Garlic’s greatest weakness is also its greatest strength: It stands out. It has a powerful, distinct flavor that can be covered up, but more often than not it will be the first and last flavor you notice in a dish. As such, people have long sought out methods such as garlic powder and garlic salt to mediate the flavor. But which is better?
Garlic powder and garlic salt serve different purposes. So, while a direct comparison is possible, it is unwise. Rather, you should consider what your needs are. Both garlic powder and garlic salt both act as mediums for garlic flavoring, after all, so preferences are less important than needs.
Given that garlic powder and garlic salt address completely different problems, it behooves you to begin by considering their individual properties. Garlic powder is a good one to start with.
Garlic powder is dehydrated garlic that is ground, compressed, and bottled. Think of it like powdered sugar, in that it has an incredibly light, almost invisible texture. It is actually one of the many food additives with no clear origin. Garlic powder has been around about as long as garlic has, solving the problem of overdoing garlic.
This is because garlic powder provides the flavor of garlic, but to a much more easily controlled degree than just adding the garlic cloves themselves. This is due to a number of factors, but the most obvious one is that you can dash a bit of garlic powder onto your food, taste test it, then dash a bit more.
This is a much easier taste testing process than trying to carve just the right number of garlic slices into your food, as you are using less resources to experiment. So, what are the drawbacks? Why not use garlic powder on everything, all the time? Well, simply, garlic powder has to be cooked with the food.
If you try garlic powder on uncooked food, you will quickly be repulsed by its intensity. Garlic powder is better for stews and pastas for this reason, as opposed to meats. This is because taste testing stews and pastas while they are still being cooked is far safer and more advisable than doing the same to meats.
So, use garlic powder if you are trying to spice up a hearty beef stew or classy Italian pasta. You can still use it on main courses such as steak dinners, but it is recommended that you use garlic salt for that job instead.
Garlic salt is at the same time a more simple tool in the kitchen, and a far more complicated achievement in chemistry, as compared to garlic powder. What is the meaning of this contradiction? That is easy: Garlic salt, like garlic, is a rock. It has no expiration date, it cannot be cooked out of a meal, and it dissolves in your mouth.
But garlic does not just turn into a rock when left in a state of nature. Rather, garlic salt is the product of highly modern chemistry methods that allow for the crystallization of certain things.
Most people do not actually know what it means for something to crystalize. How it works is that molecules exist in certain shapes. The shapes the molecules of garlic, for instance, determine how dry it is, as well as how much heat can pass through it and how quickly, as well as other things.
Crystallization occurs when the molecules of the garlic run out of gluten, where the starch molecules get their water. Essentially, starch needs water, gluten provides water, but it can only provide so much before drying up. This “drying up” causes the garlic to sort of “freeze” into garlic salt.
Garlic salt is useful for adding garlic flavor to food after it has been cooked. This is why it is so good with cooked meat, as it can be added gradually as you are taste testing it after it has been cooked, rather than adding it as you are cooking it.
Which Is Healthier?
Garlic powder is certainly healthier, as garlic salt will oftentimes contain normal table salt along with it. This is not to say that table salt is completely without health benefits, but it can have a negative effect on your health if eaten to excess. Due to the prevalence of salt in the American diet, excess is easy to come by.
Garlic powder is by no means a health food, but what little nutritional value garlic provides carries over to garlic powder. This is mostly its mild contents of vitamins C and B.
Does Garlic Salt Taste Good On Its Own?
This is an odd question because it always makes it sound like someone is getting ready to try and down a bottle of garlic salt for the flavor. But this question is less about enjoying a refreshing glass of salt, and more about making sure nothing needs to be added to garlic salt to make it work.
And to answer that question, yes. Garlic salt tastes fine even when it is your only flavor. As stated earlier, garlic is a great seasoning for beginners. Adding certain flavors at certain times, as well as adding limited amounts and taste testing to see its effects, are some of the fundamentals of using spices and seasonings.
Garlic salt and garlic powder are both great as much because of what they do as what they do not do. They do not affect the texture of the food they season. They do not change it to a different chemical state, water anything down, or dry anything up.
Garlic salt and garlic powder are used at different times, but they are both great seasonings that will serve you well as your first steps into a larger world.