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I always shy away from using garlic because it is such a wild card. It burns easily, and how you chop, dice or grate it has a MAJOR effect on flavor so there is not much reference experience from cooking recipes since every one chops the garlic differently. The cloves also differ in sizes so telling me to "put 2 cloves" seems too inaccurate. As a result I am too passive with my garlic usage and as a result it never shows on the dish so I just drop it altogether.

What should I do to take control over the garlic and master when and how it should be added to a dish?

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Garlic is a wonderful vegetable that can add intense flavor, and is also praised by many people for its healthful benefits. But as is the case for most strongly flavored foods, personal preference varies widely.

You've already established one reference point, in that the amount you've used in the past was insufficient to result in a flavor that you personally found strong enough. So, the obvious next step is to increase that amount gradually each time you prepare that particular recipe until you reach a point you find most pleasing, or at least until the garlic flavor sounds a note that harmonizes with the dish.

Note that garlic cloves vary not merely in size, but also in intensity of flavor; depending on the source, age, and other factors. With experience, you'll gain a sense of this, partly from the aroma and "feel" of the garlic. As is the case with many cooking techniques, with practice you'll become better at judging this too.

Also to consider, is what form you're using the garlic in your recipe. For example, a meat roast recipe may call for whole cloves to be inserted, causing the flavor to disperse from the inside out. A sauté or sauce calling for minced garlic, distributes the flavor more evenly.

Using a garlic press goes even farther, releasing juice and making it almost like a paste — this works very good in a marinade, but it might be too strong for other things. You can also throw whole cloves of garlic in with potatoes while steaming them — the garlic will become buttery soft and blend in beautifully to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes.

If your garlic is burning, most likely the heat is too high, or else you're cooking it too long. At what point you add it to the dish, depends on what you're cooking, and what other ingredients are included. If I'm sautéing up a collections of vegetables, I'll usually begin with onions in the skillet first, and mince up the garlic while they're starting to cook. The onions will have "sweat" a bit, reducing the chance of the garlic burning.

Your task now is to experiment with all of these things, observing the differences in how it appeals to your own taste. If you only ever cook for yourself, you'll be all set. However, if you're cooking for others, you may wish to moderate the garlic level, to suit the tastes of your guests — for that, there's no rule of thumb.

If you're cooking for diners who normally eat bland or packaged food, a little garlic can go a long way. But for people who are used to ethic food where garlic is prominent, it might be impossible to use too much.

The key to seizing control of garlic and mastering it in your kitchen, is to explore and understand how it tastes to you. Doing so will give you the knowledge and skill to wield garlic with confidence. Have fun, enjoy garlic, and listen to feedback from your guests.

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I think this depends on what you are after in the dish, as to how much and what type of garlic is added. I think a general rule for garlic is the smaller the pieces,the stronger the garlic taste. The larger the pieces, less garlic taste.

I think another general rule for cooking is, the longer you cook an ingredient the more it will be incorporated into the dish. The shorter you cook it the more it retains it's distinct flavour or freshness. Also low and slow, makes for softer foods. High and fast, makes for harder/crisper foods. There's always an exception to these rules but in general this holds true more most.

So back to your question...more sharp garlic taste, cut it into smaller pieces and add at the end. Nice mellow garlic taste, whole garlic, oven roasted, low and slow. But there's nothing saying you can't have both flavours in your dish. That underlying garlic taste with fresher garlic added in the end of cooking, right?

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You see adding garlic too early gets it brown in half a minute. I encourage you to add the garlic at the ending process of the coking. Which will avoid the meal getting bitter. Stay passionate.

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    It's common to add garlic shortly after sautéing the mirepoix in many dishes. Garlic can survive long cooking at moderate temperatures. It's common to add garlic at multiple stages in dishes that highlight garlic (i.e., early, mid, late), and sometimes in various forms (roasted, diced, granulated). – Bruce Alderson Mar 14 '16 at 0:00

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