Why You Should Let Chopped Garlic Relax Before Throwing It In A Pan

Known for its potent aroma and pungent flavor, garlic has added depth to recipes since ancient times, whether raw, powdered, sautéed, dried, or roasted. The super ingredient boasts a range of health benefits that are worth garlic breath — so many that the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, advocated it as natural medicine, per Healthline. Today's health experts seem to say he was right, with research suggesting that garlic can fight colds, lower blood pressure, and contribute to better heart health.

There are many ways to incorporate more garlic into your diet, but the secret to unlocking its super powers lies in how you prep it in its raw form. According to Eating Well, "coarsely chopped or sliced garlic cloves taste milder," while crushing the cloves to break their cell walls extracts the most pungent flavor. Whichever level of garlicky goodness you prefer, the magic words are "chop, then stop" — because studies at the American Institute for Cancer Research determined that letting chopped or crushed garlic rest at room temperature before cooking helps increase its cancer-fighting properties (via Deseret News).

Resting chopped garlic activates its medicinal compounds

Here's what actually happens. Cutting up a garlic clove releases an enzyme called alliinase, which reacts with oxygen to produce a sulfide compound called allicin. Allicin has anti-inflammatory and infection-fighting properties, explains Verywell Health. It has also been shown to prevent cancer development in cell and animal studies, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), and letting chopped garlic relax for about 15 minutes before cooking it allows these "cancer-preventive compounds" to fully develop before the heat deactivates the enzymes (via Deseret News).

AICR nutrition adviser Karen Collins confirms that this same principle applies to garlic that is prepped using a garlic press, as well as whole garlic bulbs that are sliced before being roasted whole in the oven. The key takeaway here is that giving your cut garlic a few minutes to rest unlocks its health benefits — but that doesn't mean you have to stand there twiddling your thumbs. While your sliced, minced, or crushed garlic sits, chop the rest of your ingredients or set the table, all the while knowing that your meal is about to be as nutrient-packed as possible.