It's no surprise that so many recipes call for garlic—it reliably adds delicious aroma and depth of flavor to whatever you're cooking. The popular allium has numerous health benefits due to the presence of allicin, the compound in garlic that's also responsible for its aroma. Preparing garlic in certain ways can both boost its flavor and enhance its health benefits. Read on to find out how to prepare and cook with garlic to for maximum potency—plus, how to cure garlic breath and get rid of smelly garlic hands.
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To get the most health benefits from garlic, always choose fresh over bottled. Allicin, a helpful immune-boosting and cancer-fighting compound, is most potent in fresh cloves. Japanese researchers found that crushed garlic stored in water lost about half its allicin in six days; stored in vegetable oil it lost that much in under three hours.
Cutting a garlic clove breaks its cells and releases stored enzymes that react with oxygen. That triggers healthy sulfide compounds, such as allicin, to form. Letting the chopped garlic stand for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking allows the compounds to fully develop before heat inactivates the enzymes.
Related: The Health Benefits of Garlic
The more you damage garlic's cell walls, the more sulfide-transforming enzymes you release—and with them, more pungent garlic flavor. Since crushing breaks the most cells, crushed garlic cloves taste stronger, whereas sliced or coarsely chopped garlic cloves taste milder. Intact garlic cloves are mildest of all. Mashing minced garlic with a pinch of coarse salt can help tame the harsh flavor.
Use the broad side of a knife to crush the clove and loosen it from the skin. Remove the skin, then trim the root end.
Follow the steps for crushing garlic. After removing the skin, chop the garlic, pushing the chopped garlic into a pile and wiping any that's collected on your knife blade back onto the cutting board. Continuously run your knife through the pile until the garlic pieces are minced to your desired size.
Follow the steps for crushing and mincing the garlic. Sprinkle the minced garlic with a generous pinch of salt. Use the broad side of the knife (or a fork) to press and smear until it's a paste. Need to mash lots of cloves at once? Simply peel the cloves, then them place in a zip-top bag. Press the air out of the bag, and use a rolling pin to mash multiple cloves.
Pictured Recipe: Garlic Lover's Rub
To get rid of garlic breath: Brush, floss, chew on some parsley, or drink milk—its fats and water help deodorize volatile compounds.
To get rid of garlic smell from your hands: Rub garlicky-smelling hands with a lemon wedge, salt, baking soda or maybe even a piece of stainless steel, like your kitchen faucet (molecules in steel are thought to block odor-producing reactions). Rinse hands well with water.