Please Don’t Brown Your Garlic

Please Don’t Brown Your Garlic
Contributor: Claire Lower

If a recipe has you add minced garlic to hot, sizzling oil at the beginning of the cooking process, it’s probably not a very good recipe. Cooking garlic in super hot oil burns the outside without properly mellowing the inside, resulting in acrid, aggressive garlic. Though I love a good fried garlic chip for texture on a soup, salad, or something like that, the best garlic — in my opinion — is garlic that’s been cooked for a long time over the lowest possible heat.

I honestly didn’t realise how strongly I felt about this until I made bagna cauda (the official Dip of Luxury). In this dip, a whole head’s worth of minced garlic is cooked over low heat with a tin of anchovies until everything melts and melds into a super savoury mass of umami. Despite the amount of garlic, “pungent” is not a word you could use to describe bagna cauda. Instead, you get pure, properly mellowed garlic flavour, unobscured by any “browned” or “toasty” tasting notes. It rules. And, though I love bagna cauda deeply, properly cooked, isolated garlic is delicious (and vegan-friendly) all on its own.

To make pale, un-pungent, incredibly flavorful garlic, all you need to do is slice or mince your desired amount of garlic, add it to a pan with enough oil to surround but not submerge it, then cook over low heat until it is fragrant and soft (at least 15 minutes, but probably longer; test with a piece of bread to ensure it has properly mellowed). If your garlic sizzles, the heat is too high. If your garlic starts turning golden, the heat is too high. (A few tiny bubbles here and there are ok.)

Once your garlic is cooked — but still pale — use it like you would any other cooked garlic. Build a sauce around it, drizzle it over vegetables, or dip things in it and its oil. I’m not worried about you finding uses for it; garlic is very easy to use up.

This article has been updated since its original publish date.

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