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How do you keep the garlic from burning?

In lots of Asian recipes, the first step is to sautee the garlic, then add the other ingredients.

I always remove the garlic after sauteeing it, because I'm always afraid it will burn and give the dish a bitter taste.

After all, if the wok is hot enough to brown meat (chicken) or vegetables, it's certainly hot enough to continue cooking the garlic after it's started to brown.

I'd appreciate hearing from anyone who's had experience in this area or thought about this.

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  1. I cheat- I USUALLY drop the garlic in after the meat is browned. Then the addition of the other ingredients and the constant movement in the wok keeps it from burning

    1. You know, I find that really interesting. We have a friend from Hongkong who loves to cook for other people, and whenever he does a stir-fry, he always throws in the 'aromatics' -- such as garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes -- first... even though it's all over high heat, and by the time the meat goes in, the garlic is browned and crunchy. I find that if you want true garlic flavor, i.e. not burnt, it's better to wait with the garlic and onion to throw in at a later point -- be that the 'true' Asian way or not.

      But I'd also be interested what other hounds have to say ----

      1. try adding the garlic (& ginger, if using) after the onions, which are usually in most recipes. let the onions cook for a minute or so, depending on size of pieces, then add garlic, ginger, lemongrass, other aromatics, a beat before the other ingredients. the larger veg pieces will absorb more heat & prevent the garlic from burning. otherwise, put in garlic/ginger, saute 2-3 strokes max, and immediately start putting in the other ingredients so that the heat has something to work on!

        1 Reply
        1. re: soupkitten

          I agree. I was taught to fry the garlic first, but now I break down the aromatics much as you do. Onions, then after a minute, garlic and ginger. One mustn't wait too long, otherwise you don't get the necessary color on the garlic and end up with a weak flavor.

        2. I usually add halved pieces of garlic in the beginning to give the oil some flavor w/the intention of fishing them out and adding the minced later in the cooking so I don't end up with brown (or black), burned bits. It may not be the authentic way, but it works very well.

          1. When the garlic is just becoming fragrant - and starting to turn non-shiny, add your meat or veggies. Don't wait until it's brown and crispy. As soon as you add the meat or veggies the pan will lower in temp. Keep stirring and it shouldn't burn.