I've read all the bad things that can happen from garlic infused oil like homemade. How is this different than let's say Pizza Hut's garlic butter, or their (dry) breadstick seasoning with cheeses and dehydraded garlic? Do they in fact have a safer method that literally reduces the risk or what?

I see the garlic butter has citric acid in it so that makes sense but what about the seasoning? That is just cheeses and dehydrated garlic as well as other things.

  • Also I see their ingredients include garlic powder – Jent Apr 2 '17 at 23:05
  • 6
    People who may know the answer to this will probably need clarification as to which Pizza Hut product is being compared/contrasted with the garlic infused oil you refer to. Does Pizza Hut sell or use a garlic infused oil? Or are you thinking of the pizza itself? The garlic infused oil may contain botulism spores, which I gather are ok to eat (in that spore-state) because your body can deal with them, but if they are left to sit unmolested in an anaerobic, non-acidic environment (like at the bottom of an oil bottle) they may begin to flourish (waken?) and produce toxin which can kill people. – Lorel C. Apr 2 '17 at 23:05
  • 1
    @ Catija, possibly imperfectly worded sentence, but I think you are misinterpreting it. We aren't professional writers, but it actually does make sense if he meant: Since it isn't home made, is dehydrated garlic safer bc it is dehydrated ... or does it still post a risk ????? – Lorel C. Apr 3 '17 at 16:15
  • 1
    I don't overly trust commercial processes as being better than home processes, but, for things like botulism control, yes, those processes are going to be safer. The can use higher controlled temps, pressure, chemicals, dehydrate harder, etc. Now, those processes might also render the garlic into something with little of its original taste and character as well, but the botulism risk should be greatly reduced over what we can reasonably do at home. So, theirs is likely safe but artificial tasting at least to me. Yours from home might taste better, but carry increased risk. – dlb Apr 3 '17 at 17:11
  • 1
    Could you please try to clearly describe the products you're asking about? You're talking about breadstick seasoning, which really sounds like a dry thing, not garlic in oil, and "garlic butter" could mean a lot of variations - is it a single-serving prepackaged sauce, something that looks like it's made to order, or what? Safety (and how you achieve it) really depends on details. Keep in mind a lot of people here might not have been in a Pizza Hut in quite a long time, if ever. – Cascabel Apr 3 '17 at 20:48

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze/garlic_oil.html matches the USDA statements I have seen which says for home use, garlic oil should be made and used fresh, stored at 40 degrees for no more than 4 days. That of source addresses only the safety issue and if botulism is considered a risk or not. As Jent suggests, garlic powder, may be an option, or even dried garlic which rehydrates in the oil might be a safer option. Commercially available garlic oils tend to be considered shelf safe, but those have been likely heat and pressure treated, possibly chemically treated to make is safe, but attempts at this are not recommended at home.

The USDA recommendation I have seen is to mix the garlic and oil and then freeze that in cubes or sheets. The claim is this will remain semi-pliable, but when I have done it, it froze fairly hard but soft enough I couple cut pieces off to use. It worked fairly well for me.

I have seen sites claim that storing fresh garlic in oil is safe, but the USDA disagrees.

ETA: On the question of if it is safe to use powered or dehydrated garlic to make garlic oil: From my looking around, I could not find an authoritative yes or no. Others might have more luck. Dried itself is considered safe as everything I found said botulism cannot survive low moisture. But the spores can. There seems to be disagreement of weather oil provides the moisture needed for the spores to activate though. Commercially treated product likely is subjected to higher temperatures and treatments to cover this, but that is a statement of likelihood, not something I found lab statements to back. Also, the type of oil may matter. I would think that a high quality olive oil might be more susceptible to growth as it is a pure vegetable extract, than would a refined and heat treated oil. But again, that is just using my logic, not backed by tested evidence.

I have purchased commercial garlic infused oils, and personally, I would go with the frozen or freshly prepared. The commercial versions had clearly been heat treated as the garlic flavor was barely perceptible for the amount visibly in the oil. But I like a strong garlic flavor, not subtle.

