How to Purchase, Store and Cook with Onions and Garlic

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Onions and Garlic are probably the two Super Foods that are easiest to find recipes for. Just in case you always used dried or powdered, I wanted to make sure you could use the real thing. Here’s a quick lesson.

You’re in the Grocery Store And…

How to Select Onions: Crisp, dry outer skins are good.  Avoid:  mushy, moist, dark patches, sprouts, mold. (Hmmm, so I probably should have cut those onions that someone at church gave me for free last week. Half of them pretty much fit the “avoid” description there, but I cut the bad parts out and saved the rest. I bet that doesn’t really count! A typical Kitchen Stewardship conundrum. Throw away food or skip it because there’s little nutrition to be found?)

How to Select Garlic: Squeeze it – it should be firm and not damp with no broken skins. Avoid garlic that is soft, shriveled and moldy or that has begun to sprout. This source says, “Once you break the head of garlic, it greatly reduces its shelf life to just a few days.”  Really?? I don’t know how to use a whole bulb of garlic every few days except for this soup. Anyone know if that’s really true?

Where to Put it Once You’re Home


  • Room temp fine
  • Dark
  • Well-ventilated (i.e. not in a plastic bag), best scenario is wire basket so air can move all around
  • Not near potatoes


  • Room temp
  • Dark is best
  • Take out cloves that get dried out

Get out the Knife…

Cutting Onions: I generally chop off both ends, slice down the middle to get the peels off easier (learned that from Rachel Ray), and then knock both halves around with my food chopper. Gosh, I love that thing! If you don’t have one, here are some how-to descriptions:

A tear-less note:  Chill the onions for an hour or more to take some of the sting and tears out of the process.

Cutting Garlic:  First pull a clove (i.e. one small part, surrounded by papery peel) off of the whole head or bulb of garlic. Snip off the bottom end with your knife, then turn the knife flat on top of the garlic clove and WHACK it with the flat of your hand. If you do it hard enough, you’ll crack the skin and it will be easy to peel off. (I didn’t always get the clove vs. head thing – read my funny story.)

You DO want to cut or crush garlic to release all the health benefits. (See this post for more details.)  I find that if I’m using both onions and garlic in a recipe, I use my food chopper for both. If I only need garlic, I use a garlic press (which I got on super discount for 25 cents!)  You can also chop finely with a knife, but you’ll get smelly hands and it’s hard to get the pieces small enough (especially if you have patience like mine – not much!).

Cooking note:  be sure to only lightly cook garlic if at all possible. Cooking for 10 minutes got rid of all the “phytonutrients” in the garlic. Three minutes was fine, except in the microwave, which almost completely took out all the phytonutrients. (source)  Hmmm…just another piece of research to make me skeptical about the microwave.

Clean-up Considerations

Laryssa at Heaven in the Home had a great comment this week. She shares, “The best way to get any stinky smells off your hands (fish, onion, garlic…) is to wash your hands in cold water with stainless steel. I usually use a spoon. Somehow a chemical reaction happens and the smell is removed!” Great tip!

Extras? Freeze ’em!

  • Onions and Peppers are two of the few vegetables that can be frozen without blanching (light cooking). It’s always nice to have them on hand! (see my freezer post for more)
  • Use cut onions within one or two days in the fridge; never store in metal container.
  • Garlic degrades pretty quickly, so I wouldn’t recommend cutting extras there!

Read more:

Mind the Microwave in May:

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6 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    An easy way to get any food smells off your hands is to “wash” them under cold water using stainless steel. A chemical reaction happens that neutralizes the odors…fish, garlic, onion and more!

    You can buy special soap shaped stainless steel bars, but I just use a spoon. :-)

  2. says

    I have always kept my onions in the fridge, they seems to last longer for me that way. Plus I dont have alot of extra counter space so its what I have always done. I wonder if they would last longer out on the counter.

    Lisa’s last blog post..Baking Day Prep

    • Katie says

      I don’t get the impression that onions will last longER at room temp, just that they are able to be stored at room temp. You probably cry less than those of us who don’t have room in their fridge for onions and keep them in the basement!

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