The same trick works for onion powder.

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Because I cook in so many styles, jumping from region to region, and country to country, sometimes all in the space of a day, I have a LOT of herbs and spices in my pantry. I’m pretty good at buying small amounts, so everything is generally quite fresh. But there are two — garlic powder and onion powder — that I cook with so infrequently, I've started to notice that they tend to solidify into solid blocks in between uses. Does that mean they are no longer of any use, so I need to just toss them and buy more??

Before I answer that question, let’s take a look at what these two “spices” are, and why you need them in your kitchen.

Both onion and garlic powder are made by first dehydrating, and then finely grinding fresh onions and garlic. In most recipes, using fresh garlic and onions is preferable, and will give you the flavor you’re looking for. However, there are times when distinct pieces of these alliums won’t give you the kind of coating you want, and may also burn. This is especially true for spice rubs on meats and vegetables. The powdered varieties are perfect in these cases. I also use them in blends I make to spice and roast nuts. And if a dish (a stew or soup, for example) just needs a little something, a shake of one or the other can save the day. Not to mention, a perfectly smooth gravy wouldn’t be perfectly smooth with pieces of onion or garlic. But a sprinkling of powder… no problem. 

But then the day comes when you reach for your jar of powder only to find a solid beige block. That happened to me one day recently, and I was not about to run to the store. So I started thinking, could I smash a clump, or process it, or… and then, it hit me. I always grate fresh garlic using one of the most versatile tools in any kitchen: my microplane. So why not try it on a block of petrified powder?

Buy One: Microplane Rasp Grater ($14.95, Williams-Sonoma)

It worked like a charm. And I could shower the newly grated powder exactly where I wanted it, and in the exact amount. And it didn’t take a lot of muscle power, either. I’m not suggesting you let these powders solidify on purpose, but when the day comes (and it likely will) when you discover onion or garlic rocks in your pantry, the magical microplane will be there for you. Gone are the days of tossing out almost-full jars of onion and garlic powder.