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Oct 16, 2006 03:00 PM

Garlic: crushed or chopped?

When cooking is there a difference between crushing garlic in a press and chopping it? Some people I know believe that crushing brings out more flavour, others believe the opposite is true. Does it matter? Are there some recipes that benefit from one type or another? Some books use crushed, some chopped.

I have taken to using chopped for pretty much everything as the press is kind of a fiddly one to wash. Am I cheating myself here or is it all irrelevant? Thanks for your thoughts.

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  1. crushing garlic produces a much stronger garlic flavor then simply chopping it. If you want a milder flavor then just smash the garlic with the back of the knife, or slice it into bigger pieces.

    I hear that a lot of chefs and cooks are opposed to crushing garlic in a press, I have no clue why.

    1. For me it's more of a texture issue. When I want the garlic to be crunchier, I chop it. When I really want it to melt into a dish, I crush it. In either case, I tend to use so much garlic that there's plenty of flavor. :)

      1. Crushing garlic in a garlic press pulverizes the inside of the clove, yet tends to leave the outer layers of the clove inside the press.

        The best way to puree garlic is to mince it very finely, sprinkle the garlic with kosher salt and then, using the side of a chef's knife, go back and forth over the garlic until it's the desired consistency.

        Unfortunately, this method does tend to leave a lot of the flavourful oils on the cutting board rather than in the item being prepared.

        When using garlic in an uncooked dish or in a vinaigrette, it is always advisable to puree rather than mince, so that one never actually bites into a piece of raw garlic.

        Please don't ever resort to using the stuff in the bottles. It bears no resemblance to fresh garlic.

        8 Replies
        1. re: olivergail

          Agreed - I would never by the stuff in bottles. My friend used to use it in college and it was not good!
          I use the method you suggest quite a lot actually. It smells gorgeous.

          1. re: olivergail

            "leave a lot of the flavourful oils on the cutting board"

            I put some salt in the bottom of a small mortar, press the garlic onto it, sprinkle some more salt on top, mash with the pestle until creamy, and then pour some olive oil on top to keep it from oxidizing.

            If you let it sit for half an hour or so the salt gets rid of the bite without reducing the aroma.

            1. re: olivergail

              Olivergail wrote: "it is always advisable to puree rather than mince, so that one never actually bites into a piece of raw garlic."

              I assume, of course, you mean "except in a dish where it's desirable to bite into a piece of raw garlic".

              I make an excellent pizza with tomato and garlic baked inside; and raw tomato & raw garlic slivers sprinkled over it.

              1. re: asdfasdf

                You're absolutely right, asdfasdf.

                1. re: asdfasdf

                  It is now desirable to bite into a raw piece of garlic?

                2. Definitely do not buy the stuff in bottles. If you eat a lot of garlic and want to save some time, do what my friends' Korean parents all do.

                  They buy large bags of garlic and then chop them by hand. Some of them have switched to food processors, but a lot still do it by hand. Add a little bit of neutral oil, then freeze in ice cube trays. The garlic lasts for months and tastes way better than the canned stuff. Of course, if you only ever use a few cloves at a time it's just as easy to chop them every day. But if you use as much as the Koreans do, planning ahead really helps!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Pei

                    my korean mother and I both use this method. Except we throw a ton of garlic in a food processor and then throw it into a freezer ziplog bag and lay it flat so it freezes as a sheet.

                    when it's frozen, you take the "garlic sheet" out of the bag and then cut it into tiny 1/2 inch squares and then throw it back into the freezer bag.

                    when you need garlic while cooking, just throw a square or two into your food.

                    also, I think koreans use more garlic than a lot of people realize!

                    1. re: bitsubeats

                      Great idea! I wonder if you froze it in flat enough a sheet you could just shatter it into shards to use in cooking. I'm going to have to experiment with this.

                      1. re: Pei

                        yes you could do this, but all of the pieces will of course be uneven. smashing a frozen sheet of garlic sounds messy (:

                        also after you throw garlic in the food processor your kitchen will smell absolutely heavenly.

                      2. re: bitsubeats

                        Trader Joe's sells frozen garlic in cubes like this. I just pop a cube out of the container and into my stir-fry still frozen. It works great. Far better than the jars, but easier than mincing by hand.

                        1. re: SuzMiCo

                          Not just Trader Joe's - my supermarket has it and I always have some on hand. It especially is useful when the whole garlic in the market looks kind of grotty. I use it whenever I need pureed garlic.

                          I once made the mistake of buying a jar of the peeled garlic cloves - it was vile. Not worth the time saved.

                        2. re: bitsubeats

                          Evidence that you're right about Koreans and garlic is that a local Korean bbq place used to have a big display of pickled garlic for sale near the cashier.

                      3. I've noticed lately that, with the improvement of garlic presses available, more chefs on TVs and in books seem to be lifting the former disdain held for the gadgets.

                        It really does depend on what you need the garlic for; layering flavor (like using sliced/minced to start and then adding pressed at the end of cooking to boost the garlic high notes) is the key.