How to: Cook with Ginger

by Beth - Budget Bytes
Step by Step

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After almost five years (!!) of experimenting with food through Budget Bytes, ginger has become one of my all time favorite ingredients. It was completely new to me when I started the blog, but once I learned how to use it I fell in love. If you’re unfamiliar with ginger, I hope this post will inspire you to give it a shot. It’s freaking fantastic.

Ginger

Ginger has a unique flavor. It has kind of a spicy bite, but some how it still works equally well with both sweet and savory dishes. It’s great in cookies, smoothies, stir fries, curries, and even meatloaf. Yes, meatloaf. Here are a few of my favorite ginger containing recipes to give you an idea of just how versatile this root is…

Sweet Ginger Recipes

Savory Ginger Recipes

And that’s just a few… type the word “ginger” into my search box up in the top right of the page and you’ll see just how often I use ginger. It’s pretty easy to use, no more difficult than garlic, in fact. If you’ve avoided it in the past because you just weren’t sure how to handle it, scroll on. I’ve got you covered.

How to Cook with Ginger

Old vs Fresh ginger (old on left, fresh on right)When you’re looking at the ginger in the grocery store, make sure to look for a plump, firm root with smooth skin (like the one on the right). It should never look dry, shriveled, soft, or rubbery (like that sad guy on the left).

Piece of ginger broken off Most recipes call for just one or two inches of fresh ginger, but the roots at the store will be large and with many appendages. It’s perfectly okay to break off a small nub from the large root—like bananas. You can break off the amount you need and leave the rest. There is no pressure to buy the whole thing. Now, if you did want to buy the whole thing, you can break off what you need at the moment and keep the rest in you freezer. Personally, I just break off a small amount at the store each time. It’s usually priced per pound, so a small nub is very inexpensive.

Piece of ginger with peeler and spoon Next you’ll probably want to peel the ginger. I say “probably” because I always do, but one time I was watching an Indian cooking show and the host said she never peels her ginger and that she actually liked the flavor. You don’t say! Well, if you decide against peeling, make sure to wash it well. Ginger grows underground, in dirt and stuff. You can scrape the paper-thin skin off with the side of a spoon, or use a vegetable peeler. Whichever you prefer.

Sliced and minced peeled ginger Once you have the ginger peeled (or not peeled) there are a few things you can do with it. You can slice it into thin medallions, or go a little further and mince those medallions into tiny pieces. The medallions are nice for infusing liquids because they’re easily removed (like in the chai concentrate). Mincing is nice because you get a lot of flavor without huge pieces. Ginger actually has a really nice texture and I enjoy eating larger pieces of it in my food, but it’s not for everyone.

NOTE: see how the ginger slices look kind of blue or grey? That means the ginger is getting old. Fresh ginger has a really nice light yellow hue.

Grated Ginger with cheese grater If you want really small pieces, you can grab a small holed cheese grater and grate the ginger into a super fine texture. I usually end up doing this just because it’s much quicker than using a knife to mince the ginger. Sometimes, when the ginger is really fresh, it will drip juice as you grate, so make sure to do this over your pot or skillet so none of the flavor is lost!

Garlic and GingerAnd just one more note… Garlic and ginger together is one of the most magical flavor combinations in the entire world. Trust me. Try it. Soon. This combination is the start to many great curries and stir fries. The smell as they sauté in a skillet is absolute heaven. Ahhh my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

So, what are you waiting for? Go get you some GINGER!

And for those of you who are already ginger lovers: What are you favorite ways to use ginger? Your favorite ginger tips and tricks? Share the knowledge :D

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  1. Ginger is my new love! I found a recipe for soy ginger chicken burgers and one of your recipes for ginger and soy glazed chicken. The combination of ginger, garlic, soy, sesame and brown sugar smell wonderful!

  2. I don’t peel my ginger and I freeze it. I always have “fresh” ginger on hand and I just grate into the dish I am making!

