Here's Why Your Garlic Shouldn't Smell Like Garlic

There's nothing worse than starting a delicious recipe, only to realize part-way through that you're out of garlic, or that your garlic has gone soft, moldy, or started sprouting little green shoots. Luckily, you can postpone this eventuality for as long as possible by choosing the freshest garlic on offer and storing it properly, which starts with a simple sniff.

According to Cook's Illustrated, fresh heads of garlic at the store shouldn't smell like garlic at all, since that smell is brought about when the plant's cells are damaged. Of course, that's exactly what you want when you're smashing cloves of garlic into a paste for a stir-fry, but in the store, a garlicky smell is a sure sign that the head of garlic you're holding is closer to spoilage, so it might be worthwhile to grab another. Of course, choosing the right head of garlic involves more senses than just smell.

How to pick the freshest garlic

Even before you pick up a clove of garlic to smell it for freshness, you can ensure more flavor and brightness by seeking out locally grown garlic, particularly when it's in season between June and August (via Food Network). Then, use your eyes to check for signs that the garlic you're looking at has gone bad. You'll want to avoid any obviously moldy or sprouting heads, and any with soft, wet, sagging, or broken skin (via Berkeley Wellness). Once you've selected a head that looks good and doesn't smell, give it a quick squeeze to ensure the cloves inside feel firm and dense. This will help you avoid garlic that's gone soft, or dried up (via Epicurious).

Finally, once you get your garlic home, storing it correctly will help to keep it fresher for longer. This means keeping the garlic in a cool, dry place with plenty of ventilation, like in a hanging mesh bag in the garage or basement, or in a ceramic garlic keeper in your pantry (via Fine Cooking). Also avoid storing your garlic in a sealed container like a plastic bag, or in the refrigerator. With these tips, you should have no trouble making your garlic last for at least a few weeks (via Cook's Illustrated).