  • I'm still trying to get the OP to clarify, but it sounds like this is individual packages of "garlic sauce" or some such, the kind of thing that obviously has been processed and sealed, and is intended to be opened and eaten right then, not stored for days after opening. Still have no idea about "breadstick seasoning"; it's not even clear if it's an oil or just a dry seasoning mix. – Cascabel Apr 3 '17 at 21:17
  • @Jefromi Yeah, not sure on a sauce type. I am thinking from my understanding of the dangers of garlic it oil that if it was more of a paste it would not be as high of a risk. Oil is an issue because it is airless while a paste is not so may help. Not sure, I would assume that a commercial item has been tested as "safe". Nothing is ever 100%, but if it reaches background levels, can'd do much better than that. I would not try to duplicate that at home though. – dlb Apr 3 '17 at 22:12
  • Sauces with water aren't anaerobic, so they're not as risky. But whether it's purely oil/butter-based or an emulsion, that kind of packaging certainly implies processing you can't reproduce at home, including heat/pressure to kill spores if it's indeed necessary. – Cascabel Apr 3 '17 at 22:15
  • I already did clarify. The seasoning for breadsticks. It has dehydrated garlic – Jent Apr 3 '17 at 22:20
  • 2
    As a dry spicing you should not be in the realm of botulism. Botulism requires a moist and air free environment. Dehydration kills the active agents, but not spores, but it cannot grow in air. Acid kills it. Canned good are a source unless they undergo sustained high temps or have a high acid content (low Ph). Garlic preserved in oil is a source because it becomes an air free environment without acid and no heat treating to kill the spores so they can grow. Not so in a dry spread. – dlb Apr 3 '17 at 22:27

You have two separate things here: a dry seasoning mix, and commercial processed garlic butter.

The reason garlic oil is often a botulism risk is that it's an anaerobic environment, with a low-acid food, and botulinum likes that. On top of that, botulinum spores aren't killed even by boiling water temperatures, so it's hard to eliminate them, so if the garlic is contaminated, the botulinum can easily multiply to dangerous levels. It is possible to kill the spores with higher temperatures (requiring pressure cooking), though, but that tends to destroy subtle flavors. It's also possible to acidify it, but it's hard to do reliably at home. And yes, dried garlic also reduces risk.

This document from UC Davis has some details, including this on canning:

Canning of garlic is not recommended. Garlic is a low-acid vegetable that requires a pressure canner to be properly processed. Garlic loses most of its flavor when heated in this way. For this reason, adequate processing times have not been determined for canning garlic.

And this on acidification:

By law, commercially prepared garlic in oil has been prepared using strict guidelines and must contain citric or phosphoric acid to increase the acidity. Unfortunately, there is no easy or reliable method to acidify garlic in the home. Acidifying garlic in vinegar is a lengthy and highly variable process; a whole clove of garlic covered with vinegar can take from 3 days to more than 1 week to sufficiently acidify. As an alternative, properly prepared dried garlic cloves may be safely added to flavor oils.

(There is actually a way to acidify at home, though - see this answer.)

It's unclear exactly what the composition of the Pizza Hut garlic butter is, but presumably if it's something where there is a risk, they've processed it safely - it sounds like maybe just relying on dried garlic, but maybe also acidification (hard to say if the citric acid is just a preservative or actually acidifying it for safety). It appears to be something sold in individual servings, meant to be opened and consumed essentially immediately, so it can just get safely sealed into the packaging, and can't get re-contaminated during storage, so all is well.

Dry seasoning mixes, on the other hand, are basically never a botulism risk. They don't provide that anaerobic environment. Garlic powder is a common seasoning, sold in spice jars, with no safety concerns. Mixing it with other spices (or cheese) doesn't turn it into a risk.

  • I suppose it's also possible that most of the garlic flavor in their garlic butter is chemical flavorings. – Catija Apr 4 '17 at 16:07
  • 1
    @Catija Maybe, but garlic powder is cheap and easy, and apparently on the ingredient list, so seems likely there's "real" flavor. – Cascabel Apr 4 '17 at 17:13
  • Agreed, likely powder, which to my taste is still an artificial flavor, maybe punched up a bit via enhancers, extracts and lab creations but the powder would be cheap enough to just add more until strong enough. Commercially, places may serve stuff that in the long run is not good for you, but botulism is different, it will kill you, and no business is going to be in the habit of risking that. Well, at least not kill you quickly. – dlb Apr 5 '17 at 15:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.