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Buying garlic: peeled cloves vs. whole bulbs?

I always thought that pre-peeled cloves of garlic -- which one sees at some supermarkets (e.g., Whole Foods), often sold in pint-sized containers -- must be less flavorful to cook with than garlic one peels oneself from regular, whole bulbs. But an acquaintance who seems kinda serious about food assures me that's not so. What do Chowhounds think?

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  1. I just think once peeled they go bad faster.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sivyaleah

      Actually I think fresh loses its quality at about the same rate, but it's hidden under the paper peel.

      I got my first jar a couple of weeks ago, and certainly it produces a strong garlic flavor.

      I'm told that Chinese imported peeled garlic is less flavorful, but it was an American grower I heard say it.

      I've also had decent luck, for convenience products, with Indian garlic paste in jars - they also have ginger paste and (surprise) garlic/ginger paste.

    2. I agree. Peel your own. It isn't that hard.

      1. Concur.
        Peeled will taste fine. At first. You won't get the shelf life out of them.


        1. And actually, I think that peeled stuff has a preservative sprayed on them! :P Go natural if you can! :)


          1. hello, I think the pre-peeled stuff might be o.k. when you have a dish that requires a lot, AND good fresh garlic is impossible to find because of your geographic/seasonal predicament. Right now great garlic is at its peak. I cringed when a prominent food writer (M.Bittman) praised the pre-peeled stuff for some gobs-of-garlic preparations, but I realized he was writing mid-winter for a audience that doesn't always have access to serious produce markets. Homemakers who need to work fulltime elsewhere get into a time crunch, and I can see the pre-peeled stuff being a helping hand. I tested my prejudices by trying out some of the peeled stuff--it lacked pizzazz, but I'm not cooking for a big family either. In the end a cook's gotta trust his/her own gut/palate/pocketbook.

            1. Buy the garlic heads and peel your own. For a way easy method, place the clove end to end between your thumb and forefinger and pinch it. The paper should split away from the clove and be easy to remove. For the best cutting method, I place the clove on the cutting board, lay the flat side of my knife over it and give one hard push. It crushes the clove down, then you can cut it up a lot easier. Sprinkling kosher salt over the clove before cutting helps cut down the stickiness. Rarely do you ever have a need for garlic to be uniformly cut.

              1. i always have fresh at home. but if i know i'm going to need a lot that i will be using within a day or two, i will pick up some already peeled at the little pasta shop, where i get my cheese and other staples. they have a good turnover so i know the garlic's been freshly peeled.

                1. I've been buying peeled garlic from Super H - I was doubtful at first but can't discern any real difference where cooking or use in salad is concerned. The price is so low that you can toss remaining cloves if you think they are going off.
                  I know all the techniques for peeling garlic etc but it's a pleasant little shortcut to have the peeled cloves in their container in the fridge - particularly if you're in a hurry or reacting to some last-minute inspiration.
                  How many of us do the full 'prep' before we start cooking anyway?
                  Also, even carefully selected unpeeled bulbs often contained cloves that had to be chucked.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: bruce in oakton

                    I agree. It's a convenience.

                    I get mine from the Korean market and there are no additives at all. Just peeled garlic in a pint container for about $1.50. That's cheap.

                    1. re: Pupster

                      Yes, at a busy Korean market, the pre-peeled garlic moves so quickly you can be sure it is fresh. Under those conditions I have no qualms about pre-peeled. Now if you want to buy it at Safeway, it's probably been sitting there a while.

                      But at this time of year, when you can get hardneck garlic and other delights at a farmers' market, this is not when I would run my little taste test.

                      1. re: inuksuk

                        Fresh Garlic, No. Most of the garlic sold in the United States comes from China in cargo containers.

                        Before fungus wiped out most of the US crop, much of the garlic produced in the US sat in a warehouse a neighbor worked in, tons of garlic. Since most of the garlic now comes from China, the warehouse was torn down and is townhouses are now being built on the warehouse site.

                        1. re: Alan408

                          I don't see your point. Yes the garlic comes from China. It goes to the store. They put some out as it is and some they peel in the back, shrink wrap it and then put out on the shelf.

                          You didn't think the guy running the Korean store bought garlic that had been pre-peeled back in China and then sat in the hold of the ship mouldering did you? He's smarter than that.

                          1. re: inuksuk

                            My point is, fresh is always best or even available.

                            Don't call something fresh that has been in storage for months.

                            Spoiled is spoiled, has little to do with being fresh, has a lot to do with handling and storage.

                            I am a wanabe commercial fisherman, I learned a couple of years ago, fresh fish isn't always best, same as beef. Aging fish, softens the fibers, "touches" the flavor.

                            My problem is, most think it has to be "fresh", that was true before refridgeration/ice. Today, fresh is more of a marketing term. That said, I am in a rural community this week, and the fresh fish I have seen in two large chain stores, I wouldn't try. But, their steak prices are 1/2 of mine. I wouldn't buy their some of their fruit either. Having been in ownership/management of a grocery store, bad food is a result of management. We usually announced when we would get foods with short shelf life, took special orders and always sold out. (learned that in college. Create a demand, with a limited supply, everyone benefits.

