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Garlic: crushed or chopped?

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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: claireh

            I made that mistake once.

            DT

          2. 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?

                  1. re: AndrewK512

                    Was it ever not desirable?

                    1. re: AndrewK512

                      I don't care for that at all.

                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.

                        1. I find that in most dishes chopped is enough because it doesn't burn as easily. However, if I want somthing with a pronunced hit of gralic added at the end, I actually use a Wasabi grater, which reduces the garlic to a fine paste, with none of the clean up and ickiness of a press, and none of the additional salt. I purchased mine in japan and is made of stainless steel, but it's a lot like this one...

                          http://www.mingspantry.com/kycy10.html

                          1. I use both minced and crushed in a press. I usually use the minced or sliced in long-timed sauces and pressed in sautees. Always add the garlic as late as possible to the sautees to keep the burn to a minimum.

                            1. If I remember my "Good Eats" correctly, according to AB, the more you damage the cell walls in garlic, the stronger the taste.

                              DT

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Davwud

                                Ding ding ding ding! In the first few days of culinary school, one of the first excercises we did was to leave a garlic clove whole, cut one in half, slice it it thin, chop to a fine dice, mince it, then puree or pulverize it. Then we had to smell each different "cut;" of course the pureed was the strongest.

                                Obviously the cut you choose for your garlic depends on when you're adding it to the dish, what cooking method are you using, how long will it cook, etc, that gives you the correct manner of how the garlic should be prepped.

                                1. re: Veggietales

                                  Veggietales wrote;
                                  "Obviously the cut you choose for your garlic depends on when you're adding it to the dish, what cooking method are you using, how long will it cook, etc, that gives you the correct manner of how the garlic should be prepped."

                                  Ding, ding, ding, ding!!. This is exactly the answer to the OP's question. There are many ways to prep garlic which will yield varying results. What's most appropriate for the dish and what you want from the garlic is the key.

                              2. I usually finely chop it, but sometimes I want a puree, esp if it is to be mix in with something, like a stuffing rather then in a stewed dish.

                                A nice way to get a puree is to use your microplane. Another quick way to get a puree is to turn a fork upside down and 'grate' the garlic against it. I also use the smashing with salt method.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: coconutz

                                  I've seen a gadget in lots of cookery shops for pulverizing garlic. It's basically the same material and shape as a credit card, only instead of one row of numbers, it's got lots of semicircular indentations all over it. Apparently you just "grate" the garlic over it and poof.

                                  I've never tried it but it looks pretty cool.

                                  1. re: Kagey

                                    Sounds similar to a wasabi grater.

                                2. Just one cautionary word of advice when storing garlic:

                                  NEVER store raw garlic in any type of oil for longer than 2 or 3 days. And ALWAYS keep it refrigerated.

                                  Raw garlic immersed in oil is the perfect environment for the development of botulism spores. Botulism is one of the worst types of food poisoning and can lead to paralysis and death.

                                  The yucky stuff that's sold in jars is safe because there are preservatives added.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: olivergail

                                    What if you freeze it, as suggested above?

                                    1. re: MeowMixx

                                      I've never frozen garlic for my own use - I just don't see the point. I have seen the litle cubes discussed by SuzMiCo above, and I think they're probably a wonderful alternative to the inedible stuff in the jars.

                                      The "cube" company also makes cubes of frozen basil, dill, ginger, etc. I have used the dill cubes and I've been really happy. The colour is still a vibrant green and tastes very fresh.

                                      1. re: MeowMixx

                                        Hi, I know this is an old thread, but just for anyone else who reads this and is wondering... botulism can survive freezing. Botulism is very rare, but extremely nasty and deadly. It usually happens when home canning isn't done properly.

                                        1. re: lisaliberty

                                          C. botulinum can survive freezing, but freezer temperatures inhibit its growth to nil.

                                          Meaning that if you were willing to eat that garlic before putting it in the oil and in the freezer, then it should still be safe when you take it out, as long as your freezer is working properly.

                                    2. Depends on use and your taste. In most cooking I chop or bruise and leave whole. If I'm not cooking the garlic (i.e., in hummous or salad dressing), I prefer to press it so people don't bite into the raw bits.

                                      1. The more I cook the more I realize garlic is so often over-used. Like when Emeril adds about a half a cup of garlic to just about everything that isn't dessert makes me cringe.

                                        Rather than "crushed or chopped" I would make your question "whole or minced". One thing about garlic: it tastes radically different when it is used whole, chopped, minced or crushed. I never use my garlic press anymore. I just do not like the slightly metallic flavor it imparts. The rule is: the more finely you chop garlic the stronger and less subtle it will taste. Often, my choice for long-cooked dishes is to put the garlic in whole. Then you get a sweet, subtle, softer taste. If I want a stronger taste I smash the clove with the side of a big knife on the cutting board to easily remove the skin. Then I mince or chop it depending on how strong a flavor I want to impart.

