13 Better Ways to Cook With Garlic

13 Better Ways to Cook With Garlic
Illustration: Vicky Leta

Garlic is a ubiquitous, ever-present ingredient in most kitchens, and for many good reasons. Depending on how you treat it, it can bring heat, pungency, sweetness, and/or umami to your delicious dishes.

While always adding more garlic is one of the ultimate cooking hacks, over the years we’ve explored a ton of other ways to put this flavour bomb to good use. Here are a few of our favourite ways to prep, peel, and devour everyone’s favourite allium.

Microwave it for easier peeling

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

No one likes peeling garlic — at least, no one who runs in my social circles. I usually just smash each clove with the flat of the knife but, while it’s not difficult, that does get tedious after a while. If you’ve got a whole bunch of garlic to get through, just pop the separated cloves in the microwave for 15 seconds. The steam will help separate the skin from the cloves, and you’ll be able to pull it off with the gentlest of tugs.

Or shake it up real good

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

Whether you use two bowls, a (dedicated) cocktail shaker, or a jar, shaking a head of garlic within a hard-walled vessel really will help it shed its papery skin and separate the bulbs. Keep shaking, and you’ll be rewarded with almost an entire bulb’s worth of peeled cloves. (I say “almost” because I’ve never experienced a 100% success rate, but the few stubborn bits of remaining skin can be removed with ease.)

Save the tiny cloves for stock and broth

Photo: Bozena Fulawka, ShutterstockPhoto: Bozena Fulawka, Shutterstock

I do not fuck with tiny cloves. Their skins are extra stubborn and extra sticky, and the amount of garlic you’re “rewarded” with for your efforts peeling them is paltry. But they are still (technically) garlic, so I cannot bring myself to throw them away. Luckily, you can use them to flavour stock without removing the peel. Just smash ‘em up and toss ‘em in the pot.

Save the peels too

Photo: Mauro Fermariello, ShutterstockPhoto: Mauro Fermariello, Shutterstock

Once you get those sticky peels off the pungent cloves, go ahead and toss them in a freezer bag and save them for your next batch of broth or stock. It may seem silly, but the skins closest to the garlic’s flesh are coated in garlicky goodness — goodness that can be extracted by hot water. (Compost the outer layers, though — that stuff is flavourless.)

Store it in the freezer to keep it from sprouting

Photo: Anna Lohachova, ShutterstockPhoto: Anna Lohachova, Shutterstock

No matter where I buy my garlic, it seems like at least half of it is immediately on the verge of sprouting. That little green sprout can get quite bitter and, while I’m quite capable of removing it, storing the bulbs in the freezer keeps it from sprouting in the first place saves me time and effort, both of which are very valuable.

Roast it upside down

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

Most people roast garlic by wrapping it up in foil, but that can result in foil sticking to the exposed flesh of your roasted garlic. To prevent this — and save the foil for something else — I’ve started roasting mine upside down in a ramekin with a little bit of oil. It works quite well, plus you’re left with a little garlic-flavored oil for bread dipping (as a treat).

Roast it in your air fryer

Photo: Ken Weinrich, ShutterstockPhoto: Ken Weinrich, Shutterstock

Heating up my entire oven to roast a single head of garlic has always felt a little silly, but an air fryer is essentially a small, powerful convection oven. Not only does it use less power, it can shave 20–30 minutes off of your roasted garlic waiting time, all without heating up your house.

Or just roast a bunch of peeled cloves

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

Serving a whole head of roasted garlic makes for a very dramatic presentation, but you can roast peeled, individual cloves with equally tasty results. If you have a Costco membership, you probably know that they sell huge three-pound bags of the pre-peeled stuff, which means you could easily roast three pounds of garlic at a go if you so desired. (Just make sure you get a Costco-sized bottle of olive oil.)

Don’t get it too hot

Photo: kamzasweet, ShutterstockPhoto: kamzasweet, Shutterstock

Unlike onion, garlic does not taste good when deeply browned or burnt. Sure, a fried garlic chip makes a nice little garnish, but most people sauté their garlic at far too high of a heat. Like bacon, garlic is best when started in a cold pan. (Though it cooks much more quickly than cured pork.) Just add a little oil, set the heat to medium, and let it gently sizzle and sweat until the initially pungent aroma gives way to a sweeter, more mellow and inviting fragrance.

Don’t be ashamed of your garlic press!

Photo: Getty Images, Getty ImagesPhoto: Getty Images, Getty Images

The alleged crimes of the garlic press are many: They crush the garlic too finely, they’re hard to clean, they only do one thing, and they do the same thing as a microplane. All of these claims are at least partially true, but as long as you understand garlic and how it reacts to cutting, crushing, and heat, your cooking will not suffer. (Don’t understand those things? Read all about it here.)

Grate it into soups

Photo: Iakov Filimonov, ShutterstockPhoto: Iakov Filimonov, Shutterstock

Have a nasty cold? Simply microplane (or press!) whole, raw cloves of garlic into a steaming bowl of soup. If won’t “cure” you, but it will clear your sinuses for entire minutes at a time, which is the best you can hope for with a nasty cold.

Make real aioli

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

Aioli is not “fancy mayonnaise.” The word itself means “garlic and oil,” which is all you need to make aioli. You could use egg as an emulsifier, but you do not have to, or even need to, as the pure, two-ingredient version slaps very hard.

Make garlic honey

Photo: Vertical Mind Cinema, ShutterstockPhoto: Vertical Mind Cinema, Shutterstock

Fermented garlic honey is one of my top-five condiments. It is sweet. It is funky. It is a little bit hot. Just smash a bunch of garlic, cover it in honey, and add a little apple cider vinegar to keep the pH in safe, botulism-free range, then let it sit and bubble until the garlic gets all soft and chewy. Drizzle on everything, but be sure to drizzle it on pizza.

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