Should Garlic Be Refrigerated?

We're sharing dos and don’ts of garlic storage.

Garlic is a staple ingredient in the kitchen. Elevating sauces, jazzing up dressings, adorning fresh garlic bread, and more, garlic is a powerhouse. It's an ingredient that any home cook worth their salt makes sure to always have on hand.

But even if you cook regularly with garlic and take care never to run out, you might still be confused about the best way to store it. Should garlic be refrigerated? Or should it live in a dark pantry with the onions or on the kitchen counter?

While it is perfectly fine to refrigerate garlic, it’s not necessary, and it’s not the best practice. This doesn’t include jarred minced garlic which should be refrigerated upon opening. We are talking about whole heads of garlic or stray unpeeled cloves and we get into the dos and don’ts of storing garlic below.

Related: How To Store Onions So They Last Longer

<p>Getty Images</p>

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Should Garlic Be Refrigerated?

Popping a head of garlic in the fridge shortens its shelf life significantly. It may start to sprout after a day or two in the cold environment. So, the short answer to whether or not garlic should be refrigerated is no.

In fact, garlic heads and unpeeled cloves do best in about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take, in a location where air is allowed to circulate. This means avoiding placing garlic in reusable containers or in plastic bags where moisture can get trapped and cause the garlic to turn.

Garlic stored in the fridge may taste different even if you manage to get to it before it starts sprouting green stems. It can turn bitter from the change in temperature and ultimately alter the flavor of that garlic aioli or shrimp sauce. And garlic stored in too hot of an environment can dry up and become brittle, causing it to lose freshness and flavor.

Related: 8 Mistakes You're Making When Cooking With Garlic

Overview Of The Ideal Conditions For Storing Garlic

Garlic does best in a cool—but not cold—environment. Keep whole heads in a basket or wide bowl on your kitchen counter, so long as direct sunlight doesn’t impact this spot. Mesh bags, which is what garlic sold in any quantity at the grocery store come in, are ok too. And this bag can live in a cool pantry or cupboard in your kitchen if you’ve run out of counter space.

A head of garlic that you’ve begun using will turn faster than the intact head. So if you have exposed cloves or intact but peeled garlic cloves, you will want to try a different storage method. The fridge is actually a great place for storing peeled cloves. An airtight container works well for both whole cloves and chopped or minced garlic that you have leftover. Garlic that’s been sliced or minced, however, should be used in two to three days for maximum freshness. Whole unpeeled cloves may last up to five days or longer.

Related: How To Plant Garlic From A Clove

Risks Associated With Improper Storage Of Garlic

Improper storage of garlic reduces its shelf life. Whole heads of garlic can last up to six months if stored properly as outlined above, whereas garlic stored in the fridge in the crisper drawer with other vegetables is likely to sprout within mere days and sprouted garlic can taste bitter or more potent. Safety-wise, it is perfectly safe to eat and cook with garlic that has sprouted—just be sure to leave the sprouts out of the recipe.

A study in 2014 found that sprouted garlic may have some additional health benefits, namely  increasing antioxidant activity. There’s no harmful risk to eating garlic that has sprouted due to improper storage; it just might taste less fresh and more bitter.

Garlic that has rotted from improper storage that has become moldy should be thrown out.

Alternatives To Refrigeration For Garlic Storage

Intact garlic heads can last up to six months if kept outside the fridge in a cool place without direct sunlight.

When choosing garlic, avoid sprouted bulbs and look for tightly packed skins. It should feel firm to the touch. Soft garlic has started to rot and no amount of proper storage can save it.

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