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Roasted garlic - where am I going wrong?

I have recently developed a potentially unhealthy obsession with roasted garlic. I have been roasting it regularly but the process has been more difficult than most seem to suggest. While the additional effort is quite worth the final process as it's not that strenuous, I just wonder perhaps there are simple things that I can change to make it less of a chore.

The issues:
1. It seems to take much longer than the recommended times - at 450F it usually takes upwards of 60-90 minutes. I have an oven thermometer so the set temperature is accurate so I don't think it's a matter of a too cold oven. I have attached a picture of my usual final product. I assume you should roast them until well-browned all over as in the image or should they be less dark?

2. Most advice suggests that you can simply squeeze the bulb to remove the cloves but that never has worked for me. Either I end up with tons of garlic clove paper pieces in my pile of cloves or the cloves simply do not budge. I have somewhat remedied this issue and now just use a fork to scoop out the cloves but even that is somewhat difficult at times and requires a good tug or several per clove.

3. In general, I use it as a paste to rub on meats but smashing usually requires a good while of work with a fork on a plate and I always seem to have good sized chunks which are resistant to adopting a new life in paste form.

Does anyone have any suggestions for any of these issues?

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  1. You are roasting it wrapped in foil, right? Or are you just placing it on the foil cut side up, to roast?

    1 Reply
    1. re: wyogal

      Oh oops, minor detail :) Yes, I roast wrapped in foil coated with grapeseed oil.

    2. Hmmm, mine are buttery soft and slip easily out of their casings. My steps are as fikows:

      *slice the tops of the garlic heads and place them in a heavy bowl(ceramic,glass, cast iron, Pyrex ) that just large enough to hold them comfortably
      *drizzle olive oil generously all over the heads,
      .*cover dish tightly with heavy duty foil and bake on the center rack @ 450 for at least an hour
      *after an hour poke thru the foil with a toothpick or skewer. The garlc should have no resistance. If it does, recover with more foil and put back in the oven for at least 15-20 more minutes and test again

      Lastly Barbara Kafka has a great technique for doing in the microwave, I use that short cut when I need a lot for pizza, mashed potatoes, bread, etc. works perfect everybtime!

      4 Replies
      1. re: foodieX2

        I wonder if it's the quality of my garlic although it's the result with heads from at least 5 different stores.

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          I took a closer look at the photo and the tops of the cloves look almost crunchy. Did you have them tightly covered? You need them to almost "steam" to get the softened. Maybe the are drying out?

          Age might make them a little tough but those take just a little longer.

          1. re: foodieX2

            I usually cinch the foil at the top like a little rose with the flower as the base and the remaining foil as the stem, perhaps it's not always so closed? It always appears closed to me. What you describe makes some sense to me though as the difficulty in removing and smashing seems to be that it's not moist at all.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              Try bringing up the long ends of the foil to the middle, make a few folds to completely seal the top, and then fold the ends up a few times. You really want to seal it well.

              450° seems high to me, which could be why it seems burned. I usually go around 375° for about an hour, maybe 1 hour, 15 minutes max. But an hour seems to do it.

      2. I "roast' whole,peeled garlic cloves in olive oil(more like a confit,but same results).You get nicely browned,soft garlic and delicious flavored olive oil= win win...

        5 Replies
        1. re: petek

          I also simmer peeled garlic cloves in olive oil. What I do is buy the biggest heads of garlic I can find. I separate the cloves and put them, usually at least two heads, in a dry skillet on medium heat. I let them heat up and cook in the dry pan for maybe 5 to 7 minutes while shaking the pan occasionally. After the paper skins blacken a little, I pull the garlic off heat, dump it on a plate and when it's cool enough to handle, I pull off the skins. I put the now softened garlic back in the skillet with olive oil. I simmer the garlic for maybe 10 to 15 minutes until soft and golden. I take the garlic out with a slotted spoon and use it the same as roasted garlic. It just seems easier to me than the oven method plus like you said, the resulting garlic oil is fantastic.

          1. re: John E.

            What a great idea. I've always roasted mine in the oven but this sounds much easier and faster, plus I don't heat up the oven for an hour for a small amount of food.

