The garlic bulb consists of several cloves. Always select garlic that is firm and heavy to the touch, with no soft spots.
Store your garlic in an airy place, but never in the refrigerator. Always peel the garlic unless otherwise directed by the specific recipe. An easy way to peel garlic is to put individual cloves in a pan, place the top on the pan and shake like the you mean it for 10 seconds. The garlic will be peeled, and not smashed.
Garlic is not always the highly aromatic seasoning that many imagine. Here are some helpful tips on how to use garlic and what to expect.
RAW GARLIC - A very assertive taste that lingers long. Don't add chunks of it on a salad or sandwich. Use sparingly, and always very finely minced. In a salad, if you don't know the tastes of your guests, it's best to just rub the bowl with a cut clove.
CHOPPED GARLIC COOKED IN HOT FAT - This will give a very pronounced garlicky flavor to a dish. Be careful to not let it brown or the flavor will become bitter. If you add chopped raw garlic to something you are baking or broiling, it will have a dominant taste, too.
GARLIC CLOVES, WHOLE OR CRUSHED, COOKED MOIST FOR A LONG TIME - Typically in a soup or stew or braised dish, the garlic will impart a richness and a distinctive flavor to the sauce that never overwhelms.
WHOLE CLOVES OF GARLIC, UNCRUSHED, COOKED SLOWLY - Either a whole head baked, or the bulbs just separated and scattered around meat or poultry in a tightly covered baked dish will surprise you with the mild flavor. When you crush the cooked cloves, the inside will be delicate and buttery.
CRUSHED GARLIC - from a garlic press releases the oils in the most volatile way leaving only the juice.
MINCED OR CHOPPED - gives you pulp with the juice and is very satisfactory for a saute.
SMASHED CLOVES - allow the juices to flow and leaves the clove more or less intact so that it can be removed after cooking if desired.