3 Times You Do NOT Need to Mince Your Garlic

updated Jan 29, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Love it or hate it, mincing garlic is the best way to guarantee that every bite of your food is infused with sweet, pungent garlic flavor. Still, mincing is arduous, and the garlic stinks up just about everything it touches and sticks everywhere (especially when you’re chopping a lot of it!). On the nights when you just cannot muster the patience to mince, we’d like to remind you that it’s totally fine to lean on shortcuts like jarred minced garlic or frozen garlic, but we have even better news: There are times when you can skip the mincing altogether, even when a recipe calls for it.

Whole, Sliced, or Minced: When to Use What

But before we get to the shortcuts, it’s helpful to understand how garlic’s different forms affect its flavor. When you slice or smash garlic, you break down the cells inside the clove, which starts a chemical reaction. It’s this reaction that makes garlic garlicky. The more cells you break, the stronger the flavor — so finely minced garlic will be more pungent than smashed cloves.

Sliced or crushed cloves are easier to caramelize in a little hot oil, making them sweeter in the finished dish. Chopped or minced garlic distribute flavor in dishes, but also burn easily. A final watch-out: Grating garlic can save tons of time (and gives you all the benefits of minced garlic with less work), but it turns bitter quickly when it’s overcooked. Save it for recipes that call for fresh, raw garlic, like salad dressings.

Now that you’re clear on when to use what, let’s dive into when to skip the mincing.

1. Skip mincing for soups, stews, and braises.

Since stewing and braising both involve long, slow cooking, there’s no need to mince the garlic. The broth will effectively break down the cloves. To maximize flavor, give the cloves a hearty smash before throwing them into the pot. Quick-cooking soups also benefit from smashed whole cloves, but just be sure to fish them out of the broth before serving.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Try slicing for quick pan pastas and sautés.

Slicing cloves of garlic is easier and less messy than mincing and will still give you a boost of flavor. Cook sliced garlic in olive oil or butter until caramelized to build flavor for the base of a dish. Or, fry sliced garlic in oil, use the oil to sauté vegetables or as a quick sauce for pasta or rice, then garnish with the crunchy garlic chips.

3. Grate garlic for salad dressings and marinades.

You can mimic the powerful flavor of minced garlic by grating the garlic on a fine grater, like a Microplane or the small side of a box grater. Grated garlic is easy to overcook, which will make it bitter, so save it for stuff like salad dressings and marinades.

When do you skip mincing for smashing, slicing, and grating?