In this article, we will learn about garlic, and more importantly, how it should be used in cooking. Garlic has been a part of human food and medicine for thousands of years. Today, it is a flavoring ingredient in most cuisines of the world. It is also known to impart many health benefits.
However, when it comes to maximizing the flavor or medicinal properties, using garlic in the right manner assumes utmost significance.
The strong smell, flavor, and health benefits of garlic are attributed to a few sulfur compounds, prominently allicin. These compounds are formed when two substances present in garlic, alliin and alliinase, interact.
This interaction happens only when raw garlic is chopped or crushed. It also takes a while, 5 to 10 minutes, for this interaction to be significant.
Let us simplify that. Allicin and other health-giving compounds of garlic are formed only when we chop or crush it, and then allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cooking.
As you would know, nutrients and other health-giving properties in food start to diminish in value as the food is cooked. The same is true about garlic. The wonderful allicin becomes a little less wonderful in cooked garlic.
However, luckily for us, modern research has proved that this loss of the health-giving properties of allicin can be minimized. For example, a study on the anti-cancer effects of garlic concluded that if crushed garlic is allowed to sit for 10 minutes before heating, it prevented the total loss of anticarcinogenic activity. (Source)
This knowledge of chopping garlic and letting it sit before cooking, gives us control over how much flavor & aroma it will add to the food.
Here are a few ideas:
- For only a hint of garlic in the dish, use whole garlic cloves.
- For a mild flavor, use roughly chopped garlic, and, for the full blast, finely chop or crush it.
A Word of Caution
Garlic is great when used in moderation, but its consumption can also lead to adverse effects for some people. Please use garlic only to flavor your food. If you want to use it as medicine, consult a qualified healthcare professional before doing so.