I read everywhere that I should put garlic first in the oil for a stir fry. However, whenever I do this the garlic burns into little brown chunks. What's the proper amount of time for letting garlic sit before adding other stuff ? Thanks

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    The general rule for stir frying is to add ingredients in the order of the time they need to cook. I'm not sure where you read about starting with garlic, but I was trained to add garlic (usually) last because it can burn so quickly. You might also check-out these posts which address the issue of when to add garlic to a stir-fry: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/47375/… and cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/3420/… . Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:27
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    I'm with Stephen on this one. I always add garlic late in the process to prevent burning. I find it only needs a very short time to release flavor to the rest of the dish. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:19
  • I have seen both methods advocated. The idea of adding garlic (and usually ginger) first is that it flavours the oil which you then fry the other stuff in. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:26
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    I'm also with @StephenEure on this. Garlic is a powerful agent whe it comes to flavor. It doesn't really need the help of being added to the oil first, unless you really want a powerful punch of garlic.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 18:01
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    adding the garlic first or last produces vastly different effects. 1) adding it last will retain the garlic's hotness and the oil will not be infused with the garlic. 2) often time the recipe wants the garlic roasted, sometimes even to burned depending on the recipe. 2b) usually however, you don't want to cook the garlic first, you just put it in first and only wait a few moments before adding and stirring in the rest of the dish. It is stir frying after all.
    – Escoce
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 21:04

3 Answers 3


You have a few options, as you're dealing with high-heat cooking

  1. Only fry the garlic for a few seconds before adding something else to cool down the pan. You don't want it to cook 'til it shows color ... just a few seconds then toss in some onion or other high-moisture items.
  2. Add the garlic with something else (eg, ginger), to keep it from burning quite as quickly.
  3. Leave the garlic in larger bits, so it'll take longer to burn (as the moisture doesn't cook off immediately).
  4. Really crush the garlic well. Not chopped, but pulp it into a paste before using it, so it both holds together as a mass, and releases all of its moisture.
  5. Move the garlic to the edge of the wok after cooking it (use a wok scoop or rounded spatula to make sure you get it all) ... then add your next ingredients, but don't bring the garlic back down 'til plenty of other stuff is in the pan.

And of course, make sure that you've cut up everything before you add the garlic -- you're cooking over such high heat that you want to be able to quickly add other things, otherwise you risk cooking the garlic for too long while you're dealing with some other ingredient.


I have a recipe book that advocates stir frying garlic for "10 seconds or until fragrant." So once you start smelling that glorious frying garlic smell, start throwing more stuff into the fry. Comes out lovely.

Of course, if fried garlic is all you're doing, then it should be the very last, or at the very least scooped out of the oil. I attempted to do a garlic/olive oil grilled cheese (yum!) but the garlic was in brown chunks afterwards, stuck to the bread. I know now to toast the bread in oil, throw the garlic on, then quickly flip the sandwich around and serve.

  • Good point on the 'until fragrant' ... when you smell it, add more stuff to cool it down. Do not wait for it to change color.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 19:42

if you work it into a paste with salt then stir frying it first seems to release the aromatics into the oil where as chopping the garlic turns it brown, hard and bitter If i want a strong garlic taste, then i make a paste and add it at the end of cooking - you only need one raw garlic to really give a punchy taste to a dish rather then 6-8 cloves that have been stewed of all their flavour

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