Who doesn’t love adding a clove or two (or 10) of garlic to savory meals? Learning how to store garlic properly is the best way to make sure we’re getting the most flavor out of the delightfully pungent bulbs for as long as possible. The last thing we want is to find ourselves in the middle of cooking only to discover our garlic has started to sprout. Luckily, we’ve got some super easy tips to keep in mind to make garlic last.
How long can we store fresh garlic?
According to the experts at the University of California, Davis, the garlic we pick up at the grocery store is usually softneck garlic. If you grow your own, it’s likely the hardneck variety that also produces a green stalk or “scape.” They both have the same familiar taste we all enjoy, but a head of softneck garlic has numerous smaller cloves while hardneck has fewer, larger bulbs. (Fun fact: Elephant garlic, known for its giant cloves, isn’t technically garlic at all. It’s closer to the leek family.)
Whether you have soft or hardneck, the whole heads should last about five or six months when stored properly. Once you break them open, however, the shelf life for any remaining cloves diminishes to just about 10 days.
How do you keep garlic fresh longer?
Garlic thrives in cooler temperatures (around 60 degrees Fahrenheit). Finding a dark, well ventilated area in your kitchen is the best way to keep any type of whole garlic fresh for several months. Although putting them in a drawer might sound ideal, food author and chef Jerry James Stone cautions against it. He explains this likely won’t allow for enough ventilation and cause the garlic to spoil faster. Instead, keep your garlic in your pantry or in a spot on the counter that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. On average, they’ll last for six months in those cases.
You should also be sure to take them out of plastic bags, like the kind found in most produce aisles, so that they can get air. On the other hand, it’s totally fine to leave them in paper bags, mesh bags, or anything else that has plenty of holes or room for air to move around.
What is the best garlic keeper?
Garlic keepers are handy tools to make sure your garlic is always in a well-ventilated, low-light environment. They are usually made of ceramic and have holes that allow air to get in. Many of them also happen to be adorable and don’t take up a lot of space on your counters.
Three of the highest-rated (and low-budget) garlic keepers are:
- Mud Pie Garlic Keepers (Buy on Amazon, $14.95)
- Fox Run Garlic Keeper (Buy on Amazon, $12)
- The Original Garlic Cellar (Buy on Amazon, $29.99)
Can garlic be stored in the refrigerator?
It might seem logical to toss your garlic in the fridge to keep it cool, but think again, this can actually cause them to speed up the sprouting process. The only time you might want to consider storing them in the fridge is if you happen to live in a warmer climate. In that case, using the crisper drawer is the best bet, but you’ll still need to check them every couple days to make sure they haven’t sprouted.
Food blogger CiCi Li also recommends peeling bulbs and storing them in an airtight container if you need to use the fridge. This will also help you store garlic without getting the smell all over the rest of your food.
Can you freeze fresh garlic?
It may sound odd, but the experts at UC Davis claim it’s perfectly alright to freeze whole heads of garlic, peeled or unpeeled. They also suggest chopping or mincing the cloves and placing them in a plastic zip bag. The garlic will essentially form into solid sheet as it freezes, but you can break off bits or use a grater to add as much as you want for recipes.
Li has a similar recommendation with a slight twist: Use an ice cube tray filled with minced garlic and a little oil. Each cube can hold about two cloves worth of the minced bulbs. The frozen oil and garlic mixture will be easy to pop out and use when you’re ready to cook. These methods should help your garlic last for up to a year, but the intensity of the flavor will fade over time.
Preserving garlic in oil works best in the freezer. When stored in the fridge, it will only last about four days before going bad. You should never store garlic peels in oil at room temperature — that creates an “ideal environment for Clostridium botulinum,” the bacteria that causes botulism. No one wants to serve that up for dinner!
How can you tell when garlic goes bad?
Whichever storage method you choose, keeping an eye out for signs your garlic has gone bad is important. Spotting little green sprouts shooting out of the cloves is one of the most obvious indicators it’s past its prime. The good news is those sprouts are also harmless, so it’s not a huge deal if you eat any, but it will give the garlic a much more bitter flavor.
Removing sprouts before cooking can help salvage bulbs that haven’t gone totally bad yet, but they will have likely lost a lot of their pungent punch at that point. If you notice the garlic has gotten squishy, acquired some brown spots, or the smell has shifted to a more sour aroma, it’s best to just toss them in the trash rather than your dish.
Aside from the room temperature garlic and oil mixture we mentioned in the above section, food poisoning from garlic is rare. Still, it’s best to avoid any risk of illness (and a ruined recipe) with off-looking garlic.
Now you have all the information you need to enjoy garlic and keep it fresh as long as possible. If you want some inspiration on how to use your bulbs, take a look at our recipes for melting potatoes, roasted garlic veggie bake, or fennel and garlic roasted chicken and potatoes!
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