For the love of garlic.
Garlic is arguable one of the most popular members of the allium family, followed by its close cousins—the onion and shallot. And for obvious reasons, garlic’s pungent flavor completely transforms any dish where it’s added. Despite the lingering odor that it may leave on your breath, garlic stands strong as an OG aromatic flavor agent that has been used for centuries. After all this time, how is it that we (meaning me and fellow home cooks) keep managing to mess things up with this powerful bulb? Here are the most common ways people get it wrong and how to improve your relationship with garlic moving forward.
You store it wrong.
When you purchase a head of fresh garlic, instinctually, many people want to stash it in the refrigerator. After all, it came from the produce section. However, garlic is best stored in a cool, dry place such as inside your pantry or even on a countertop. The key is to keep it dry and away from any moisture that can promote mold growth. Next time you bring a head home, remove it from the plastic produce bag and place it in a bowl or small basket. No need to suffocate your garlic in a closed container or zip top bag. It needs all the air it can get to breath to have a longer shelf life and to prevent moisture buildup. According to the The New Food Lover’s Companion, “Unbroken bulbs can be kept for up to 8 weeks...Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days.”
You wait too long to use it.
We’ve all been here, you peel back the papery layers of skin, only to reveal flimsy, soft, and spotty cloves. This is an indication that your garlic is old. Depending on who you ask, the garlic flavor gets punchier and spicier with time. If you notice green sprouts growing from the tips of the cloves, this also indicates that you’ve had that garlic bulb for a while. The sprout growth may also mean that you have left your garlic in a sunny place in your kitchen, so you may try to start storing it in a shadier spot with your next head. Usually, you can simply trim the sprout and cut away any bad spots, but the arguably stronger taste can be off putting to some. In either case, the freshness of your garlic is gone, and you should probably just buy a new head if you don’t need garlic immediately. It’s affordable enough not to sweat the loss too much.
WATCH: How Not to Burn Garlic
You skip using fresh garlic because you hate peeling it.
Sure, peeling garlic is an annoying cooking task, but it’s really not that annoying as long as you’re not trying to peel each individual clove like a banana. Don’t resort to the garlic powder just yet. There are a lot of methods recommended across the Internet on how to peel garlic. In my opinion, the most effective way to peel a few cloves of garlic is to smash them. I tend to use the bottom of a glass bottle, such as a soy sauce bottle or olive oil bottle, to gently apply pressure over the garlic and mash the clove. You can also use the flat side of your chef’s knife. The skin falls right off and you can pick away any extra papery bits. Now, if you want to peel more than a few cloves at a time, say an entire head’s worth, you can loosen all the cloves from the bulb and place them in a stainless steel bowl. Cover the bowl with another bowl matching in size and shake for about 30 seconds to a minute. Magically, most of the cloves should be skin free. This shaking method can also be done in a Mason jar with a fitted lid.
You keep burning it.
Even though garlic has a domineering flavor and smell, it’s quite delicate when heated. Garlic burns easily in oil that’s too hot, or if left over direct heat for too long. Much of the time, we underestimate how quickly garlic cooks, which can result in blackened, bitter crispy bits. If this happens all too frequently in your kitchen, try this method instead. You can impart the garlic flavor into your food, by smashing a couple of cloves, and gently cooking the whole cloves in oil over low heat. Otherwise, simply sauté your minced garlic over low heat for less than a minute, and then add the next ingredients to build flavor.
Another way to cook garlic to perfection is to roast it as a whole head in the oven at a high temperature (about 400°). Cut off about ¼ inch of the top of the garlic bulb, revealing the tops of the cloves; next, place the bulb on a sheet of foil, drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wrap tightly in the foil. Place the wrapped garlic in center of the middle rack in your oven and bake for about 40 minutes. As you open the foil after baking, you are hit with a sweet caramelized aroma of butterscotch-colored roasted garlic. It will be soft, and easy to scoop out of its skin to use in sauces, dips, or simply eaten as-is.