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The Controversial Cooking Question That Over 1 Million People Have Wondered

September  4, 2017

No matter what article or recipe we've just pushed live on the site or promoted through email or on Instagram and Facebook, there is one page on Food52 that is almost constantly in the list of ten URLs with the most real-time viewers.

It's from four years ago and it's entirely unedited.

The Hotline thread "How much minced garlic equals one clove?" has 1,123,671 views since it was posted sometime in 2012. It's the first page that comes up when you type the question into Google, which means a lot of people really do want to know just how much minced garlic equals one clove.

So what's the answer?

One head of garlic, minced. Photo by James Ransom

Well, it's not cut and dry: It depends on how finely minced the garlic is, and even if the chop is standardized, clove size may vary. For ChefOno,

"clove" [is] a useless measurement. Look at the variation on this page—anywhere from 1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon—that's a variation of 1200%. I use the conversion of 1 clove equals 1 teaspoon. I believe Cook's Illustrated does the same.

What's more interesting than the non-answer answer (1 clove is equal to 1 teaspoon... kind of, sometimes, maybe... but in the end all depends on your taste, anyway: vampires versus garlic fiends) is the judgment that is scattered throughout the thread.

Take the answer that's been "voted the best" as an example: "Answer" would be a generous term, actually. It's more like a withholding of information:

Sorry, I would toss the "packaged" garlic that has chemical preservatives in it in favor of spending the 20 seconds it takes to chop or mince fresh real garlic cloves.

But riding alongside this judgment is a rebuttal:

It's quite a bit longer than 20 seconds and if it's ORGANIC garlic then there aren't any preservatives.

Freshly chopped. Photo by James Ransom

And that's just the most visible squabble. One commenter wrote, "You will never get the flavor of fresh garlic from a jar, so, there is no equivalent." But then we have another Food52er in New Zealand who explained that she uses pre-minced garlic because fresh garlic is so expensive where she lives (and because she likes to add a lot).

Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars.
Anthony Bourdain, International Man of Kitchen Mystery

These strong convictions about garlic reminded me of Anthony Bourdain's (in)famous Kitchen Confidential garlic credo:

Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago, garlic that has been smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. [...] Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.

Do we care so much about garlic, in particular, because it's the flavor basis of many dishes, so that taking a shortcut at the foundation means unstable architecture later on? Or is it because chopping garlic is one of the most menial, least pleasurable, smelliest of tasks, and a refusal to do so indicates a resistance to work for our food? Or is it because a failure to appreciate the difference between freshly-chopped and factory-chopped garlic is emblematic of a greater failure to discern between "good" food and "bad" food in general?

Four (leaf) clove(r)s. Photo by Mark Weinberg

The pre-minced garlic shortcut seems more offensive than canned beans (perhaps because dried beans take so long to cook). But what about store-bought pie dough: Is that more or less egregious than a jar of garlic? Considering that pie dough is hard to get right whereas chopping garlic is hard to get wrong, the premade crust would probably be less snubbed. For me, personally, I'd rather cut butter into flour than chop 3 cloves. So, where do we draw the shortcut line?

I also couldn't help but wonder about the millions of people who did have the same question as Sean,Murray, the Food52 user who originally asked. Isn't it possible that many were, let's say, following recipes that called for 3 or 4 teaspoons minced garlic and questioning if they'd have to run out to the store to buy another head or if the 1 clove would do? Maybe most of the curious minds weren't reaching into jars at all.

Applause to anyone that is trying to be a better home chef, no matter what kind of garlic you are using.
Food52er rldougherty

Or maybe they were. Is it a sin? (We're not asking you, Bourdain.) I'd certainly go for the jar or the press if I wanted to make a double-batch of Braised Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Garlic (12 cloves) or Chilled English Pea Soup with Garlic Cream (two heads).

As rldougherty put it, "Yes, fresh garlic is best. Applause to anyone that is trying to be a better home chef, no matter what kind of garlic you are using."

I'd have to agree.

But how many teaspoons of minced garlic from 3 whole heads? Photo by Mark Weinberg

What do you think? Is using pre-minced garlic a cardinal cooking sin? What's a cooking shortcut you'd never use?

This article was originally published in 2016.

