The Important Step You're Missing When Peeling Garlic

To add garlic to any sort of dish, you probably peel it, cut it according to the recipe, then throw it in the pan to release its aroma and flavor. There are an array of tricks to peel garlic like a pro – including soaking the cloves overnight to loosen the skin — and a variety of ways to prepare the ingredient, such as chopping, crushing, or dicing the bulbs. However, there's one less-likely trick that you probably don't follow (yet!): Allow your peeled and cut garlic to rest before it goes into the pot or pan with the other ingredients. You might allow cooked meat to rest, but the reasons to give garlic a rest are far different. 

When garlic is cut, it releases its treasured enzymes, which then react with oxygen to form beneficial compounds such as allicin. In addition to flavor, allicin is packed with health benefits. It's thought to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and also reduce inflammation. In fact, some studies have found that it may even help prevent cancer. The caveat is that as soon as the cut garlic hits a hot pan, the heat destroys the enzymes that react to form allicin. This is why it's key to allow the garlic to rest so the allicin compounds can fully develop before cooking. A good rest also allows the garlic to develop stronger flavors.

Garlic doesn't have to rest for too long to lock in its health benefits

Allowing the garlic to rest will not delay your cooking process very much, but you may still want to plan ahead to allow for the extra time. After you peel and cut the cloves, set your garlic aside on the counter at room temperature. You only need to let it rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes to preserve those health benefits, according to most sources. These steps pertain to fresh garlic cloves, but you can also try it with store-bought peeled garlic to save you time and account for the resting period. Once properly rested, the benefits of the allicin will stay intact during cooking. 

There are also many tips for properly cooking with garlic so you don't waste all of that effort (and the resulting health benefits from the developed allicin). For example, try to buy the freshest garlic bulbs possible to get the strongest flavors and highest nutrient and allicin levels. And if you have extra garlic and don't know what to do with it, try using your minced garlic in Tasting Table's homemade garlic bread or garlic butter recipes. As far as any leftover garlic, follow our advice on how to keep garlic fresh.