READER QUESTION: How do you feel about using chopped garlic from the grocery store? Cooks on TV don’t appear to ever use it?
There was a time when I would’ve said, “Never use pre-chopped garlic.” That time was before I made 3 meals a day, 7 days a week for a family of four, for more than a decade and counting. And also pre-Covid when my dad came by for dinner 4 times a week, and lunch, I would cook for him too. (Dad’s fine by the way, just social distancing.)
Fresh garlic, like any whole, raw ingredient in the kitchen, is less expensive than prepared counterparts, more environmentally friendly (no containers, no processing), and provides more opportunities in the kitchen. You can roast it whole, make some garlic bread, grate it raw into a zesty sauce, or fry it up to make a crispy, crunchy topping for pasta. For all these reasons, fresh is best.
But, I'll say this: pre-chopped garlic will work in pinch. It’s not going to sprout and you can keep it in your fridge for garlic emergencies. It is, however, pretty one note and it doesn’t impart the same zippy garlic flavors that fresh garlic does. But are you cooking for the Queen of England or just trying to get dinner on the table?
If you’re just tossing into a skillet or Dutch oven for a quick sauté with some onions it’s probably okay. I highly doubt anyone will know the difference. If they do, then you can designate them the family garlic peeler from that moment forward.
Because life is life and we are humans who sometimes get tired or busy or both, I’m not going to begrudge anyone a shortcut. As a matter of fact, I say, “High-fives for driving by the pizza place, skipping the drive-thru and making dinner at home – dirty dishes and all.”
~ Summer Miller, Senior Editor and a vocal proponent of kitchen short cuts