                                        Too much garlic is obnoxious to me, and as I understand it, to Italians as well - and they are known as the world champion garlic users. There is a scene in "The Godfather" where they are making sauce and the cook shows everybody how important it is to take a razor blade and slice the garlic clove paper thin.
                                        If you do that it will disappear into your sauce, and if you just use one, you will get a lovely delicate hint of garlic.

                                        1. I think that scene is in "Goodfellas." ("Godfather" has a scene where the mobster Clemenza makes spaghetti sauce--"You shove in your meatballs" etc.) You can get similar results using a vegetable peeler, or just slice very thin with a good sharp knife. Both Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich use thinly sliced garlic (rather than minced or pureed) in most of their recipes.

                                          1. I must be a real lame-brain but I cannot see that pressed or sliced or chopped garlic, when added to a dish that will be cooked for any length of time, makes the slightest difference.

                                            Of course, if you are making salad dressing, you wouldn't expect a garlic clove pressed to have the same impact as one cut into 4 pieces when added to the salad.

                                            I really love garlic and probably use too much for some tastes, but the person slicing garlic cloves thinly with a razor is never going to be me.

                                            And about not liking the metallic taste of pressed garlic, what are you using to cut, chop, mince it? A plastic knife?

                                            I don't know, but it seems that we get too hung up on how to do this or that "correctly" and lose sight of the end product. That's probably why I really don't like those culinary academy food shows. Anybody who says "plated" or "mouthfeel" is suspect in my book.

                                            Signed, Peevish in Oakland

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: oakjoan

                                              I do not get the metallic taste from smashing it with my carbon steel santoku or chef's knife but I do from the garlic press, which is aluminum. Perhaps I should call it a "harsh" taste. Really, my most important point is not finicky or unecessarily picky at all. Overdoing the chopped garlic can overwhelm every other more subtle flavor note in your sauce and it will be all you WILL taste.

                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                As I understand it, garlic has two components, one inside the cells, the other in the cell walls; when the cell walls are breached the components mix, releasing the flavor and aroma. So different processes have different flavor effects because they break more, or fewer, cell walls; slicing would be less destructive to cell walls than chopping which would be less destructive than crushing or pureeing. The difference is in the intensity of the flavor you wind up with.

                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                  "I don't know, but it seems that we get too hung up on how to do this or that "correctly" and lose sight of the end product. That's probably why I really don't like those culinary academy food shows. Anybody who says "plated" or "mouthfeel" is suspect in my book."

                                                  Amen.

                                                2. I prefer to press mine because I think mincing leaves a lot of flavor on the cutting board.

                                                  There are some dishes you would want to treat like Mario Batalli does. He slices the garlic to give people the chance to not eat it.

                                                  Great, I just responded t a 4 year old post.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                    Don't feel bad, someone else did ten days ago.

                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                      LOL, nothing wrong with that, I'm sure there are other folks with strong feelings on the matter and it's better than starting a new thread.

                                                      I'm with Anthony Bourdain on this one; garlic should never be crushed, only chopped or smashed. Crushing ruins the flavor and makes it bitter IME.

                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                        Same here. Chopped please.

                                                      2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                        Since watching Mario, I mostly slice and otherwise chop/mince.

                                                        PS: I happen to be a big fan of adding to old posts rather than starting new ones.

                                                      3. don't know what to do or which way is best but I could watch Martin Yan do his method for garlic magic all day long.

                                                        Garlic press, not for me.
                                                        Rasping garlic, only is I don't care about fingers any longer.

                                                        1. I am surprised that so many people are advocating mincing the garlic rather than putting it through a garlic press. I have decided to bring out the big guns to convince people that the press is the way to go. The paragraphs below are quotes from Cook's Illustrated on the garlic press vs mincing.

                                                          "Why not just mince? Over the years, we’ve learned that for the average home cook, a garlic press is faster, easier, and more effective than trying to get a fine, even mince with a chef’s knife. More important, garlic’s flavor and aroma emerge only as its cell walls are ruptured and release an enzyme called alliinase, so a finely processed clove gives you a better distribution of garlic and fuller garlic flavor throughout the dish. Even our test cooks, trained to mince with a knife, generally grab a garlic press when cooking. And here’s the best part: With a good garlic press, you don’t even have to stop and peel the cloves.

                                                          Here in the test kitchen, we go through large quantities of minced garlic every day, so we like the convenience and speed a garlic press offers. In terms of flavor and quality, a good garlic press can break down cloves more finely and evenly than an average cook using a knife, which means better distribution of garlic flavor throughout any given dish. (If you're very proficient with your chef's knife, you can obtain a similarly fine and even mince.) All told, we think the garlic press is the best tool for the job."

