5 Surprising Things You Might Not Know About Garlic 

We’ve cooked a lot of garlic in the test kitchen. Here are some allium facts that might surprise you.

Published Feb. 7, 2023.

Here’s what we already know about garlic: It’s an allium, it carries a wide range of flavor, it can be a pain to peel . . .

And the aroma of garlic sizzling in olive oil is one of the best smells. Ever.

We’ve cooked a lot of garlic in the test kitchen and in doing so we’ve made some interesting discoveries.

Here are some things you might not already know.

(They might surprise you!)

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1. Trust your nose.

Don’t buy garlic that smells like, well, garlic. Garlic shouldn’t have an odor until it’s cut or crushed. Strong-smelling garlic has likely been mishandled during transport or storage. Our test cooks put this theory to the test: find the results here.

2. Prepeeled garlic is A-OK.

Love garlic but hate peeling garlic? Go ahead and buy prepeeled garlic. Prepeeled garlic tastes nearly identical to the fresh stuff. It’s perhaps slightly milder, but most of the folks who did our garlic tasting could not tell the difference. Learn more about prepeeled garlic benefits here.

3. The way you slice it really matters.

Garlic’s characteristic flavor comes from a compound called allicin that is produced when the walls of garlic are broken down. The intensity depends on how you cut it. For milder flavor, steep whole cloves in olive oil (or confit them). For a sharp zing, turn your cloves into a paste. Click here to learn more about why slicing matters. 

4. Using garlic powder? Don’t forget to hydrate.

Garlic powder is dehydrated garlic, so it’s not at its peak performance. Wake up your powder by hydrating it first: Simply combine equal parts water to garlic powder and give it a stir. This method makes one heck of a delicious garlic bread.

5. Don’t fear the sprouts!

I grew up thinking pale green shoots growing out of garlic cloves meant they’re past their prime. While the garlic tasted more pungent and less sweet on its own, sprouted garlic, when cooked, tastes like . . . regular garlic. So yes, treat sprouted garlic as normal! Cook’s Illustrated Associate Editor Steve Dunn has more on actual truths about garlic sprouts here.

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