            1. re: petek

              Me too. I buy the 3lb container of pre-peeled garlic at Costco and do it all at once, then freeze. Keeps me in garlic confit for at least 6 months.

              1. re: petek

                This is what I do too Petek and it's terrific!
                I keep it in the fridge in a container with a strainer insert which makes it easy to get the cloves out. The oil is great in cooking and salads - and roast potatoes too!
                I REALLY like John E's dry roast method, have to give that a try.
                I put the peeled cloves in a pot, cover with olive oil, bring to the just bubbling stage, take it off the heat, let cool, and repeat a couple more times, testing with a knife tip for when they're soft. I find this gives me more control and I don't end up burning the cloves.

                It is much easier than the oven method, keeps for ages in the fridge, less messy too, really convenient to use and I don't end up chucking dried old cloves out - so less waste as well.

                This is the container I use......

              2. You're burning your garlic.
                475F is too high.

                I preheat to 375F and bake for about 45 min (give or take 10 minutes).

                Let it rest in the tinfoil pouch for another 10 minutes.

                Then you're all set.

                1. I do 350 for an hour. I like it lightly browned, not as dark as yours. I cut the top off, put it on a piece of foil, glug some olive oil on it, and then bundle the foil up. Then let it cool in the foil for 15 minutes or so. Comes out perfect every time.

                  1. I like John's method. I think I will try that the next time.

                    1. I separate the cloves and bake without foil, oil or anything else for about 20+ minutes @350. Leave them for a few minutes so I can peel easily by hand. There's really no reason to make it any more complicated than that.

                      1. I picked up a tip from a TV chef about thirty years ago where he liked to roast garlic at lower temperatures. His view was that higher heat roasting will burn the garlic before the cloves can really be soft. The lower heat baking reduces the risk of burning and allows time for the cloves to cook, mellow and soften. I gave it a shot and liked the results.

                        The precess is to salt, add a little oil and wrap in foil... bake at 250F for a couple hours or until soft.

                        The results are browned cloves of garlic that is very soft and spreadable. Easy to squeeze out.

                        Your issue with the garlic not budging sound like your cloves are still a little firm.

                        1. A little shortcut I sometime use is to just place some cloves in a sealed foil envelope & roast them directly on a burner flipping over & back with tongs. Works quite quickly really. Use the same method outdoors by placing on the grill.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Taralli

                            I've been taking unpealed cloves and placing them directly on the gas burner cap and with the burner at medium to low the garlic will soften and begin to caramelize in around 5 min.

                            I do this when I want some of the roasted garlic flavor but also to take the harshness from raw in certain dishes.

                          2. It may, or may not affect the overall texture but looking at the picture it appears that the garlic is old because I see holes that occur when the garlic starts to sprout. How do you store your garlic?

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: letsindulge

                              The only way I have an idea how to...on the counter? Every head that I have ever roasted develops the holes and actually I use the holes to pull out the cloves with the fork. Should they not be there?

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                I found once I started storing stuff like garlic and onions in my pantry (ie less light and air) they lasted longer. It would work in a cabinet too.

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    Yup, they sit in the same bowl I had on the counter, only on a shelf in the pantry. I also have a box on the floor of the pantry under the shelves where I keep bags of potatoes, and if applicable, bags of onions if I buy them that way instead of individually.

                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                      I see, I will try that. I do remember that my mom always stored onions and potatoes in a dark drawer. I can't remember what she did with garlic. How much of an effect did you notice storing them in the dark vs on the counter?

                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                        I've had onions go for months and still be fine. Garlic is a little more tricky since it depends on where I bought it and how old it was when I bought it, but it can go a month or so without sprouting, assuming it was fresher to begin with.

                            2. In your photo it looks a little bit dried out.

                              Perhaps soak the garlic heads in warm water first, to make sure they are properly hydrated. This will also help loosen the skins.

                              And turn down the temperature, 450 for 1.5 hrs sounds like it would dry it out.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: jaykayen

                                I have been roasting based on color so perhaps that is my primary issue. I roast it until it develops that color which is I guess 1.5 hours at 450F but it sounds like it doesn't have to technically "brown"

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  As quite a few posters have pointed out, 450F is much too hot an oven for roasting garlic. Try 350F for 45 minutes or an hour.

