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How to soften garlic in olive oil on the stove top

I'm using a recipe that says to peel and cut in half 12 cloves of garlic and put it in half a cup of olive oil with bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. It says to turn the heat up to medium and when the oil starts bubbling, turn it down to low and let it bubble until the garlic is soften, "about 30 minutes."

I've attempted this twice now, and both times, my garlic burns (turns very brown) before it becomes soft. And then when I let it cool (which the recipe also says to do), it becomes rock hard! I don't understand what I'm doing wrong.

For the record, I am then supposed to strain the garlic, add a tbsp of the oil back into it, and mash it up into a paste to spread on top of a roast.

I guess another question would be if there is another method I can use to yield the same results. Can I microwave the garlic to soften it? Should I roast it? It just wouldn't have the same flavors as with the oil, bay leaf, etc. I'm so confused. Thanks!

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  1. I would roast it using all the same ingredients but much less oil (unless you need that much flavored oil for your recipe), and would also roast the garlic cloves whole and unpeeled -- they will smoosh out of their skins easily once roasted.

    1. Turn the heat down sooner... and lower.

      1. try 10 -15 minutes. then just turn off the heat and let cool in the oil.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jaykayen

          If 10-15 minutes aren't enough, you can always turn the heat on again for a few minutes and cook the cloves a little more.

        2. You have the heat too high and are essentially frying the garlic.
          I'd leave the cloves whole, use a very small sauce pan (1qt) and only let the oil "bubble" for a minute or 2 over medium heat. Then turn off the burner and let the garlic sit in the hot oil so that the residual heat sofens it. This will help prevent the garlic from browning.

          1. It would be easier to roast a whole bulb of garlic, drizzled with olive oil, wrapped in foil and placed in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 mins and then use the softened garlic mashed on your roast. Then you have the rest of the cloves to use in a variety of ways...dips, marinades, salad dressing, on vegetables, etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: HillJ

              Agreed, except I've never known a whole head of garlic to roast to appropriate softness in 15 minutes. It usually takes about 40-50 minutes. You can roast several heads at once, mash it up, and freeze what you don't need in small 2 Tbsp. increments.