Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
June 5, 2024 ·  5 min read

14 Mistakes to Avoid When Using Garlic

Garlic is a staple in many cuisines and most home kitchens. It has a sharp, distinct smell and flavor that compliments many foods like soup and sauces. It’s also the highlight in recipes like garlic bread and confit. Garlic can pack a punch or provide a subtle earthy flavor, depending on how it’s prepared, so it’s important to be aware of the common mistakes people make when they cook with garlic.

Choosing bad garlic

Cooking with garlic begins at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Look for fresh heads with firm cloves. If the bulb feels hollow, soft, or overly dry, skip it. Also, avoid cloves that are already sprouting; it’s a sign the head is old.

Read More: Why You Should Consider Eating Raw Garlic Daily

Peeling incorrectly

Man in the kitchen peeling garlic cloves
Photo: Unsplash+

If a recipe requires a lot of garlic, don’t bother peeling cloves one by one. Instead, place the bulb in a stainless steel bowl and place a second bowl over it like a dome. Hold the rims together and shake the bowls vigorously for at least 30 seconds for the peels to detach. Alternatively, you can shake the bulbs in a mason jar.

If you don’t need a whole bulb, you can simply use a wide knife to squish the clove, popping out the coating in the process.

Pressing instead of mincing

Garlic head next to a Garlic press
Photo: Counselling

Don’t automatically reach for the press every time a recipe calls for garlic. The pressing process intensifies the taste, which can overpower the other flavors in the dish. Pressed could also change the texture of the food so ensure it’s the better choice over mincing, slicing, or leaving the cloves whole.

Peeling before pressing

Garlic cloves next to a garlic press
Photo: Pixabay

Peeling garlic is tedious — and unnecessary. Just put it into the press  and the clove will naturally separate from the papery peel. Just take those pieces out and you’re all set to go.

Mincing incorrectly

Garlic and knife on a wooden chopping board
Photo: Unsplash+

Be mindful as you chop garlic and ensure you are making even slices. Or, if you are mincing, ensure the chunks are all uniform. Consistency is important since it allows all of the pieces to cook properly without any getting burnt or left too raw.

Using the garlic right away

Don’t rush to add your freshly cut garlic to the pan. Instead, let it rest for a about ten minutes to allow allicin and other immune-boosting-compounds develop. This can maximize the health benefits of garlic in your dish.

Read More: Delicious Garlic Asparagus Broccoli Soup

Buying jarred garlic

Garlic on White Ceramic Plate
Photo: Cats Coming

Yes, buying garlic that’s already peeled and minced is terribly convenient. However, the flavor of the jarred version is nowhere near as delicious as fresh. The cloves become more pungent when they are first cut, so the pre-minced’s taste has already lessened. Therefore, you may need more to have enough flavor in the dish, which means using more of this expensive product.

Using garlic powder

Powder is not a good substitute for the real deal. For one, it’s more mild and less potent. You may not be able to taste the garlic very well at all, so don’t become reliant on this variation.

Not using garlic powder

That being said, sometimes powdered garlic is preferred. For instance, it’s ideal for recipes that require even flavor, such as marinades and spice rubs. It’s also helpful in foods that need to be cooked for long periods of time so you don’t need to worry about cloves burning.

Adding it to the pan too early

Sauteing food in a wok
Photo: Pexels

Garlic cooks quickly and burning it can ruin the flavor. So in the case of stir-fries and the like, wait until the rest of the food is at least half-way cooked before adding the cloves. Or, if you’re making a sauce, add it soon before you add the liquid ingredients.

Burning it

Garlic pieces are small and they burn extremely easily. So keep the pan on low heat and let them cook slowly. Cooking too quickly on too high heat can result in burnt edges and raw insides.

Mixing up heads and cloves

Knife with a garlic head and cloves
Photo: ​​Ayesha Firdaus

Do not get confused between garlic heads/bulbs and cloves. It’s a simple difference but it could easily destroy a recipe. The head or bulb is the full garlic you buy at the grocery store. If you break one open, you’ll see individual segments, like the sections of an orange. These segments are called cloves.

Read More: Soup Made With 52 Cloves of Garlic Can Help Defeat Colds, Flu and Keep Immune System Fit

Improper storage

A basket filled with garlic
Photo: Colin Watts

This food can stay fresh for months if stored correctly. New season garlic, which is harvested in early summer, needs to be immediately refrigerated and used in a week. Dried garlic, the kind typically found in grocery stores, should be stored in a dry, dark area with good air-circulation at room temperature. Do not put it in the fridge or in plastic bags; this will make it rot faster. 

Underestimating the health benefits

Garlic on Wooden Table
Photo: Skitterphoto

This spice is not just delicious, but it’s full of potential health benefits, such as boosting the immune system, managing good heart health, improving bone health, managing weight, and even reducing the risk of cancer. Although you can receive the most benefits from raw garlic, cooked can also be beneficial. Most people don’t enjoy eating raw cloves, but consider recipes that require raw garlic such as dressings and pestos.

Read More: ‘Grandma’s’ Ginger, Onion, Garlic Tonic: Possible Health Benefits and How to Prepare


  1. “Mistakes You’re Making When Cooking Garlic.” Delish. Emilie Wade. November 6, 2019
  2. “14 Mistakes People Make When Using Garlic.” Daily Meal. Deirdre Mundorf. July 9, 2023
  3. “The Biggest Mistakes Everyone Makes When Cooking With Garlic.Mashed. Chris Heasman. April 23, 2019
  4. “What are the benefits of garlic?” Medical News Today. Amy McLean. April 2, 2024