                                2. re: jaykayen

                                  My roasted garlic is always a creamy color, maybe with a bit of tan. Never browned.

                                  Keep in mind this isn't supposed to be like caramelized onions where they get that nice golden color.

                                  (ETA: this should have been in response to fldhkybnva, not jaykayen.)

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    Thanks, that helps a lot as I think color was my main indicator of readiness.

                                3. BTW TheKitchn did a feature on roasted garlic yesterday "Roasted Garlic Five Ways". Might be useful: http://www.thekitchn.com/roasted-garl...

                                  1. Your cloves do look too brown on top, which will give you a chewy rather than creamy result. I usually roast garlic at 350 for maybe about an hour, and I always get a nice soft result. But I have over time changed the type of garlic that I roast. I found a garlic grower at my farmer's market, and her favorite and most popular garlic is a hardneck called Music. She allows some of the heads in her crop to grow quite large, about double the typical size. But they are not elephant garlic, just large heads of Music. These are the ones which I roast, not only because the head is large, but the cloves are large as well. This variety only has five cloves to a head, so you don't get any of those dinky little cloves which are a pain in the neck to peel when raw and which don't roast successfully because they get over-roasted and hard by the time the rest of the cloves are fully roasted. Since using this variety for roasting, I have not had any disappointing results with roasted garlic. You may not be able to find this same variety where you shop, but perhaps you can look for larger heads with fewer cloves. Or maybe you can find Music or other similar varieties online.

                                    1. I am specifically asking about regular garlic, but just of note, my SO once bought elephant garlic and I was much more of a novice then and didn't realize it was not just a ginormous head of garlic. It did not work well at all roasted or perhaps that was my fault. I plan to roast up a few heads this weekend and I will put all of your suggestions to use and then be sure to give myself a healthy dose of garlic this weekend. I truly do think I must reek from garlic consumption.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                        And I'm now craving roasted garlic - maybe schmeared under the skin of a chicken..... :-)

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          You and me both...it's like my new addiction. I did something similar to this a few weeks ago and it has now been added to the weekly food rotation. I roasted garlic and then spread it on chicken cordon bleu roll-ups with a slight twist using Munester and Provolone cheese and it was quite delicious with the "double roasted" garlic. The best part were the tiny crisp roasted bits which I couldn't resist picking off the breasts as soon as they came out of the oven. Another recent use, which has become a quick weeknight quick dinner favorite is Cobb salad/any salad with chicken marinated in roasted garlic, Cavendar's seasoning, olive oil and pepper. We usually cook up a big batch of the chicken on Sundays and then the beginning of the week can grab some and whip up a quick salad. I also rubbed a small dollop on wild King salmon last week - baked in the oven with lemon, pepper, and fresh herbs and it was the highlight meal of the week according to SO. I was afraid to use too much as to not overpower the flavor of the fish but I might amp it up next time. I think my addiction has reached new heights as literally every day I am pondering how I can incorporate roasted garlic into a dish.

                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                            I usually roast 3 heads at a time, mash it all up, and freeze it in small 2 Tbsp. increments (little Tupperware midget containers). It defrosts fast in the microwave when you want to use it.

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              What's your mashing technique? Fork + garlic? I just wonder as this has been an issue for me but perhaps it's because it sounds like my roasted garlic has been overroasted and dried out. Do you just defrost at 30 second intervals?

                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                For mashing, yes - just using a fork in a shallow bowl. It will still be slightly lumpy - that's good.

                                                As for defrosting - in the 2 Tbsp. containers, it's somewhere in the 30-90 second time frame.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  Great, thanks for the tip now I can make more at once.

                                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                  As I mentioned upthread, I "roast" garlic by cooking whole cloves in oil over very low heat until soft and caramelized. Anyway, once cooked I just mash with a fork, or if I want a smoother final product I throw a bunch in the food processor. This is also a great way to do it if you want to incorporate another ingredient, such as butter (for a compound butter) or cream (to make a sauce). I had buttermilk in the fridge the other night and whizzed some of it with roasted garlic for a spread - the tangyness was quite good with the nutty sweetness of the garlic.

