Why It Pays To Start Sautéed Garlic In Cold Oil

If there is one thing you don't want to mess up, it's sautéing your garlic. And unfortunately, garlic can be pretty easy to mess up. Minced, or in any other form, garlic is quick to turn brown and then burn, developing acrid flavors that ruin one of the most popular ingredients in cooking. 

A common solution is to just limit the cooking time for your garlic to a quick fry before you mix in other ingredients, but that leaves a lot of that garlic flavor on the table. A better trick is to toss it in the pan before you even turn on the heat.

Starting your sautéed garlic in cold oil greatly expands the margin of error for cooking and helps you avoid burning. Instead of hitting a sizzling hot pan and immediately starting to cook, the oil will gradually heat up, slowly cooking the garlic at lower temperatures before it begins to fully fry. This allows you to monitor the vegetable until it hits the exact lightly browned color you want, with a much lower risk of it burning when you look away from the pan for two seconds. It also means your meal is going to get more of the savory and robust flavor you desire.

Cold oil helps garlic fully infuse your dish with flavor without getting burned

Garlic burns quickly for a few reasons. Browning happens after moisture is driven off the surface of food, and garlic is pretty low-moisture to start. Minced or chopped garlic also has a lot of surface area being exposed to the heat of the oil, and the small size means it's going to heat up extremely fast. That makes garlic a ticking time bomb of bitter flavor that goes off in less than 30 seconds. Burnt flavors won't just mess up your garlic either, they can infuse an entire dish with an unpleasant, harsh taste. 

The longer time your garlic spends cooking in lower temperature oil also means more time for it to infuse the oil with flavor. As the oil heats up, it will have more time to draw all that delicious essence out as it breaks down the garlic, as opposed to just cooking the outside. So you don't just get better tasting, non-burnt garlic, you get better tasting oil too. 

Just make sure you are stirring the vegetable as it cooks. Even at lower temperatures, the direct heat from extended contact with the pan can risk burning it. That small risk aside, cold oil will make cooking garlic that much easier and ensure you're getting the most you can out of one of the best ingredients.