The Real Reason You Keep Burning Your Garlic

Garlic is one of the most essential and versatile additions to savory dishes. While technically a vegetable, Healthline says, garlic is often thought of as an herb or spice because of how powerful it is: a little bit of this bulb gives meals tons of flavor. It doesn't stop there, either. According to the Cleveland Clinic, garlic boosts immunity, works as an anti-inflammatory, improves cardiovascular health, and can even help your skin.

With that in mind, you might want to add garlic to everything, but that almost never means throwing it into a pasta or meat dish raw. This is where the struggle gets real: garlic burns super easily. As Bon Appétit points out, smaller bits of anything cook faster and therefore can burn before other elements of your dish are properly heated. Cloves of garlic are already small, and depending on what you're preparing, those cloves will be diced, minced, sliced, or grated even smaller. Plus, HuffPost notes that garlic has a low water content, also cutting down its cook time. 

Whether you're adding garlic to your stir fry or building a sauce on it, you're running the risk of scorching it before your vegetables, meats, carbs, and/or liquids are cooked to where you want them. My Recipes notes, too, that burnt garlic is automatically past the point of no return. As little as ten seconds too long over a flame and you're left with blackened bits that are just hard and bitter, sure to ruin your dish.

Garlicky goodness without the burn or the stress

A meal without garlic is a meal without that irresistible flavor and added health boosts, though, so what can you do to keep it in play without burning it? Luckily, there are a few easy steps to cut the stress and ensure perfectly cooked garlic, even if you're not a master chef.

With dishes like stir fries, you can add your garlic mid-way through cooking instead of first, Bon Appétit suggests. With many recipes, though, you want to first cook your garlic in some liquid, like lemon juice or olive oil, to really release its full potential. Here, preparation is key. You want to have your liquid and any other element you're cooking with the garlic, like onions, ready to throw in the moment the garlic starts to turn golden, says If you have to scramble to ready these other ingredients, your garlic will cook too long and burn.

To ensure an easier, more even cook, follow this advice from Epicurious, the "cold-pan trick." Instead of heating up oil and tossing in your garlic, add the liquid and garlic to a cold pan. Turn on the heat and wait a beat. Within ten to 20 seconds, you should see the garlic start its percolating action. From there, as you cook and add other ingredients, the most important thing to remember is stir, stir, stir. Don't let your garlic stand still, and you'll have a deliciously garlicky dish without feeling the burn.