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Food: How to Store Garlic So You Can Have This Punchy Ingredient on Hand for All Your Cooking Needs

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Ah, garlic. When was the last time you whipped up a mouthwatering dinner that didn’t include at least one clove of this flavorful and indispensable cooking ingredient? Exactly—this pungent allium makes almost everything taste better and we basically can’t live without it. That’s why it’s high time we figure out how to store garlic the right way since it’s always hanging around our kitchen, just waiting to make us happy. Here’s how to do exactly that.

How to Store a Whole Head of Garlic

When stored under ideal conditions, a whole head of garlic can last for many months. These conditions aren’t exactly easy to come by, however. But if you cook often, you should have no trouble using up your garlic before it goes rancid or sprouts.

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1. Find a cool, dark home for your garlic. Garlic thrives best in an environment that has average humidity and consistent temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Unlike many other foods, colder storage does not make for a fresher clove (more on that below). It’s pretty hard to find a place that consistently registers such a moderate temperature during all four seasons, so you may have to get creative. But before you do, here are some tips:

  • Opt for a storage spot that’s closer to the floor since it will be cooler than one up high.
  • Avoid storing your garlic anywhere near the stove, oven or any other appliance that generates heat.
  • Keep heads of garlic out of direct sunlight at all costs.
  • Be aware that ventilation is another key factor. (That’s why garlic bulbs are usually sold in those funny mesh socks.) Whenever possible, store heads of garlic loose rather than in a bag and if you opt for the pantry, try not to crowd ‘em in with a dozen boxes of pasta.

2. Don’t refrigerate the bulbs. We touched on this above but it bears repeating: Cool is good, cold is bad. Do not store heads of garlic in the fridge if you can avoid it, as doing so is likely to result in sprouting. Garlic that has begun to sprout is still safe to consume, however, it’s likely to have an imperfect and somewhat bitter flavor that might upset a discerning palate (but it’s better than the rancid stuff that results from excessive heat). If you must refrigerate your garlic, aim to use it up within a week or two for optimal flavor.

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3. Keep the cloves together. Heads of garlic are resilient by design: When bundled up together inside their paper-thin skins, the cloves do an excellent job of weathering undesirable conditions. The same is not true once you break them apart, however. And sure, it’s a rare occasion that you would ever use an entire head of garlic in a single meal (unless you’re whipping up Ina’s chicken Marbella, that is), but the takeaway is this: If you’re the type to pull apart a head of garlic in search of cloves that are just the right size for your cooking purposes (raises hand), now is the time to stop doing so.

How to Store Peeled Garlic

Maybe you accidentally peeled more than you needed to for a recipe or perhaps you are hoping to get a head-start on tomorrow’s dinner. Either way, here’s how to store garlic once the skin has been removed so you can continue to cook with it for at least another day. Hint: This two-step storage solution even works for garlic cloves that have been breached by a knife (just don’t expect a long shelf-life).

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1. Peel the garlic cloves. If you don’t already have peeled garlic on your hands and are reading this with the intention of getting future prep work over with, start by peeling your cloves. If you so choose, you can also slice, dice or mince at this stage.

2. Store the cloves in an airtight container. Transfer the peeled garlic—whole or chopped—to an airtight storage container (glass is better than plastic since it is less likely to absorb odors) and stick it in the fridge. Seriously, though, airtight...unless you’re cool with garlic-scented milk in your cereal bowl. Peeled garlic will keep its delicious flavor for up to two days in the fridge, but try not to tempt fate—instead, aim to use it up within a day if possible.

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