  3. GINGER – I loved your info in Ginger! Found it very helpful.  I’ve be making and consuming ginger root tea concoctions for about a year. I drink about a quart a week. I also add 1-2 Tablespoon of good quality Apple Cider. It’s good for you and adds some kick. Hot or cold – yummy. THANKS 

  4. In reference to Ginger, I recently purchased powder Ginger in the spice section of the grocery store. When I cook with Ginger recipes how would I measure fresh as supposed to powder.Ginger?

    1. The jury is kind of out on that one because their flavors are so different between fresh and dried and the potency of the dried ginger can vary by brand.

  5. Hi!

    I was recently at an Indian food store and purchased (dried) “Ginger Whole Fingers”. Any tips on cooking with it? I know there’s typically a difference between dried and fresh when cooking, but I’ve never used it before.

    Thanks!

    1. Actually, dried ginger tastes quite a bit different than fresh ginger. I’ve never seen or used the whole fingers, though! I suppose you would just grind it and then use it just as you would powdered ginger?

  6. I’m so glad to have found this. I never knew you could freeze it. I’ve been doing it ever since reading your article and just grate it while still frozen and it’s so convenient and dramatically cuts the cost. Thank you!

  7. I always buy jarred ginger. It eliminates the likely possibility that I won’t suse the whole piece of fresh ginger before it goes bad, and the probability of my losing it in the recesses of my fridge or freezer. Plus, I don’t have to clean a microplane or grater, which I hate doing.

  8. After making 3 of your dishes with ginger (asian sticky wings, easy sesame chicken, and chicken yakisoba) I’m so happy to have stumbled upon this! I love the way it tasted in your recipes, but have to admit I had no idea what I was doing – at the store and in the kitchen. Thanks for teaching me to cook and save money. :)

  9. Thank you for this guide!!! I had no idea I could just break off a little piece, it saves ginger from going bad and lot of money and my conscience. I can finally tell which ginger is fresh. I always suspected, but never really knew! I made my first successful Indian dish! Fresh is better!

  10. Favorite cooking ingredient: Ginger-garlic paste. I’ve been doing a lot of Indian cooking lately, and it’s often used in those types of recipes. I use it for Asian cooking too!

    You can grate equal parts ginger and garlic and stir. Or, you can use a food processor and grind equal parts of the two together. If you use a food processor, you’ll probably need a little water, too. Keeps well for about a week.

    If I’m going to clean the microplane for one thing, I might as well use it for two things! I love grating garlic with it. It’s so much easier than mincing and imparts great flavor. Just make sure to catch all those great juices!

  11. I read the article about you in the Montreal Gazette and was very intrigued – love the concept and what I’ve read on your blog so far.

    I never knew one can freeze ginger!!! I always buy it for one recipe that calls for it, stay with leftovers, store it in fridge but don’t like the way it looks after a couple days. Freezing will revolutionize my use of ginger!!! Thanks

  12. I am so glad I found your blog today. I recently bought “fresh” ginger + obviously didn’t have a clue on what I was doing. When I got home + began to slice the ginger, it was a VERY dark yellow ( bordering on brown), but I was pressed for time + continued on w/ the new recipe.
    Long story short, appears that ginger was way past prime + it ruined the entire dish. I had THOUGHT ( wrongly)) that maybe I just was not a fan of fresh ginger.
    Next time I will follow your instructions.
    LOVE your site!! Thanks!

  13. I love ginger too. It’s one of the cheapest “spices” to add to your repertoire and adds so much flavor. When I have a cold, I make a simple tea of a few ginger coins with some lemon juice and honey. To avoid strings in my grater, I just shave off small slices with my sharpest knife and chop/mince those just like garlic. That creates tiny pieces, prevents the grating of fingers or squirting ginger juice up into your eyes as can happen with too-zealous grating.

  14. I really like this post. I hope you do more of this kind of thing in the future! Of course, I love the recipes also.