A 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic equals one clove. Alternatively, you can use 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic flakes, an 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic juice or 1/4 teaspoon of granulated garlic. However, certain dishes benefit from different ways of preparing garlic, and there are different varieties of garlic to choose from.
Whole vs. Crushed vs. Minced
The secret to what makes garlic delicious is the sulfuric compounds that give it such a strong taste and aroma. The more those compounds are exposed to air,
the stronger the garlic taste. Because of this, ingredients like garlic paste or minced garlic lead to a strong garlic flavor, while whole garlic adds a mild and sweet hint of garlic. Chopped garlic is fairly exposed to air, so it’s closer to minced garlic in taste. Crushed garlic is only somewhat exposed and therefore isn’t as strong. This is why only a 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic can carry the same amount of flavor as an entire clove — its increased exposure to air makes it that much more powerful.
There are two main types of garlic: softneck and hardneck. Softneck garlic is the most common in grocery stores and has a soft stem that can be entwined with other garlic stems to create that famous braided garlic look. It’s best used in recipes that require large amounts of garlic, both because it’s usually more affordable and because the milder flavor is more easily concealed. Examples of good foods for softneck garlic include
sauces, soups, stews and braises. It also performs well raw, making it great for dips and salad dressings. The two most common types of softneck garlic are silverskin, a versatile and easily-braided variety, and artichoke, which stays fresh longer.
Hardneck garlic cannot be braided due to its stiff central stalk, known as a scape. While it produces fewer cloves than softneck garlic, the bulb is usually larger. Hardneck garlic tends to be more expensive and harder to find. Because of its stronger, even spicy flavor, it goes best in dishes that need a powerful garlic taste, such as garlic bread, pizza, garlic butter, garlic potatoes and meat.
You may see other kinds of garlic in supermarkets, but they’re usually
not truly distinct from hardnecks and softnecks. Garlic scapes are actually the flowering stems of hardneck garlic, while spring garlic is simply garlic that was planted in spring rather than summer, changing its developmental rhythm. Wild garlic and elephant garlic aren’t actually types of garlic at all, but rather onions and leeks respectively.
Choosing and Preparing Garlic
While softneck garlic is available year round, hardneck garlic is often seasonal due to its growing in a colder climate. Look for large, firm bulbs with tight cloves at the grocery store. Avoid dry or peeling garlic. Local garlic from a farmers’ market or other source tends to be firmer and have a milder flavor and is usually available in spring or summer.
Once you begin preparations for cooking, look out for green stems in the garlic — depending on your tastes, this could mean the garlic has grown too bitter. Either way, the stem should be removed before consuming. If formerly white garlic turns bluish green while cooking, don’t be alarmed. This happens when garlic comes into contact with acids, but it does not change the flavor. Be careful not to burn garlic. While roasted garlic is delicious, burned garlic is bitter and unappetizing. Finally, remember that with garlic, less is more. Adding too much of the ingredient can quickly ruin an otherwise excellent meal.