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WIELDING THE BIG FLAVOR OF GARLIC LIKE A PRO:

Cooking & Baking with Garlic

Garlic was once thought of as the seasoning of the gods. Now it's often referred to as the "Queen of the Kitchen" because there are over 450 known varieties of garlic, and it is one of the oldest and most widely used food flavorings on earth, called for in over 75% of savory recipes worldwide.

 

Versatile, easy to use, and utterly delicious, we think you'd struggle to find a savory dish that wouldn't benefit from a little dash of garlic. Yet, even though garlic is incredibly hardy, flavorful, healthful, and useful, it's actually fairly easy to misuse unknowingly. In fact, there are plenty of different ways to get garlic wrong in the kitchen, and succumbing to some common pitfalls could dampen its effect on your dish to the point that you might as well have never used it at all.

We want to help everyone get the most out of the garlic we love to grow, so here are some basic do's and don'ts to keep in mind when using garlic in your kitchen:

DON'T BE TEMPTED BY CONVENIENCE.

  • Use real garlic whenever possible and avoid the stuff in the jars. While garlic may not be the most convenient thing to peel and chop, putting yourself through the minor hassle of using actual, fresh garlic will definitely pay off during the cooking process!

  • Jarred garlic loses any smell and flavor it has almost before you incorporate it into your dish. If it still tastes like anything when it finally hits your lips, be prepared to experience it's tinny or metallic after taste!

  • Fresh, hardneck garlic not only tastes better, but contains high levels of allicin which prevents blood clots and viral and bacterial infections. So if you're using pre-packaged garlic that's been stewing in oil and water for who knows how long, you're not even getting any of garlic's renowned health benefits to boot.

DO GET THE RIGHT, REAL GARLIC.

  • In the Upper Midwest, local, fresh garlic season runs from mid-summer when you can get garlic scapes through early fall when bulbs are finished curing. At other times of the year, the garlic you see in the store is probably coming out of storage.

  • If you're not buying garlic from a grower directly, or are in the store, pick the bulb up and give it a light squeeze to be sure none of the outside cloves are too soft or dry. It should feel firm and not hollow or dehydrated. 

DO STORE IT PROPERLY.

  • Improperly storing garlic is probably one of the most common mistakes people make with it. A crucial part of cooking with garlic is making sure it's kept in the right place.

  • Proper storage will mean your garlic keeps its medicinal properties, its flavor, and its health benefits, and will also extend it's shelf-life.

  • Garlic should optimally be stored at room temperature in a dry, dark place with plenty of air circulation. Proper storage is so important that we've dedicated a whole page to properly Storing & Preserving Garlic!

DO PEEL IT PROPERLY.

  • We get it. Peeling garlic can be fiddly, sticky and frustrating, especially when you're in a hurry. The good news is that garlic cloves aren't particularly attached to their skins. So, whatever you do, don't fall for the perceived convenience of pre-peeled garlic that's been sitting around forever. Here are three basic, quick ways, ordered from fastest to slowest, to "peel" a clove without resorting to any fancy gadgets:

    1. Closely trim the root and tip ends off the garlic clove. Put it on a cutting board that doesn't slip around much, or directly on a solid table or counter top. Grab your chef's knife and place the flat side of the blade on top of the clove with the sharp edge facing away from you. With your palm flat and fingers extended safely out of the way of the sharp edge of the knife, place the heel of your hand on the blade of the knife. Press down firmly but carefully on the knife with the heel of your hand until you feel or hear a slight crack or pop. This will crush the garlic a little and loosen the skin so you can take it off with zero effort and prepare it as desired. ​Bonus: This move will also make you look and feel like a total pro in the kitchen!

    2. Closely trim the tip end off the garlic clove, then partially slice the root end off. The skin will partially tear away, making the rest of the clove easy to peel.

    3. About 30 minutes before it's needed, losely trim the tip end off the garlic clove, then partially slice the root end off. Place the clove in a bowl of cool water. The skins should peel away from the cloves a little easier after a little soak.

DO MINCE, SLICE AND CHOP IT PROPERLY; NO GARLIC PRESSES ALLOWED!

  • Garlic presses are unnecessary and mash the garlic too much, so steer clear!

  • Mincing or chopping garlic is best for delivering a mellow, full flavor, whereas pressed garlic is too aggressive and intense. Pressed garlic also burns very easily.

  • When mincing, slicing and chopping garlic, keep your hand steady, your knife under control, and try not to have any mismatched pieces.

  • Practice makes perfect, so keep at it! Luckily, garlic is called for in roughly 75% of cooking recipes, so you will have many chances to work on your technique.

DON'T EXPOSE IT TO TOO MUCH HEAT TOO QUICKLY.

  • Garlic actually burns really easily, so adding it too soon can be problematic. Burnt or scalded garlic drastically reduces the flavor and takes on a funky texture.

  • When in doubt, add garlic to your dish later rather than sooner.

  • To avoid burning, keep an eye on the garlic and, once it begins to turn golden-brown, bring the heat down and add whatever's coming next in the recipe.

  • For stir-fries and sautés, avoid adding garlic to your pan until you're at least half-way through the cooking process and you have all your other ingredients prepped and ready to cook. For other dishes, add garlic to the pan just before you add a liquid element (such as pasta sauce) to the pan, which will bring down the temperature and prevent burning.

  • Always roast garlic at or below 375°F to keep it tasty and soft.

DON'T TURN IT BLUE OR GREEN, OR COOK THE SPROUTED GERM.

  • If you heat garlic too slowly, use lots of butter or lemon juice, or refrigerate your garlic, it can turn blue because of a chemical reaction where copper sulfate forms in the cloves. Luckily, blue garlic is safe to eat even if it looks funky!

  • Chopped garlic can turn green if left out for too long before cooking, because you cooked garlic together with onions, or because you added acid to the recipe before the garlic. Green colored garlic is also fine to eat, just know the flavor will be dampened.

  • When garlic ages, the germ sprouts, turns green and begins to taste bitter. Unless your garlic is very fresh, it's best to cut the clove in half length-wise and remove the germ before cooking. If you're putting a lot of heat onto the garlic, however, a slightly green germ isn't going to cause you too much bother — just make sure it's cooked long enough to combat any bitterness.

DO MELLOW THE FLAVOR PROPERLY.

  • For some raw dishes, the flavor of garlic can overwhelm.

  • If you want to mellow the flavor a little, put your peeled cloves in a glass bowl and microwave them for 2–3 minutes, or until they're warm to the touch. Blanching on the stove in water or milk works too, but microwaving is the most convenient, time-saving trick.

DON'T OVER USE IT.

  • As much as we love garlic, even we admit that it can be over used (gasp!) once in a blue moon. But there are some delicious, more subtle dishes don't need garlic, and that should be celebrated too!

  • Even though garlic is an easy way to add a big punch of rich, complex flavor, seasoning, spice and citrus can offer other complex flavors to think about also.

  • For milder dishes, consider using an alternative to garlic if you're seeking similar depth and body such as paprika, grated citrus zest, balsamic, sherry vinegar, or maple syrup.

  • In the kitchen, it's all about finding the right balance!

DO BE ADVENTUROUS AND TRY NEW THINGS!

  • While finding a balance in the kitchen is important, so is finding yourself and the flavors that inspire and excite you and your family.

  • Garlic offers cooks of all skill levels many opportunities for indulging in a little culinary adventure. So embrace it; be adventurous and try some new things!

  • If you create something wonderful or try something amazing with garlic you purchase from us, please let us know. We truly enjoy geeking out with fellow garlic connoisseurs, whether you're a new garlic fan, or an experienced pro!

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