Our Top Chef Secrets for Cooking With Garlic

In nearly every culture around the world, in almost every culinary style, garlic reigns supreme. It should come as no surprise, either. It’s packed with vitamins necessary for a healthy body while having a low caloric impact. Garlic also has numerous healing properties, such as being an effective anti-fatigue agent. And perhaps most importantly of all—it’s delicious. 

Fresh garlic is a common ingredient—just browse Pinterest to see. Yet, many home cooks may find themselves intimidated by cooking with garlic, intimidated by its shape, intense flavor, and variety of uses. In honor of National Garlic Day, we’re here to share a few garlic secrets and some tips for how to cook with garlic like a professional chef.

How to cook with garlic: chef secrets

How exactly do you prepare garlic?

The biggest obstacle to overcome with garlic is often the bulb itself, so it might be tempting to reach for that container of garlic powder sitting in your spice rack instead. However, that will prevent both the flavor potency and the health benefits of garlic from reaching your taste buds.

Despite that seemingly confusing peel, getting your garlic ready to cook is much easier than meets the eye. Just remove the outer layer of the bulb and place it point-down against your cutting board and give it a firm press. This will break the individual cloves apart from the bulb. From there, you simply need to cut the tip and root end off each clove and gently roll it between your fingers to remove the individual skins. Voila! Your garlic is ready to go.

How you prepare the cloves after that depends on what you’re making and how much garlic flavor you want. Remember never to overdo it, as garlic is a strong flavor and can quickly overpower a recipe. Using whole cloves or sliced cloves produces a slightly milder flavor, while dicing the cloves releases the full flavor. Crushing the cloves with the flat of your knife gives the most intense flavor, so keep that in mind when using that method.

What is the best way to cook raw garlic?

When learning how to cook with garlic, the most important thing to remember is that there are no rules. Garlic is one of those ingredients you can play around with. Toss it into a dish during the cooking process or roast it independently. You can even roast the entire bulb to save time on the peeling process. Simply slice off the top of the bulb, drizzle it with olive oil, and then roast it in the oven for roughly 40 minutes. The bottom can then be easily squeezed (once it’s cooled off of course) to release that garlicky goodness.

With all that said, you don’t have to only eat garlic when it’s cooked. Raw, minced, or diced garlic is an essential component in many sauces and dips. Raw garlic works best in things like bruschetta and salsa, as well as fresh pesto. The restaurant staple aioli is little more than raw, crushed garlic mixed with mayonnaise.

When should garlic be added while cooking?

As simple as the process may seem, it’s incredibly important to be careful in certain areas. While cooked garlic is delicious and flavorful, the most critical mistake a cook can make while adding it to a dish is putting it in too soon. Burnt garlic has an intensely bitter and unpleasant flavor, which can quickly dominate and ruin an otherwise perfectly prepared meal. On top of that, garlic is remarkably easy to burn.

Garlic is best added into the cooking process during the final steps of meal preparation, or at minimum somewhere in the middle. This gives the garlic time to properly release its flavor without running the risk of scorching it. If you find yourself in doubt, it’s important to err on the side of caution. Undercooked is always better than overcooked when you’re figuring out how to cook with garlic.

What foods can you put garlic in?

Now that you’ve come so far in the journey of how to cook with garlic, you’re probably wondering what new meals you can prepare that will show off your new garlic skills.

The most obvious and simplest place to start is with pasta. Garlic is an essential part of any well-made Italian dish. Recipes for creamy sauces and bakes will call for garlic ten times out of ten. Garlic pairs excellently with baked chicken and fish as well, where cloves roasted with the protein blend together to help the dish excel. Once you’re ready to move into more advanced territory, garlic can elevate all manner of stews, soups, and sautés.

Save prep time and serve up something delicious with epicurean butter

Now, we saved the best news for last. You can skip some of the extra prep steps and trim down your next grocery list with Epicurean Butter. How much garlic to add, when to add it so you don’t burn it, how fine to chop, and all of those other extra details can be tossed to the side when you use our flavored butter. Our Epicurean Butter chefs have already done the work to blend perfectly portioned fresh herbs with butter for easy cooking and delicious flavor. Below is a list of some of our favorite garlic-forward recipes. 


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