The Science Behind Why Garlic Is So Sticky (2024)

jonathan kesh

·3 min read

The Science Behind Why Garlic Is So Sticky (1)

Garlic is one of those flavor enhancers that can end up in nearly any savory dish. If you cook, you probably cook with garlic. And, you probably get bits of chopped garlic stuck to your fingers or your knife. It's annoying. Why does that even happen, anyway?

The short answer is sulfur. Garlic contains lots of sulfur — a bulb of it contains around 33 different compounds that include sulfur. The main one is called allicin, a type of organosulfur compound.Allicin is the substance that gives garlic both its strong smell and its sticky texture. Allicin is likely a self-defense mechanismfor fending off predators like bugs, rodents, or us. But, we eat it anyway despite the bad smells and stickiness meant to ward us off because it's delicious.

On top of that, garlic contains natural sugars, and sugar always gets sticky when it's heated up — sticky caramel is just burnt sugar, for example. There are even more small compounds in garlic that can become sticky, especially when they come into contact with your skin while you're chopping it up.

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Dealing With Sticky Garlic

The Science Behind Why Garlic Is So Sticky (2)

So, if garlic's stickiness can all be chalked up to simple chemistry, you might be wondering if there's anything in your kitchen that makes garlic less sticky. Yes, there is, if you've got olive oil or salt lying around. Olive oil and garlic go well together, and a small amount of it goes a long way in stopping garlic bits from sticking to your knife or your fingers. Just splash some on the cloves before you begin chopping or coat your knife with olive oil.

Alternatively, a pinch of salt should have the same effect. Salt interferes with these chemical reactions while drying out the garlic cloves. Whether you go with olive oil or salt depends on your own cooking preferences or the dish in question. You might choose olive oil if you're chopping garlic for a pasta dish, or you might go with salt if you're cooking up garlic chicken breast. Luckily, both of these garlic un-stickers are extremely common ingredients you probably cook with anyway.

It's Good To Be Sticky

The Science Behind Why Garlic Is So Sticky (3)

Garlic is a superfood: despite sulfur's bad smell and sticky texture, the allicin and other sulfuric compounds inside garlic are actually extremely good for you. Sulfur is good for helping your body repair damaged cells (which can help protect against cancer), and it's also good for your skin health. Other studies suggest that it's good for heart health and cholesterol. Although, garlic is most healthy when it's raw rather than cooked, so the stickiness from that allicin is just the price to pay for all the benefits it brings. Unless you use the above tips, of course.

Garlic is a member of the Allium plant family, which also includes onions, leeks, shallots, and scallions, and they all have similar health benefits. In fact, the same sulfuric compounds in garlic are found in onions, but instead of making them sticky when you chop them, the sulfur makes your eyes water instead. However, even though onions contain allicin, if your onions become sticky it could mean they're getting old — unlike garlic, where stickiness is a natural part of the chopping process.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.

The Science Behind Why Garlic Is So Sticky (2024)

FAQs

The Science Behind Why Garlic Is So Sticky? ›

The short answer is sulfur. Garlic contains lots of sulfur — a bulb of it contains around 33 different compounds that include sulfur. The main one is called allicin, a type of organosulfur compound. Allicin is the substance that gives garlic both its strong smell and its sticky texture.

What is the science behind cooking garlic? ›

Chopped raw, garlic has a pungent taste and odor. But when whole cloves are simmered or roasted, the heat transforms the alliin into new, larger molecules before they meet the alliinase. This new structure gives the garlic a soft, sweet buttery flavor that surprises many first-time eaters.

How to make garlic less sticky? ›

So sprinkling garlic with salt, especially something like kosher salt with larger crystals, will dry it out just a bit, so it becomes less sticky and easier to work with. Famous chefs swear by incorporating salt into your garlic chopping method, as well.

Why is fried garlic sticky? ›

Garlic is full of sticky oils and sulfur-containing compounds, also known as mercaptan. These sticky compounds and oils are released on chopping and crushing and attracted to other sulfur-containing compounds. Mercaptan reacts with sulfated amino acids such as cysteine and methionine found in our nails, hair, and skin.

