How to store garlic so it keeps its flavor for longer
- For the longest shelf life, store whole heads of garlic in a cool, dry place.
- Peeled garlic will keep in the fridge for a week, while minced garlic will keep for a day.
- Peeled or minced garlic can be frozen for up to three months and is best used in cooked dishes.
For most home cooks, garlic is a ubiquitous ingredient that's always at arm's length. It makes just about every savory dish taste better, from sauces to soups to stews to dips to salads. But even though it's a commonly used ingredient, garlic is often stored incorrectly. When properly stored, garlic can last for as long as six months, but incorrect
The first step to making sure garlic lasts as long as possible is choosing quality bulbs. "Choose dense, firm heads of garlic with intact paper and no signs of mold," says Anne-Marie Bonneau, author of "The Zero-Waste Chef: Plant-Forward Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen and Planet." "The heavier they are, the more water they contain and the fresher they are. The heads should have no give when you very slightly squeeze them."
How to store whole, peeled, or minced garlic
How you choose to store garlic will depend on how you plan to use it. The most versatile method is storing the whole heads in a cool, dry place, but Bonneau points out that you should do what works for you and what will make cooking easiest.
A whole head of garlic
"The best way to store garlic is as a whole, unpeeled heads at room temperature, just the way you buy them," says Bonneau. Keep heads of garlic away from light, heat, and moisture and store in a cool, dry place with good ventilation. A basket or open paper bag will work. You can also use a garlic keeper, which is a ceramic vessel with holes in the side and a lid. Whatever you do, avoid the refrigerator, which degrades the flavor and causes the garlic to sprout, or develop green stalks coming out of its head, quickly.
"A whole head of intact garlic, tightly closed in its papery skin with no cloves removed, can last for up to six months at room temperature," says Bonneau. Once you start removing cloves, the interior will be exposed to more air and the shelf life begins to shrink. Use heads of garlic with missing cloves within a week or two.
Quick tip: If garlic has sprouted at the top, Bonneau says it is still edible, especially if you catch it early. Simply slice the garlic clove in half and remove the green, sprouted middle. The longer the garlic sprouts, the less flavor the garlic will have, so use sprouted garlic as soon as possible.
Peeled garlic cloves
If you peeled too many garlic cloves and have some leftover (or you like having ingredients prepped and ready to go), store peeled cloves in an airtight container like a jar in the refrigerator. Bonneau recommends a glass jar since "you'll be able to see it when you glance in there [and] you won't forget about it."
Once peeled, garlic's lifespan shrinks considerably, and it is best used within a week. Peeled cloves can be used in any recipe that calls for fresh or cooked garlic.
Bonneau recommends using minced garlic immediately for the best flavor and texture, but it can be stashed in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day. Use day-old minced garlic in cooked recipes since it will have lost some of its texture, and other added ingredients can help mask this.
Bonneau notes that minced garlic should not be stored in oil at room temperature or even in the fridge, since there is a small chance it can cause botulism. "The minced garlic in oil that you buy at the store has been treated with preservatives to prevent this," says Bonneau.
Can you freeze garlic?
While storing whole heads of garlic will give you the most longevity, freezing will give you more time to store peeled whole cloves or minced garlic. "Like refrigerated garlic, frozen garlic loses its texture but it still tastes delicious. So use it in saucy types of dishes where texture doesn't matter," says Bonneau.
To freeze minced garlic, pack it into small jars, leaving room for expansion, and freeze for up to three months. You can also freeze minced garlic in oil without any risk of botulism. Freshly chop garlic and add it to a jar or ice cube tray. Top with oil and freeze immediately, storing for up to three months. Use the garlic and oil for cooked dishes like sautéed or roasted vegetables, soups, and sauces.
You can also freeze whole, peeled garlic cloves in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag for up to three months. Use them in cooked dishes, since the cloves will lose much of their crisp texture upon defrosting.
Alternative methods: fermenting and roasting
"I love to ferment things, including garlic," says Bonneau. She ferments whole cloves in a saltwater brine (1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt per cup of filtered water).
Submerge the cloves completely in the saltwater in a jar and loosely screw on the lid. Let them sit for about a month at room temperature, opening the lid every day to release any pressure, then move it to the fridge. "You'll have delicious peeled garlic ready to use in any recipe," says Bonneau.
You can also roast whole heads of garlic and store them in the fridge for easy use. Cut a small portion off the top of the head to expose the cloves. Rub with a little olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, until softened and caramelized. Roasted garlic will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Squeeze out the cloves and use them in dressings, sauces, dips, or simply spread onto bread.
Whole heads of garlic have the longest shelf life. When stored in a cool, dry place, they can last for as long as six months. Whole garlic cloves can be stored in a container in the fridge for up to a week and minced garlic will keep for about a day. Both can be frozen for a few months. Use garlic from the fridge or freezer in cooked dishes, otherwise, it loses its crisp texture.
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