121 Comments

emily March 19, 2018
Let me preface this by saying I’m an avid Home cooker. Very avid. I agree with Bourdain and Rldougherty. I applaude any one who is trying to cook at home whether it be a newbie or basically a chef. But... I also feel like the only people who deserve the absurdly wonderful taste of garlic to grace their taste buds are the ones that battle that awful garlic peel and painstakingly mince that beautiful bitch. But... again... we are human and who can resist such a blessing that is pre minced garlic on a desperately busy night. So I believe there is room for both in this crazy world. (Though we ALL know fresh is best 💁🏻‍♀️) You do you cheffy loves!!! May your soufflés never collapse and your pies never be soggy.
 
jax420 March 18, 2018
I would think that anyone who is reading/commenting on an article on Food52 is interested enough in his or her food that it would suffice to give an estimate as to how much garlic one likes in a recipe. For my mom, she would look at a given recipe which called for 3 cloves and only add one. For my mother-in-law, she might add 4. Both would be delicious! However, the idea of taking something from it’s natural state that is so simple to prep and putting it in a plastic jar, I can understand Bourdain’s perspective. One of my favorite methods is the smash and drop! Less than 10 seconds from whole head to prepped product and the garlic flavor is distributed better than mincing.
 
Millie J. March 18, 2018
Can you describe "smash and drop"? I've never come across that term, and I use a lot of garlic so it sounds very helpful.
 
Joseph W. March 18, 2018
inho there is a better way to use garlic.. i just confit garlic and put it in a jar with the oil. then add garlic to taste in all my cooking ?<br />
 
Margaret L. September 25, 2017
There was a time, back in the Reagan era, when I thought no one could ever get tired of garlic -- it seemed absurd, like the time that Women's Wear Daily foolishly declared that thyme was "out" and rosemary was "in!" Chicken with 40 cloves was a personal specialty when it was pretty much unheard of. <br /><br />Then I spent several of the past 15 years traveling in the US for work, eating in hotels not of my own choosing, where every mediocre dish that was thawed in the kitchen was made palatable by the over-use of garlic until I can barely stand it anymore. The smell of garlic fries at the ballpark in San Francisco makes me queasy. I am proof that it is possible for a genuine food lover with Italian cred to go off the garlic bandwagon. I still use garlic at home, but in moderate amounts and not when it can easily be left out. Let this be a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks their love affair with garlic can never, ever lose its bloom.<br /><br />Now I have a question. I have never, even in my greatest garlic-loving days, enjoyed mincing garlic. It's sticky. It's tiny. If I forget to clean my hands by clutching the chef's knife's blade (or some other stainless steel) under cold running water, my hands smell oppressive. One day a couple of years ago I got the bright idea to use the microplane to make garlic paste rather than battling it with a knife. Now I plane a clove or two when needed rather than trying to mince it. My question is, does anyone think this changes the flavor? Is a clove of minced garlic significantly different from a microplaned clove? It seems milder to me when prepped into more of a paste, stonger when sliced into fine slivers, but maybe it's just my imagination? Has anyone else tried this?
 
asbrink September 25, 2017
This article might help!<br />http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/01/how-to-mince-chop-garlic-microplane-vs-garlic-press.html
 
Millie J. September 26, 2017
Margaret, how do you microplane a little-bitty clove of garlic without also microplaning your fingers?
 
Margaret L. September 26, 2017
Millie, if I start at one end rather than with the clove oriented the long way on the plane, I end up with just a tiny nub. My fingers have never really had a problem :-)
 
Margaret L. September 26, 2017
asbrink, thank you -- very helpful! There's just one test the author didn't do, and I wish he had. All alliums lose their pungency somewhat when exposed to air. The onion that takes the cook's breath away at first loses some potency as it sits on the cutting board. And it might stand to reason that the more finely a garlic clove is cut/minced/crushed/planed, the earlier it would show more pungency but also lose it faster. In the interests of culinary science, we may need to investigate further!
 
asbrink September 26, 2017
He actually answered a question about that in the comments!!<br /><br />Daniel Gritzer<br />6:24PM on 01/09/15<br />@unixrab That is true, as minced garlic sits its flavor changes. I prepared all my samples very quickly to minimize the amount of time any of them sat in relation to the others. I also reversed the order between minced and microplaned, so that in one test I minced first, and in another I microplaned first. It didn't have a significant effect—given the short amount of time I was working in, their qualities in relation to each other were consistent.
 
asbrink September 26, 2017
Millie, I hold it by that little stem end and end up with the little nub you always slice off anyway.
 
kjdirth September 25, 2017
I would have to say that 1 teaspoon sounds about right. The cloves in a head of garlic tend to range from about 1/2 Tablespoon to 1/4 teaspoon. That is only for writing down a recipe. Garlic is measured more by preference than the teaspoon. I tend to add more than the recipe calls for, if I am actually following a recipe. Recipes are guides and cooking is an adventure.
 
mike September 24, 2017
Please stop.
 
