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Is whole, crushed, or chopped garlic all the same?

November 11, 2010
Did you notice some recipes call for whole garlic, some for crushed garlic, while others require chopped garlic? Do you think it is all the same? Well, not really. Garlic is made of thousands of tiny cells containing a compound called alliin. When the walls of these cells are ruptured by cutting into a clove for instance, alliin reacts with oxygen in the air and enzymes located outside the cells to produce the pungent taste and aroma so characteristic of garlic. The more ruptured cell walls, the more reactions are triggered and the stronger the taste. For this reason the strength spectrum of garlic follows this order, from subtle to strong: whole clove, chopped, crushed, puréed. Also note that heat has an impact on the taste and pungency of garlic. Cooked garlic is mellower than raw garlic, and burnt garlic develops a strong bitter taste which can ruin a dish. This is why, when sautéing food, you should always add garlic toward the end of cooking rather than at the beginning to prevent any burning in hot oil.

As I am a garlic fanatic I tend to use a lot of it, crushed with my garlic press for maximum flavour and added at the end of cooking so it keeps all its piquant. If you don't have a garlic press and like me enjoy a strong flavour, crush your garlic by hand. It is very easy and much faster than chopping. Home economist and friend Cathrin Cochrane taught me the technique on how to do this, which I am sharing with you here:
1.Place an unpeeled garlic clove on a chopping board. Using the flat edge of a wide knife blade press down with the palm of your hand to loosen the skin
2.Discard the skin and roughly chop the garlic into small pieces
3.Sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of salt and place the knife blade flat on top of one edge of the chopped garlic
4.Press down with the blade and make short, sharp scraping motions against the board to crush the garlic. Continue until all the garlic is crushed.
After you have transferred the garlic to the dish, add a bit more salt on the chopping board to recuperate any remaining garlic juice, and sprinkle into the dish. VoilĂ !!

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