                    2. re: bruce in oakton

                      I do a full prep.....it's the way I was taught, and it makes working on the finished dish MUCH easier. Mise en place, as they say!

                      1. re: bruce in oakton

                        Here's my question: when I store the prepeeled garlic in the fridge, the whole refrigerator and freezer reek of garlic. It's in a plastic container with a tight lid, in a plastic bag. Any suggestions for how to store it without having it smell up the entire fridge? Thanks for any suggestions.

                        1. re: Sprout5300

                          I store it in a plastic zip bag put inside of a glass jar. No smell.

                      2. Alway peel your own, just hit it once.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: steinpilz

                          Here is your mission. You need 50 peeled cloves of garlic. They all have to be completely intact; they cannot be even slightly crushed. Do you want to try this with "just hit it once" or do you want to reconsider pre-peeled garlic? The stuff has its place.

                          1. re: inuksuk

                            With you, Inuksuk, for the following: need lots and lots of razor thinly sliced (not deformed, not crushed) pieces. Peeled is best.

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              And for even easier slicing, freeze before hand.

                        2. We do something in between.
                          We buy whole garlic about once a week.
                          Then we peel the whole thing and put in the fridge and its ready to use all week.

                          1. I was talking to someone about this recently, and he proposed buying the jar of peeled cloves and roasting them, then freezing the result in small quantities (ice cube trays?). I don't know how well this would work. Personally, I've never bought the peeled cloves and have been a bit suspicious of them, but probaby if you use them right away they would be fine. Many respected restaurants do use them now.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: kittyfood

                              Trader Joe's has minced garlic frozen into little servings as you describe. It's not cheap though.

                              1. re: Pupster

                                The Trader Joe's frozen garlic actually has a pretty good garlic flavor and minced consistency. I once bought a large container of pre-peeled garlic from Costco, and of course it all rotted long before I'd even made a dent in it, and I was underwhelmed by the garlic flavor. I wouldn't do that again.

                            2. Just to see what they were like, I bought the packaged peeled garlic from A-1 grocery warehouse on sunset (my local grocery) and have been AMAZED at how long they last in a sealed tupperware type container in the fridge.
                              yes, the flavor slowly softens, but because you have so many pre-peeled, you can just throw a bunch more in the dish.

                              there will always be sticklers against convenience, but i would recommend at least trying a batch and seeing what YOU think. Theyr'e less than $2 for over 50 at A-1.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mr mouther

                                Nice post. I love it when people say things like "[try] a batch and [see] what YOU think" because many times we're too lazy to try something before knocking it. I know I am.

                                This discussion reminds me of the Frugal Gourmet, who said he would mince the cloves from several heads of garlic in his food processor once a week and store them in a jar in the fridge. He loved the convenience and could live with any loss in freshness.

                              2. At this time of year, you should be going to your local farmers' market and buying fresh garlic. It is totally unlike the stuff you get in the grocery store year-round.

                                1. We needed a bunch of garlic about a month ago and I bought Christopher Ranch peeled garlic from Smart & Final (L.A. area). Christopher Ranch is considered to be the King of Garlic within the produce industry. I was very pleased with the freshness and flavor.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kellithina

                                    The Christopher Ranch stuff is all we get in our local store. It's usually sprouted, and the heads are sealed up in these little cellophane packages so it's hard to find a package that isn't already sprouted.

                                    When i can, I go up to Storm Lake to the Mexican grocery there, where they have these wonderful big heads of hardneck garlic. I buy three or four of them at a time, roast some, and absolutely inhale the rest.

                                  2. I peel my own be 2 or 3 cloves, or 2 or 3 bulbs, I do not like the pre-peeled cloves at all.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: swsidejim

                                      Same here...It's so quick and simple to smash, peel comes off easily, then chop or smash with a bit of kosher salt to a smooth paste...SO much better than already peeled...

                                    2. I almost always use the peeled. The whole heads available in my area are pretty bad.
                                      I also go through 3 to 5 pounds a week, so the peeled garlic is a huge time saver.

                                      1. my go to product when i don't feel like peeling garlic bulbs:


                                        1. I use a lot of garlic, and I buy the whole bulbs from the chinese store - 10 bulbs for $2 or less. Anyone know why its way cheaper than the stuff at the regular grocery store? If I buy one head at your typical grocery store it'll cost me $0.99 - weird

                                          I heard that you can peel cloves of garlic very quickly (without crushing them) by placing them into a steel mixing bowl. You place another steel mixing bowl on top or a plate or something acting as a lid, and then shake it. The garlic's skin will fall right off or be super easy to peel and you won't have smashed garlic like if you used the side of a knife

                                          1. You will lose a bit of potency but it is worth the convenience. You can always add a little more to make up for the loss.

                                            When I buy them peeled, I chop them all in my food processor, mix with oil (to preserve it) and store it in an airtight container. Very convenient!