Why is my garlic yellow and sticky? ›

Waxy breakdown is a physiological condition that usually develops after harvest. Symptoms are not apparent until the skins surrounding the cloves are removed. Initially, affected cloves may show small, slightly sunken light yellow areas. Later, the entire clove will become affected, turning amber in color.

What makes garlic sticky? ›

The main one is called allicin, a type of organosulfur compound. Allicin is the substance that gives garlic both its strong smell and its sticky texture. Allicin is likely a self-defense mechanism for fending off predators like bugs, rodents, or us.

What are some science facts about garlic? ›

Some studies show that garlic might help people with heart disease. It may lower cholesterol and blood pressure, keep arteries flexible, and help prevent blood clots and the buildup of plaque. It might also reduce the risk of stroke.

What does vinegar do to garlic? ›

A compound called allicin present in garlic can react in the presence of vinegar turning the cloves a blueish-green.

Why is my garlic powder sticky? ›

How do you keep your garlic and onion powder from turning into a one big sticky brick? This problem is caused by moisture getting into the powder, so keep it dry. Bone dry. Store it in an airtight container - switch containers to one that is airtight you have to.

Why is black garlic sticky? ›

It requires strictly regulated temperature and humidity to achieve its sticky, date-like consistency and inky black color. During this aging process, the cloves undergo the Maillard reaction as the heat creates changes in the amino acids and sugars in the garlic, which caramelizes the sugar.

Is allicin good for you? ›

At high doses, the sulfur compounds in garlic have been shown to protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity. Allicin in garlic can help reduce levels of lead in your blood and vital organs.

Does minced garlic in a jar have allicin? ›

Open the jar and simply add a spoonful or two of minced garlic to transform any dish. attis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Does minced garlic in a jar have allicin? Yes, jarred minced garlic is made from fresh garlic and contains allicin.

Why do you leave the skin on garlic when cooking? ›

I've seen it called for when you're cooking over high heat ... the idea is that it helps to protect the garlic from burning. When used this way, you'll then remove them before you start adding so much that you can't easily pick them back out.

What part of garlic should you not eat? ›

And in many cases, during storage, those cloves of garlic will develop a green germ inside that is said to be bitter and should be removed.

Should you keep garlic in the fridge? ›

Instead, store heads of garlic in a cool, dry place with plenty of air circulation. For example, a basket on your counter (out of the sun) would work well. Garlic is best kept in a cool (not cold) place, so avoid putting it in the refrigerator unless you plan to use it all within a few days.

What is the hole in the middle of garlic? ›

Almost all cultivated garlic reproduces asexually, and is grown by planting cloves into the ground. The garlic germ lies in a small cavity in the center of every garlic clove* and it's basically a future garlic plant—a garlic “precursor” of sorts.

What happens to garlic when you cook it? ›

Those all-important garlic enzymes are inactivated by heat, and the allicin compound is destroyed during cooking. So garlic mellows as it cooks, and is most pungent in it's fresh, raw form.

What does cooked garlic do to the body? ›

Garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive individuals, regulates serum cholesterol, and stimulates immunity: An updated meta-analysis and review. Reid K. (2020). Garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, improves arterial stiffness and gut microbiota: A review and meta-analysis.

What is the chemical reaction in garlic? ›

When raw garlic cloves are crushed, chopped, or chewed, an enzyme known as alliinase is released. Alliinase catalyzes the formation of sulfenic acids from L-cysteine sulfoxides (Figure 2). Sulfenic acids spontaneously react with each other to form unstable compounds called thiosulfinates.

Does cooked garlic have the same benefits? ›

“You'll get the most benefit from raw garlic,” says Jeffers. “But if you choose to cook it, don't heat it above 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). Higher temperatures kill the allicin, so add garlic to your recipes when you're almost done cooking.”

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