The best way to store garlic is surprisingly easy—plus tips on how to prolong the useful life of peeled garlic cloves and chopped garlic.
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garlic Ten Mothers Farm
Credit: Ten Mothers Farm

Where would we be without garlic? Pungent when raw, mellow when cooked, it adds a delicious aroma and deep flavor to so many dishes. Yet beyond garlic's ability to turn recipes from good to great, there's another reason to love this workhorse of an ingredient: From a storage standpoint, it's one of the most low-maintenance foods you can have in your kitchen. Garlic benefits from a pretty hands-off approach: Give it the air and space it needs, and it'll love you back.

The Best Way to Store Garlic

The first thing you need to remember about storing garlic is that it keeps best when kept together. Resist the temptation to break the cloves off the bulb until you're ready to use them, and leave them together, covered in their paper covering. They'll stay fresh longer this way—we've seen them keep well up to six months! And if you're lucky enough to pick up garlic with the long stems still attached, try this tip from Ed Fraser of Fraser's Garlic Farm in western New York: He ties it up in a bundle or braids it, hangs it in his kitchen, and breaks off cloves as needed.

Where to Store Garlic

Don't fret too much about what kind of container you keep the garlic in. A terra-cotta or ceramic container specifically designed for garlic storage is great, but so is a paper or mesh bag, a wire basket, or even just a simple bowl. The goal is to encourage the circulation of dry air, which is why a plastic bag is a no-no since it seals in moisture.

Stash your garlic someplace dark and cool. Fraser often sees people store garlic in the basement, thinking its chilly temperature will help, but he advises against that. "Generally the humidity in a basement doesn't work for garlic. The garlic gets soft and dries out," he says. He suggests putting it in a paper bag in your refrigerator's crisper drawer; the bag wicks out humidity. The pantry is another good spot—that is, as long as you keep the garlic away from potatoes (garlic, onions, and other alliums emit gases that can hasten sprouting in those spuds).

Why keep garlic away from light and moisture? These conditions contribute to sprouting (which doesn't necessarily mean the garlic has spoiled, but sprouted garlic—you'll know it by its small green shoots—can taste bitter) and mold growth. 

How Long Does Garlic Last?

Stored properly, a whole unpeeled head of garlic should last about six months. Once you start breaking the cloves off from the bulb, the garlic will begin to deteriorate. After removing the first clove, you probably have about 10 days to two weeks before the remaining garlic on the bulb begins to sprout. Fraser notes that smaller heads of garlic store better than larger ones.

When and How to Refrigerate Peeled Garlic

If you've peeled more cloves than you need, the fridge is the best place to store them—wrap them in plastic or put them in a sealed bag or container for up to a week. Chopped generally doesn't last more than a day in the fridge, but you can eke out another two or so days if you cover it in olive oil. (Don't leave it for more than that, though, cautions Fraser, as the oil can grow mold.)

Freezing

Fraser says it can be done. He's seen people chop garlic and put it in ice cube trays with some water, and then pop a cube out and straight into the frying pan when cooking. That said, he prefers to use fresh garlic, as it definitely loses some of its oomph when frozen.

The truth is, leftover peeled garlic rarely needs to be stored, since adding a bit more garlic to whatever you're cooking probably won't hurt.

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