Find out how to prepare garlic to preserve its flavor and health benefits. Plus learn how to crush, mince and mash it, and get tips on how to fight garlic breath.
fresh garlic on a table

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 for maximum potency. Plus, learn how to cure garlic breath and get rid of smelly garlic hands.

1. Use Fresh Garlic, Not Bottled

garlic bulbs in bowl

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.

2. For Maximum Health Benefits, Cut Garlic and Wait

garlic on cutting board

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.

3. What's the Best Way to Prep Garlic: Crush, Mince or Mash?

crushing garlic in ziplock

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 coarsely chopped or sliced 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.

How to Crush Garlic

crushing garlic with knife blade

Instead of a garlic press, you can use a chef's knife to crush the garlic. With this method, you don't have to peel the garlic to remove the papery skin first, making it an efficient method.

To do this, lay the flat side of the knife on top of a clove of garlic. Place the heel of your hand toward the spine of the knife (not on top of the blade) and press down on the knife with the palm of your hand using your weight to smash it, separating the clove from the skin. Remove the skin, then trim the root end.

How to Mince Garlic

mincing garlic

Follow the steps for crushing garlic. After removing the skin, finely 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.

How to Mash Garlic into a Paste

mashing garlic with knife

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 remove the cloves from the garlic bulb, peel the cloves, then place them in a zip-top bag. Press the air out of the bag, and use a rolling pin to mash multiple cloves.

4. How to Get Rid of Garlic Breath and Garlic Smell from Hands

Garlic Lover's Rub

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.

Watch: How to Make Broccoli & Kale with Toasted Garlic Butter