                                                          I personally use the garlic press because all the liquid you are leaving on the chopping board is flavor and with a press, I don't have to leave it on the board.

                                                          Now I'm arguing with people that posted their opinions 4 years ago!

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                            If you like the results you get with pressed garlic, press on! Just don't expect all of us to join you, no matter what CI says. :-)

                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                              but... but you are wrong and i am so right. :-)

                                                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                Life seems so unfair when others don't recognize our superior judgment. It's the cross I bear... ;-)

                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                  Yes, Yes.. I share your burden.

                                                              2. re: mcf

                                                                gotta agree here with mcf. I have used garlic presses and don't care for them, they leave too much garlic behind, the scraping, the digging out, the trying to clean, no thanks. I'd rather hire Martin Yan :))

                                                            2. I just grate it on my Microplane, and I never put more than 1 large clove of garlic in anything. I recently read a recipe for eggplant parm that called for 10 cloves of garlic. Yech!

                                                              8 Replies
                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                Well, you need to try roasted garlic, the more the better. It is like butter.

                                                                In fact, making garlic bread by smearing an entire head of roasted garlic on toasted bread is very hard to beat.

                                                                Of course, I haven't been kissed since 1987.

                                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                  I do like roasted garlic, much different than an overdose of raw or sauteed.

                                                                2. re: pikawicca

                                                                  I'm with you, girl :) More isn't better in my book.

                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                    I'm the opposite; the more garlic, the better. In the right dish, of course. One of our favorite things is a garlic paste to be eaten with grilled lamb or steak made with mortar and pestle; smash garlic cloves with some kosher salt and, when creamy, start adding olive oil and stirring til it expands and stops absorbing it, then add lemon juice to taste. Follow meal with parsley oil capsules, lots of 'em.

                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                      If garlic is the primary flavor, rather than lamb, I'm not on board with this.

                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                        It's very complementary, and with the lemon, helps to cut the gaminess. But if you don't like strong garlic flavor, you probably shouldn't try it.

                                                                      2. re: mcf

                                                                        I do this for my lamb, but I add allspice, S & P and then smear it all over the lamb before cooking. Most delicious! Allspice and lamb are a wonderful combination. It seems to open up the lamb flavor, but compensates for any gamey flavor the lamb may have.

                                                                        1. re: cosmogrrl

                                                                          I've never used allspice on lamb. Interesting. I marinate chops overnight in a lot of lemon juice, olive oil, fresh garlic and rosemary, s and p. Grill and serve with the cold garlic paste.

                                                                    2. if i don't carefully chop, i use a garlic press direcly over the pan or pot. smashing on the board just wastes too much as most of the garlic oils are left on the board and do not go into the food. it's crazy how many tv cooks endorse this crazy method as the end-all-be-all when it's just a sad waste of garlic.

                                                                      21 Replies
                                                                      1. re: epabella

                                                                        No matter how much garlic I chop or smash, I have never had a puddle of any size form on my cutting mat. I also scrape everything off with the side of my knife. I never lack for robust garlic flavor in anything I make with it.

                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                          I feel the same way. No visible liquid and it's quite easy to slide the knife blade under the garlic.

                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                            why not weigh the cloves individually, then smash, then weigh and total - there will be substantial reduction in weight - i'll bet on it.

                                                                            1. re: epabella

                                                                              Not sure that would work. It is hard to get everything out of that garlic press. One of the things I like about a press is the very thin skin that is left behind in the press plus there is garlic trapped in the small holes. I scrape it off but I doubt anybody digs it all out.

                                                                              Now one thing I really don't understand is a recent trend on the cooking shows where they pulverize the garlic with a knife and salt. I mean the chef that does that has got to really hate using a garlic press!

                                                                              As far as the disagreement between the press and mincing, I have made my case logically citing good reasons and backed it up with other respected opinions.

                                                                              The fact is it just isn't that big a deal so long as the garlic gets into the pot.

                                                                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                "Now one thing I really don't understand is a recent trend on the cooking shows "where they pulverize the garlic with a knife and salt."

                                                                                bobby flay is the main honcho who popularized that method and i cringe when i see it on old reruns when i'm too lazy to change the channel. i'm more awestruck with how alton brown smashes garlic cloves with a small sharpening stone and declares "no mercy!!!" - there was hardly any essential oil left on what he scrapes into his pan.

                                                                                watch ducasse 'sioux' chefs do garlic - they always use presses. that guy will very likely unseat robuchon this year.

                                                                              2. re: epabella

                                                                                LOL, are you serious? You know, it's entirely possible to overthink this stuff and to make too much of differences in technique. Seriously.

                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                  Absolutely right. It gets downright silly, doesn't it!

                                                                                  It often just simply varies according to the dish. Some dishes like minced or chopped, some like crushed, and for many Italian dishes, unsmashed slices are the order of the day.

