While I’m a big fan of roasted garlic, squishing the garlic cloves out of their skins after roasting can be messy and sometimes wasteful. I like to spend a little more time up front peeling the garlic, and then I roast it covered in oil (and foil) in a 300-degree oven. In less than an hour I have tender, golden garlic cloves and a bonus: garlic oil. This technique is similar to making garlic confit – garlic cloves cooked slowly in oil either in the oven or on the stovetop, with a slightly higher temperature than normally called for.

The reason temperature and time are important when cooking garlic is that garlic can harbor Clostridium botulinum spores, which occur naturally in soil but only release their toxins in the absence of oxygen. The bacteria could potentially thrive in an oxygen-free, oil-covered environment, but are killed by sustained ten-minute heating at temperatures 185 degrees and higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Being a nervous Nellie, I am erring on the safe side and cooking my garlic beyond thoroughly! Also, to be absolutely on the safe side, it is imperative that the cooked garlic and oil be cooled and refrigerated promptly – and kept refrigerated. Use within a week to ten days.

You will need a shallow ceramic baking dish for this recipe. I use a one-quart gratin dish or two small mini-gratin dishes, but anything that fits the garlic cloves comfortably in one layer and allows you to cover them completely in oil will work.

Use the garlic cloves in vegetable sautés (like Broccoli Raab with Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomatoes), in dips (like White Bean and Roasted Garlic Dip), on toast or crostini, on pizza, in pasta, as a condiment for grilled or roasted meats, or in salads.

Yields about 1 cup cloves and 1¾ cups 
garlic oil

  • 40 to 45 medium garlic cloves, peeled 
(see tip)
  • 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. (Be sure to check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer. If your oven runs hot, dial the temperature back a wee bit.)

2. Arrange the peeled garlic cloves in one medium or two small ceramic baking dishes. Cover with oil. (If the oil doesn’t cover the cloves, you’ll want to find different baking dishes or put a few more cloves and a little more oil in the pan.)

3. Cover the baking dish or dishes tightly with foil and pop it in the oven. Bake until tender and lightly browned, about 50 to 55 minutes. Your nose will let you know when the garlic is starting to caramelize. You can peek (carefully – steam will release when foil is uncovered) at the cloves after 40 or 45 minutes if the roasting garlic smell has intensified a lot. The cloves will be bobbing around in the oil and quite golden when they are done.

4. Remove the pans from the oven and transfer the cloves with a slotted spoon to a glass dish to cool quickly. Transfer the oil to another shallow glass container and cool slightly, stirring once in a while until no longer very hot. Transfer both to the refrigerator, loosely covered, until completely cold. Then pour some of the cooled oil over the garlic cloves and cover tightly. Cover the remaining oil tightly as well. 

Tip: To loosen the skin of a garlic clove, give it a sharp twist. The skin will be much easier to peel off.