I enjoy checking out the “still good” shed at my town’s recycling center, and that’s how I often find tools and gadgets like garlic roasters to try out without any cash outlay. Often the fact that something’s wound up there is a clue to its being a tin fiddle, but I like to do my due diligence. That’s what happened when I found a terra cotta garlic baker there some years ago.
It came with no directions, but those were easy enough to find online. Simply cut ½ to ¾ inch off the top of a whole head of garlic, pour over a little olive oil, place it in the baker, cover, and bake for 50-60 minutes at 350°F.
The first problem arose when I wielded the knife. Cutting ½” off the top left the outer cloves untouched. Cutting off more took so much additional flesh off the inner cloves that it was wasteful. Hmm. It also meant the olive oil didn’t equally anoint the cloves. To top it off, the entire head of garlic was too big for the baker, so I had to cram on the cover. Well, I figured, the garlic would shrink in the baking and all would be well.
If only. In fact, the skins didn’t shrink (I should have thought of that); they stuck to the lid and burned. It was difficult to free them from the cover; and to top it off, when I squeezed the pulp from the skins, the sticky pulp made the skins stick annoyingly to my fingers. In the end, there wasn’t enough finished product to make all the effort worthwhile. This little gizmo went back to the “still good” shed… they have a great return policy.
I’ve since seen larger garlic bakers, so that problem’s been resolved. However, there’s absolutely no need for a garlic baker/roaster. It’s just something else to store in your kitchen, and it’s easy to roast garlic without one. Unless you’re looking for the presentation factor of having whole roasted cloves for your guests to squeeze – it comes out like toothpaste from a tube – do it the easy way. Here’s how I roast garlic now.
Peel as many garlic cloves as needed. Better yet, just peel a bunch; roasted garlic is a nice thing to have on hand. Put them in a smallish baking dish or on a double (or heavy-duty) sheet of aluminum foil. Douse them liberally with olive oil, ensuring they’re all well coated. Cover the baking dish or twist up the foil to seal. Be sure to seal well, or it will leak onto the floor of the oven.
Bake anywhere from 350° to 400°F for about 45 minutes. Start checking at 30 minutes if using the higher temperature. The garlic is done when it’s nice and soft and squishes easily. Voilà! You have roasted garlic ready to use, and the bonus of delicious garlic-flavored oil for another use. Bon Appétit!