I understand the ins and outs of peeling, what a clove is, mincing, crushing, etc., as I am new to cooking and learning one step at a time. My question is about size. When I purchase a bulb of garlic, the size can vary a lot, even down to several different sizes of cloves in one bulb. If a recipe calls for eight cloves, the size variation can be pretty big. Do I just pick a size and make sure they are all the same, or do I purchase in a particular way? Or, is a clove a clove?

  • ( Same thing for eggs, and vegetables ) That's why recipes need to list ingredients by weight or volume; 50 grams of garlic is a better description than 8 cloves.
    – Max
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


A clove is not a clove. There are 2 main types of garlic:

  • Hard Neck: hard neck garlic varieties have larger bulbs (or head as you call it), and fewer, larger cloves
  • Soft Neck: soft neck garlic are generally smaller than hard necks, and have more but smaller cloves

Hard neck varieties are on the whole stronger flavored than soft neck varieties, although a lot of it depends on the richness of the soil and how well it was farmed. All garlic varieties have larger cloves on the outside and smaller ones on the inside.

As for how many to use, if a recipe calls for 8 cloves I generally treat one large hardneck clove as 2-3 cloves, and softneck cloves on a 1:1 ratio. Some of the varieties I grow are very strong, so if I'm using a red duke I may just use 1 clove for a recipe that calls for 8. Generally the rule I gave will work fine for store bought garlic.

  • Thank you! That was amazingly helpful. I edited, now knowing garlic comes in "bulbs" and not "heads," so thank you for that too.
    – iDoVooDoo
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 11:52
  • 1
    @iDoVooDoo "Head" is a perfectly fine term for this, in fact the more common term: english.stackexchange.com/questions/6886/…
    – Cascabel
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 16:09
  • Head works for me. In gardening it's a bulb but I knew what was meant.
    – GdD
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 17:29

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