If you enjoy trying new dishes with bold, delicious flavors, you might have noticed a pattern: recipes rarely tell you to toss garlic in a dish first. But why is that?
Garlic is almost always added after you’ve begun cooking other aromatics, like celery and carrots, to prevent it from overcooking or burning.
Those who have cooked with minced garlic before are likely well aware that it burns incredibly fast. Unlike onions, which get a delicious caramelization effect as they cook, overcooked garlic is acrid and not the most savory flavor. Adding garlic after you sauté other ingredients can help prevent that burnt flavor from invading your recipe.
Unlike onions and other aromatics, garlic has less water content which is why it’s so prone to burn. When you start your dish with an ingredient like onions, they release water into the pan. By creating that layer in the pan and then adding garlic, you’ll help prevent burning.
Worried about if cooking your garlic later will mean less garlic flavor? Don’t be. In a test done by Serious Eats, garlic was added to a pan at the same time as onions in one dish, and in another dish, the onions were sauteed first with garlic added second. Turns out, adding garlic to a recipe later actually results in more garlic flavor, not less.
The next time you’re tempted to add your garlic first because you think it’ll boost flavor, think again.