                                                                                  But in the end, It's really not a big deal at all. Just do what's easiest for you and what suits the dish you're making.

                                                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                                                    Exactly. Sometimes I just cut a whole head of garlic in half, skin on and stuff it in side a chicken, a la Ina Garten, with lemons, herbs, etc. Sometimes it's minced, sometimes it's chopped, sometimes it's smashed, other times pulverized into a paste. I just never crush it because, as Bourdain says, it ruins it. IMO, of course. Your mileage may vary.

                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                      I don't mind disagreement or even argument as long as we are having fun. Bottom line, I don't know anyone on chowhound, personally, and the odds of me ever eating your cooking or you eating mine is astronomical.

                                                                                      I have found that once someone forms an opinion, it isn't going to be changed easily.

                                                                                      The people who's opinion will be swayed are the ones reading but not contributing an opinion. In this case, both sides have stated the reasoning behind their opinions.

                                                                                  2. re: mcf

                                                                                    I think at the end it just depends who is eating it. If you are going to eat it, who is to tell you that you cannot chopped or minced garlic. We are not talking about some kind of unsafe food preparation which will send a person to a hospital.

                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                      Exactly. Plus, some of us are right. ;-D

                                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                                        Yes we are and we just have to accept that some people can't see how right we are as obvious as it is. Go figure (shrugs) :-)

                                                                                    2. re: mcf

                                                                                      i'm, not endorsing a technique, i'm addressing wasteful practice - if we can maximize yield from every bit of food we have, the better off we are.

                                                                                      "left behind in the press plus there is garlic trapped in the small holes. I scrape it off but I doubt anybody digs it all out"

                                                                                      tap head of garlic press with back knife and watch as all bits of trapped garlic miraculously fall out.

                                                                                      1. re: epabella

                                                                                        epabella,

                                                                                        I think a lot has to do with what cutting board one uses and what garlic press one has. I have an end grain beeswax-ed chopping block and an oxo steeL garlic press. If we are talking about one garlic, then my knife+cutting board has very little waste, whereas there are plenty garlic get trapped in the garlic press sieve. The "built-in cleaner" does not push out pulps as it claims.

                                                                                        1. re: epabella

                                                                                          That's a good tip about tapping the press.

                                                                                          I just don't want to argue anymore about how someone gets few grams of garlic into a pot. You and I and some others have endorsed the press.

                                                                                          Unfortunately, some others disagree. It seems to have reached a point where we aren't likely to come to an agreement.

                                                                                          That is probably a good thing. If we all agreed on everything, there would probably only be 50 - 60 recipes in the world.

                                                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                            "I just don't want to argue anymore about how someone gets few grams of garlic into a pot. You and I and some others have endorsed the press."

                                                                                            i'm not going to argue either - but i've been squirted with garlic oil in my eye sitting around ten feet away from a friend doing her best doofus network impression smashing garlic with the back of the knife.

                                                                                            either chop carefully or use a press, anything else is wasteful.

                                                                                            1. re: epabella

                                                                                              Epabella,

                                                                                              In the big scheme of things, wasting a garlic probably ranks fairly low. Have you seen how much perfectly fine food being tossed out everyday from restaurants, deli, cafe...

                                                                                              "smashing garlic with the back of the knife"

                                                                                              I smash garlic with the side of the knife blade to take the skin off. That is a very common technique. Are you talking about the side or the spine? I don't know that technique of using knife spine to smash garlic. Interesting.

                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                sorry, i was still stuck on tapping the head of garlic press. i meant smashing garlic with the side of the knife blade- no offense to those who do it but it does result in some unseen garlic oil squirting to a distance. milligrams add up to megatons. but hey, if people are ok with that, live and let live - i'm happy to get every bit of garlic oil from all the cloves i buy.

                                                                                                1. re: epabella

                                                                                                  epabella,

                                                                                                  Are you talking about tapping the garlic press with the side of the knife?

                                                                                                  Epabella. Is it possible that you have a dull knife? Maybe if you have a sharper knife, then you won't have a lot of garlic juice coming out from slicing them.

                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                    please read thru my posts again, i'm not against slicing or chopping garlic but i do find smashing garlic with the side of the knife or smashing garlic with sharpening stones or any implement other than than a garlic press to be wasteful. again, i chop garlic with a very sharp knife but i never smash garlic with anything except a garlic press.

                                                                                                    slicing and chopping garlic - good
                                                                                                    smashing with anything other than garlic press - wasteful.

                                                                                            2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                              Make that milligrams.

                                                                                              At most. ;-)

                                                                                              If any.

                                                                                  3. The Garlic Trader Joe's is selling is an amazing product - they have a huge variety of products you can get in other stores as well.
                                                                                    Their store locator is on www.mydorot.com