How to Cook Garlic

How to Chop a Carrot is back from unplanned hiatus with one of my favourite ingredients – garlic!

Garlic is part of the same family as onions (link), spring onions (link), and leeks (link). It’s a great way to add flavour to a dish, and can even help boost your immune system!

Fresh garlic grows in bulbs with thin, papery skin. You can peel the skin off by hand, and break the bulb into individual cloves.

Hand drawing of a bulb of garlic

The cloves themselves also have a layer of skin. To remove it, slice off the thickened, fibrous part of the clove that connected it to the rest of the bulb. You should then be able to peel off the rest of the skin by hand.

41.2 Garlic clove

Whole cloves of garlic are delicious roasted – they caramelise and go all gooey and delicious! Simply pop the peeled whole cloves in with the rest of your roast.

To cook garlic more quickly, you can slice it thinly. Place the peeled clove of garlic on the flattest side, and cut slices as thin as you can.

Hand drawing of a peeled clove of garlic with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

However, since garlic has such a strong flavour, you may prefer to crush the cloves. You can use a garlic press (simply place the peeled cloves in the press and squeeze) or a pestle and mortar.

Preparing garlic can be quite fiddly (and make your hands smell of garlic) so whilst it’s a great skill to learn, you may prefer to use a pre-prepared ingredient for everyday cooking. I happen to like powdered garlic, but you can also get garlic preserved in oil. (Because water takes up most of the volume of fresh garlic, you need less than a third the volume of powdered garlic.)

There are two important things to remember when cooking with garlic. One is that it has a very strong flavour. (I’m often unsure whether it counts as a spice or a vegetable myself.) Remember that you can always add more garlic, but you can’t add less.

The other thing to remember about garlic is that it can be very bitter if it burns. So you may want to add garlic along with other ingredients, and don’t forget to pay attention to your cooking.


Garlic goes with such a huge range of other ingredients that it’s well worth learning to cook with. It’s great with pasta and potatoes, all kinds of meats, and mushrooms too. It’s a great complement to many herbs, especially rosemary, and many spices (like ginger!). Why not give it a go in your next dish?