How Does Bottled Garlic Compare to Fresh Garlic?

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Is it better to use fresh garlic rather than the bottled kind preserved with oil or vinegar or water? I had always used fresh garlic until a friend of mine told me she thinks the bottled garlic is just as good.

To use the immortal words of former President Clinton, “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” When your friend says bottled garlic “is” just as good, is she saying it “tastes” just as good? Because it doesn’t. Bottled garlic has a harsher and more bitter flavor than fresh garlic treated lovingly.

On the other hand, is she saying it is faster and easier to use? There she has a point. It is certainly easier to spoon chopped garlic from a jar than to separate a clove and either put it through a garlic press (and subsequently clean the press) or peel it and chop it with a knife.

In the world of cooking trade-offs, we consciously lean toward flavor over convenience. But even we only go so far. If you can’t get something on the table without a few shortcuts, take them without feeling guilty. Your cooking will probably still be better than a lot of the alternatives — fast food, take-out, even a lot of restaurant meals.

If, at your friend’s suggestion, you’ve been using bottled garlic for a little while, let your own taste be your guide. You may not want to use it in place of raw garlic, where the harshness might be much more noticeable. But perhaps you will find it perfectly acceptable in highly-spiced dishes, where the garlic competes with lots of other flavors.

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