8 Mistakes You're Making When Cooking With Garlic

And how to fix them.

"Are you serious?" is likely what you're quietly saying to your computer screen at that headline above. "I'm messing up garlic too? Great. I won't leave the house anymore." Wait, come back! We still think you're a beautiful, unique snowflake, but we want to help you "Master Chef" this common ingredient, which is often used half-heartedly or taken for granted.

In the thousands of years since humanity has been enjoying this allium, garlic has become one of the principal flavors of food traditions from Italy to Louisiana. But along the way, we became complacent in our long-term relationship with garlic and forgot to take time to treat it with the kindness and consideration it deserves.

That's why we're here to remind you how you might be mistreating your garlic, but you can easily salvage your cooking by avoiding these common garlic mistakes.

Getty Images

1. Buying Pre-Minced Garlic

We're all about a great time-saving convenience product like boxed jambalaya mix or frozen chopped onions. Still, those jars of pre-minced garlic cloves floating in olive oil aren't good and will likely add a funky, hot, yet stale taste to whatever you're cooking.

2. Peeling Inefficiently

Try this trick if you're still a bit skittish about taking the side of your knife to remove garlic clove skins. Put multiple cloves in a mason jar with a lid on it and shake it violently, perhaps to the rhythm of Harry Belafonte, and the skins will loosen enough for you to remove them by hand quickly.

3. Using a Microplane

The more molecules of a garlic clove you rupture, whether it's with a knife or a microplane, the more pungent its flavor. While mincing cloves finely will produce a strong garlic flavor, microplaning it will take it over the edge, producing an incredibly raw, burning taste.

4. Buying Old Garlic

While buying garlic can be a little bit more mysterious than, say, apples or lettuce, there are a few things you can look for to make sure you're buying fresh garlic. Make sure the outside cloves aren't soft or dry, and it's past its prime if there's a green stem sprouting from the middle.

5. Refrigerating It

The best place to store garlic is on the countertop in a dry, cool area, preferably in a paper bag. For the best taste, use it within a week to 10 days after purchase.

6. Chopping It Incorrectly

Chopping garlic is easy once you have some practice. First, move quickly but carefully so the garlic does not oxidize, making it taste bitter after chopping. You should cut garlic in pieces as similar in size as possible.—This helps when cooking so that some pieces don't burn while others are undercooked.

7. Using a Garlic Press

Seemingly counterintuitive, using a garlic press when cooking with garlic can actually make the meal more intense than intended. Garlic presses can also soften it too much, making it mushy and removing the rough texture that helps shape its flavoring. Mashed garlic will also burn more quickly than chopped garlic.

8. Adding It Too Early

Garlic is susceptible to burning when cooked in small pieces. The smaller the amount, the more quickly it will burn. Wait until halfway through your total cook time to add garlic. Try using low to medium heat and only turning the temperature to high at the very end of your cooking time. Coating garlic in oil before roasting can help protect it.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles