probably use about a one-inch section of fresh ginger root.
Arrange those coins into a sort of shingle pattern, not all stacked up, since the slices will slide around, but spread out so that they partly overlap. Now you're going to slice those coins into what's known as matchsticks, but what you should really be aiming for is more like toothpicks. The thinner you make them, the finer your final mince is going to be.
Once you have your toothpicks, go ahead and gather them together and just slice into tiny cubes right across the ends, working your way up until the whole pile is minced. You can then give the whole pile one last chop to ensure that your mince is as small as possible. Because of the fibrous structure of the ginger, it will hold together quite well without turning to pulp.
Minced Vs. Grated Ginger
You can also grate ginger rather than mince it. The traditional way is to use a ceramic ginger grater, which has a series of teeth that you rub the ginger against, producing a juicy pulp without much of the fiber. A Microplane grater will also work, although the teeth tend to get clogged with the fibers.
You can also press a chunk of ginger through a garlic press, which will produce a more pulpy result, as opposed to the tiny but distinct cubes you get from mincing. Note, however, that all these methods will release more of the ginger's heat. So grated ginger will always be more potent than minced ginger.
You'll notice that in the instructions above, we didn't specify whether to peel the ginger or not. That's because you don't have to. Unlike garlic, whose papery skin is inedible, fresh ginger skin is extremely thin and perfectly fine to eat. If you have a strong preference against eating the skin, you can go ahead and peel it first.
If you choose to peel, the easiest way is to use the edge of a spoon. The skin is thin and will scrape off quite easily. For older, tougher ginger, you will want to remove the peel and you may need to use a paring knife.
Storing Minced Ginger
Ginger dries out quite fast when you store it on the counter, and it fares only slightly better in the fridge. Fortunately, ginger keeps quite well in the freezer. If you've already minced it, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray with a teaspoon or so in each ice cube compartment. You can also wrap the whole root and freeze it or cut it into sections and wrap and freeze them individually.