Ray B. September 23, 2017
The French chef-owner of our local gourmet restaurant and inn used to keep a couple of small frying pans on the back of the stove with garlic sauteing in olive oil. The aroma of garlic used to permeate the air in and out of the restaurant and made the whole village salivate. The power of garlic cannot be denied!
 
JF C. September 23, 2017
How can I stop emails for new comments? Un-checking the box doesn't do it!
 
Beijing September 23, 2017
I buy a jar of pre-peeled garlic at the Chinese grocery. I take part of the jar and whip the cloves thru the food processor. I get 2/3 cup or so. I put garlic in everything, and it can last a week or two? I love opening the fridge and having "fresh" minced garlic ready to go for whatever I am making.
 
Todd September 23, 2017
With food, to each their own. While I love my mom, I love some of her dishes and cannot stomach other of her dishes. So, I choose to eat what I like. We still love each other and enjoy each other's company around the table. And, let's face it, none of us here are talking about sustenance eating and life or death. We are talking about an experience. So, again, to that...to each their own.
 
arielcooks September 23, 2017
Well considered! Thank you.
 
Mary J. September 22, 2017
I would never, ever, ever use bottled "lemon juice" I can forgive almost any other shortcut (well, not Cool Whip!).
 
Paul C. September 26, 2017
Agreed, but I do use bottled lemon juice for canning because you need to have a specific level of acidity. Real lemons acidity can vary based on variety, weather, etc., while bottled is standardized.
 
Richard G. September 22, 2017
I am forced to use jarred garlic because I can only use one hand and separating cloves and peeling garlic becomes too much work
 
Picholine September 22, 2017
I have noted that sometimes of the really large cloves found in a bulb are not as concentrated in flavor as smaller cloves. Has anyone else noted that?<br />I agree at least two to three cloves in most dishes!
 
Lynn S. September 22, 2017
What is this "one clove of garlic"? Who puts ONE CLOVE of garlic in anything? Are you a monster?
 
Joycelyn September 22, 2017
What tommyrot Bourdain's 'rules' on preparing garlic is. The man is such a pompous ass. <br />The only thing that matters when preparing garlic, is how you want to do it. <br />
 
Ray B. September 21, 2017
I was once cooking a meal while a German friend, an excellent cook herself, was looking on. She was shocked to see that I never measured any ingredients as i threw them into the meal I was preparing. German precision perhaps, but she conceded that my meal was superb. An experienced cook knows what works, and does not get his/her knickers in a twist in the kitchen!
 
asbrink September 21, 2017
Shoutout to giant and super cheap tubs of fresh, whole, peeled garlic at Asian grocery stores. I find them to be an excellent middle ground between ideal taste and ideal convenience. This was also what we used in the kitchens at a farm-to-table bistro I worked at for a year (though probably not purchased form H-Mart).
 
Larry O. September 22, 2017
Couldn't agree more. Fresh peeled garlic cloves are da bomb!
 
JF C. September 21, 2017
This article is a spoof isn't it? One clove, 1/2 tsp., 1/4 tsp.??? I never use less than 6 to 12 cloves in any dish I prepare! One tsp. please!!!!
 
Pamela_in_Tokyo September 21, 2017
Here in Japan, I can get giant garlic, each clove is so large they surely equal 2-3 of the ones in the photo. We like garlic, I use my giant cloves as one. I peel and chop all my garlic fresh. Is it really so bad to use a garlic press??<br /><br />I have a problem with a lot weird measurements in American cooking: for example how much is 1 cup of packed spinach leaves?? A lot of greens are measured by the cup. How on earth do you do that?? I’m not putting greens into a cup to measure them. It would be so much better to say a bunch or half a bunch or even better, xxx number of grams/ozs.....!! Just saying....<br />;-)
 
Ed S. September 21, 2017
Here is a chart showing volumes and weights for many common ingredients. <br /><br />Ingredient Weight Chart | King Arthur Flour<br />www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/ingredient-weight-chart.html<br />Handy reference for ingredient measure by volume, ounces, and grams.<br /><br />
 
Pamela_in_Tokyo September 21, 2017
Ed: Thanks, very nice. I’m bookmarking that. Still nothing about leafy green veg though. Actually, this would be something for Food52 to tackle. I just looked on the Internet and there are a lot of people asking the question “how many leafy green vegetables fit in a cup”. Especially people with health issues or trying to make smoothies. Body builders. Some people said they were packers, some said just to wing it. Then what’s the point of using a cup measure if no one can understand it??<br />;-)
 
JP September 21, 2017
I’ve not used prepared garlic from a jar in years, but the disparagement of the garlic press is asinine. It does NOTHING to affect the flavor. It just makes for a less noticeable visual in the dish. No one can mince as tiny as that, so they act superior. It’s all a ruse.<br /><br />