Here's Why You Should Never Meal Prep Garlic

There's something uniquely satisfying about meal-prepping. Whether it's the organization, the colorful mix of foods, or the thought of saving time and money, meal-prepping is definitely aspirational to those of us who, even when working from home, still can't seem to get it down.

Of course, if you've managed to make meal prepping a part of your routine, you've undoubtedly learned that not all dishes, or even ingredients, will stay fresh and tasty for a whole week in the fridge. Take garlic, for instance. It makes everything better, right? Well, not necessarily when it's part of your meal prep.

It turns out the way you cut, cook, and store garlic dramatically impacts its flavor and therefore your dish. For instance, freshly minced garlic has much more potent smell and flavor than a clove that's been sliced (via Eat This, Not That!). Then, leaving that potent, minced garlic to sit in the fridge will lead to changes in that flavor over time. Or, in the words of Cook's Illustrated, "DON'T chop garlic in advance. In tests, we've found that since garlic flavor comes from the compound allicin — which is released and starts to build only when the cloves are ruptured — the longer cut garlic sits, the harsher its flavor."

How to store garlic so you save money and don't get sick

While fresh minced garlic might not be a great choice for meal preps, a head of garlic can last for weeks if stored properly. According to Cook's Illustrated, that means keeping your heads of garlic in "a cool, dark place with plenty of air circulation to prevent spoiling and sprouting." If you don't have a root cellar handy, you might be eyeing the fridge, but that would be too cold. Instead, Bon Appétit recommends the pantry, or a similar place in your house.

Finally, it's important to never store chopped garlic in oil, even if it's in the fridge. You might assume it's okay from seeing those jars of pre-minced garlic at the supermarket, but this is actually a great way to contract botulism since the oxygen-free environment is where that kind of bacteria can easily grow (via NPR). So, it's all-around better (for both your wallet and your health) to store your garlic as a whole head, and to only chop as much as you need.