Discover how to prepare and cook with garlic to bring out the best flavor in your recipes.
We explore the different cooking methods designed to showcase both the subtle and bold flavors of this versatile herb.
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Garlic Cooking Basics
Probably the most delicious and versatile vegetable in our cooking repertoire has to be garlic.
While cooking with garlic for most of us is as common as putting on our pants, there are still some great new things to discover.
I can’t think of any savory dish that I would not add garlic to. Cooking with garlic just makes everything taste that much better. Sometimes it is the only flavor I will add to a savory dish.
Vegetarian, vegan, or meat-eater you will want to add this king of flavors to your dish. Not only is cooking with garlic a great flavor addition but a great healthy addition to our diets. The health benefits are so numerous, I think scientists are still adding to the list.
Versatility makes cooking with garlic fun and easy. The beauty of garlic is you can use every bit of this vegetable, the cloves the stem, and the flower is all bursting with flavor but also all a bit unique from one another.
While cooking with garlic is a culinary must, there are some other great ways to get the most out of this natural gift.
Before You Start to Cook – Prepare the Garlic
I don’t know about you but I certainly lack the patience when it comes to peeling the skin off my garlic cloves. There are a couple of different remedies for this task.
- If you have a garlic crusher, then it’s dead easy, just pop the clove in and squish it. The only thing is you will still have to dig out the skins after.
- My favorite way and the easiest, just to lay the clove on the cutting board, lay the side of your knife flat on top, and just give it a bang with the palm or base of your hand. It’s very easy then to just separate the clove from the skin. I then just chop off the hard flat end of the clove and that’s it. Most times you don’t even have to cut the garlic clove after.
When deciding how to prepare your garlic for cooking, here are a few great rules to follow that have never let me down:
- If it’s a sauce like marinara then use the crusher or just chop it into fine little pieces.
- If it’s a meaty dish or even a veggie stew then slice your cloves as thin as you can.
- If it’s a fresh dip or humus you want to make, bake the garlic in the oven first.
When you bake garlic in the oven it will become a nice paste with a fantastic flavor. Take the entire garlic bulb sprinkle it with olive oil, put it on some tinfoil, and stick it into the oven. Leave it for 15 to 20 minutes (or just feel when it gets soft). Once it cools down you can just squish it out like toothpaste.
Using The Stems And Flowers:
Use the stems just as you would chives or green onion. You can lightly cook them or just add them to a salad or savory cooked dish raw.
The flowers are the best part of the garlic to me. I love to add these fresh to any dish I am cooking, or dry them and put them in a jar so I can add them to my soups or salads any time. The flowers have this amazing intense garlic flavor.
Just The Garlic Cloves
When you are just using the cloves, first decide how much garlic flavor you want your dish to have. One clove will give it a subtle taste, two a bit stronger, and so on. You can make as garlicky a dish as you desire.
Then there are some dishes that call for the subtle taste and others that garlic is the star.
Let’s take a tour through both subtle and strong garlic dishes. Again this is totally up to your love of the flavor, and of course how much you have on hand.
Using Garlic in Recipes
Here are a couple of very simple recipes that will give you a few good general rules to follow when cooking with garlic.
1. Adding Garlic To Sauces
If you are making a vegetarian marinara sauce you will use a bit less, than if you are making a Bolognese sauce or a sauce with meat. The meat will generally absorb the taste of the garlic quicker than will the other vegetables in your sauce.
Garlic in a Vegetarian Sauce
Take your garlic bulb and break off one or two cloves.
- Take the clove and either crush it or finely chop it. There is a great little tool out there called a garlic press that makes life easier.
- Have all your other vegetables prepared and ready to go into the pot. Tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs like oregano, bay leaf, sage, and thyme.
- Pour some olive oil or vegetable oil in a hot pan then add your onions first, onions cook much slower than the garlic.
- Once the onions are becoming translucent, stir in your garlic, however much you like. The key here is to stir constantly when you first put in that garlic until it almost disappears. Being careful the garlic doesn’t burn. Burnt garlic tends to become bitter.
- Once the garlic has permeated itself throughout the onions you can throw in the rest of your vegetables (tomatoes), tomato paste (optional) and spices (salt, pepper, herbs), let it simmer until it has the thickness you want. This is a simple and delicious marinara sauce.
Meat or Bolognese Sauce
Primarily the same as the marinara sauce with the addition of ground beef, pork, veal, or even spam if that’s what you have.
- Add your sliced onions to the hot oil in your pan.
- Next put in the amount of garlic you would like. I would add about double if you are using meat.
- Once the garlic has permeated into the onions add your meat.