                                                3. re: LindaWhit

                                                  BTW ice cube trays are about 2tbsp for each cube... that's how I freeze pesto.... I take them out of the tray once frozen and keep in a ziploc freezer bag.

                                          2. I know it varies on the particularly dish and personal tastes and roasted garlic is milder than other forms but does anyone have any examples of how much roasted garlic per dish? For example, if you were make a standard sized casserole of mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese how much roasted garlic would you start off with? Are multiple heads at the extreme? My SO requests I throw it in like candy. We made mashed potatoes a few weeks ago and used a head (it was about 2lbs of potatoes post-boiling and mashing) and couldn't really detect the flavor.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                              I would think a couple of heads would be too much for a recipe. I would use maybe 3 good sized cloves, at the most.
                                              It also depends on how big the heads are.

                                              1. re: wyogal

                                                OK, thanks. Wow, I usually toss a head in my marinated chicken breasts (usually 1 -1.25 lbs) although perhaps my yield has been lower since I haven't been able to get most of the garlic out of the head let alone mashed.

                                                1. re: wyogal

                                                  See, I disagree entirely - I find the flavor of roasted garlic extremely mild, and I would use at least a head in two lbs of potatoes, maybe more. It's definitely a personal taste thing. If you found one head too mild, try two next time ;)

                                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                  I agree with wyogal - a whole head of roasted garlic in just 2 lbs. of potatoes would be a lot. I personally wouldn't want it so overwhelming with garlic.

                                                  Depending on the size of the outside cloves of the head of garlic, perhaps 3 or 4? But it sounds like you and your SO like it on the heavy-duty side.

                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                    For garlic mashed potatoes I actually just throw in the cloves (not roasted, raw ones that have been cut in half) with the potatoes when boiling them, and then mash them up all up. It produces really great garlic flavor. I usually use 4-5 cloves.

                                                    Also I think once you perfect your roasting technique, you'll get a better flavor yield.

                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      Probably very similar to putting raw cloves in the potato water, but I heat mine in the milk/cream along with a bay leaf.

                                                    2. I've had the same problems.

                                                      I do this on my charcoal grill. In my experience the key to creaminess is time, time and time. 1-2 hours sounds fair.

                                                      I cheat a bit though. I initially cover the whole things in foil with a thick slice of butter and a sprinkle of salt on top, or cook them on a bed of salt under a lid. Before serving I brown them under the grill for a couple of minutes to make them look golden and nice.
                                                      This prevents them from drying out during the prolonged cooking, which can be the reason you can't squeeze them out.

                                                      Mine usually oozes out like hot apple mouse. If not, I use the handle of a teaspoon to scoop out each individual clove.

                                                      You should eat a lot of this stuff as it's really, really healty. It's also the best remedy I know for improving flatulence.

                                                      1. It went very well! Thank you for all of the tips. I roasted at 350F for 45 minutes and instead of gauging doneness via color I used softness as recommended here and it was perfectly soft at this time with a hint of brown. Removed from the oven and mashed much easier than before! Quite delicious...I think this stuff might be the equivalent of crack.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                            It IS like crack!
                                                            Only with crack you don't get the unwanted side effects of BO and flatulence of mass destruction.

                                                            1. re: Grunde

                                                              True, although I think the crack feeling far outweighs the aftereffects but you might want to ask my SO...although he indulges as well so perhaps I should poll my coworkers.

                                                          2. Roast it twice as long at 300 degrees and it will come out soft and spreadable

                                                            1. I have found this very successful:
                                                              Cut the top off the head.
                                                              Wrap in foil keeping the cut part exposed.
                                                              Drizzle olive oil over the cut part slowly enough that it flows between the cloves. If you don't use enough, the cut tops will get hard.
                                                              Close the top leaving a 1/4inch hole where the foil is gathered together. If you don't do this, it will steam and not roast.
                                                              Roast for about an hour (depending on size) at 350.