Is Pre-Minced Garlic Just As Good As The Fresh Stuff?

Everybody wants to marry convenience and quality, and that's why we hope things like pre-minced garlic can replace fresh. Garlic is ubiquitous in cooking, ranking up there with salt and pepper as an ingredient that crosses cultural boundaries and works with almost any dish. It also happens to taste wonderful, and garlic devotees will be quick to add it even when it isn't called for. 

The only thing that holds most people up from dumping a cup of garlic in everything they make is that it's a bit of a pain to prepare. Garlic cloves are finicky and sticky, and mincing garlic can become a chore endured for the sake of a beloved ingredient. So the appeal of pre-minced garlic is pretty clear. Who wouldn't want to skip the chopping and scoop all their garlic from a jar that lasts in the fridge for months? 

The hesitation comes from the same place it does for most canned, jarred, or frozen ingredients: Is this actually good? Some things like pre-squeezed citrus juices are miles away from fresh, while canned tomatoes are often superior to those you'll get in a grocery store. For something as delicious and integral as garlic, only the best will do — so you need to know where pre-minced garlic falls on that spectrum.

Pre-minced garlic has less flavor than fresh

If you've been relying on pre-minced garlic in your cooking, you really are missing out. Garlic deteriorates rapidly after it has been cut and exposed to oxygen — even fresh garlic should only be crushed or cut right before it goes in the pan. Allicin, a component responsible for garlic's pungent flavor, will be strong at first and then lose its robust taste and aroma as it sits. Eventually, you'll barely be able to detect the garlic in your recipe, even if you add extra. Pre-minced garlic may be preserved in a jar, but it still loses flavor and won't bring the same punch to a dish.

There is another downside to pre-minced garlic, which is tied to that loss of flavor. To try and keep the garlic shelf-stable and retain its taste, jarred garlic will most likely have preservatives, which can lend the product a flavor that seems off. It's also pasteurized to prevent bacterial growth, but that process kills off compounds that make garlic taste good in the first place. If you're someone used to jarred garlic and like the flavor, we won't tell you to stop using it — but for people who want the best garlic taste, fresh is the only way to go.