- Let the meat brown and absorb the flavor of the onion and garlic.
- Add the rest of your ingredients (same as the marinara).
There are countless different recipes for making a marinara sauce or Bolognese, I am just trying to show you an easy process when it comes to adding the garlic. This way you will never go wrong, diminishing the flavor of your dish.
The easiest way to tell you have added the right amount for your taste is on how it smells when it starts to cook. Your senses won’t lead you astray.
These are just a couple of dishes where your garlic is just a component and not the hero, like the two examples above.
Here are a couple of dishes where garlic is the hero.
2. Garlic Potatoes or Carrots: (really any root vegetable)
Garlic is the hero or main flavor you want in these dishes so you will need to crush an entire bulb of cloves or more.
Crushing or finely chopping the garlic works better when it’s the main component, it’s just easier to make it into a sauce that way.
Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, or turnips ( really any type of root vegetable is great) cut into quarters and placed on a thin layer of oil in a baking pan or frying pan.
- Make a basting sauce by heating up a few cubes of butter and adding your crushed garlic.
- Stir this often to make a consistent sauce.
- Paint the butter and garlic sauce onto your vegetables.
- Add some more fresh herbs, some salt, and pepper and put this in the oven or fry it on the stove.
- Check the vegetables by poking them with a fork, when soft they are done, the flavor is magic.
3. Garlic Sauce And Meat
Making a garlic sauce for meat is one of the best ways you can prepare a dish for either the oven or the BBQ.
- Let your meat get to room temperature on the counter.
- Crush your garlic, you again will want to use lots of garlic.
- Add a cube or two of butter to a pot and stir in your crushed garlic.
- Now add honey and salt and pepper.
- Stir this up until the honey is infused with the flavor of the garlic.
- Paint your meat with the sauce. Ribs or chicken are a couple of my favorites for this.
- Throw them on the BBQ or put them in the oven until golden brown.
This flavor will be the sensation of the night for you and your family and friends it’s absolutely delicious.
Another beautiful way to use garlic is the take a sharp knife stab your roast( beef, pork, lamb) about 3 or 4 inches deep, and push in a skinless clove, do this in about 4 or 5 different spots. You will be overjoyed with the flavor your roast takes on.
4. Baked Garlic Potatoes
If you are craving a baked potato, cut a triangular piece out of the potato, ram a peeled clove into the hole and then put the little piece you cut out, back onto the garlic. It will not want to stay so just hold it while you wrap the tin foil around it. Toss the foiled potatoes into the oven or BBQ.
This not only flavors the potato but adds moisture. If you have never tried this then give it a shot, guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Once again there are countless recipes you can find but the best ones are usually the simplest. Garlic will always make a dish that much better. I have just described a few of the ways to make quick delicious and nutritious meals.
Preparing Raw Garlic:
I know this is an article about cooking with garlic but I would be remiss if I didn’t share these few alternative preparations that I know you will love.
5. Garlic in oil:
- Slice your cloves as thin as you can.
- Heat up some olive oil in a pan.
- Add your slices of garlic and fry it up. Critical to only fry it until it is translucent then take it off the heat right away. Overcooking garlic will make it bitter.
- Put the garlic in a small glass jar and top it off with more olive oil and add just a bit of salt.
Preparing garlic in this way first of all makes it last forever. You can add this to any dish or soup, make garlic bread out of it, and even drip it over a salad.
You will often see this as a regular condiment in Asian restaurants. If it’s not on the table I can guarantee they have it in the kitchen.
6. Pickled Garlic:
This seems to be quite common in the Mediterranean and I absolutely love it!
- Peel enough garlic cloves to fill a small jar or big if you are me.
- Heat up some vinegar water and salt in a small pot. I use 1/3 vinegar to water and a teaspoon of salt. For a small size jar like the one pictured above.
- Add whatever herbs you like. I find a teaspoon of Provençal herbs gives it a great flavor.
- Pour the heated vinegar over top of the cloves, up to the top of the jar.
- Put the lid on and stick the jar in the fridge for minimum 5 days.
- After the five days or more. Drain off most of the vinegar leaving about one finger highs worth of the vinegar in the bottom of the jar. Replace the vinegar with olive oil.
- Pop this back in the fridge for a day or two and it’s done.
Eating garlic like this is so delicious and so very healthy for you. Once you try it you will be hooked and it will become a regular in your fridge.
Whether you’re cooking with it, pickling it, or just eating it raw, garlic is truly nature’s gift to us.
Cooking with garlic makes our meals more delicious and the sheer act of eating makes our bodies healthier. Make sure to bring this true friend into your daily life.