There’s some conflicting information available online regarding whether it’s safe to use raw garlic in sous vide cooking. You’ll see recipes that suggest quickly cooking the garlic first, while others simply add smashed cloves directly into the sous vide bag. So, what’s the deal?
Garlic is one of my all time favorite ingredients, so you’ll never see me voluntarily choosing to omit it from a recipe. If anything, I often triple the amount listed in the ingredients. Unfortunately, garlic is the one ingredient that can be slightly tricky when it comes to sous vide cooking.
Is it safe to use raw garlic in sous vide cooking?
The answer is that it’s up for debate, depending on who you ask. Tasty Sous Vide does not use raw garlic in sous vide recipes, but that doesn’t mean the cookbooks and websites that choose to do so are in the wrong. There is, however, some risk.
Raw garlic is susceptible to botulism (Clostridium botulinum), especially when exposed to the type of warm, anaerobic environment created by sous vide cooking. This risk is actually relatively minor, and only occurs in what’s known as the Food Danger Zone, which the USDA defines as 40ºF (4.4ºC) to 140ºF (60ºC).
What is botulism?
Botulism is a type of food poisoning caused by a bacterium (botulinum) growing on improperly sterilized canned meats and other preserved foods. It can be fatal, and symptoms include difficulty swallowing or speaking, facial weakness, and paralysis.
I’ve decided it’s not worth taking a risk here, since cooking garlic adds a minimal amount of effort to recipes that otherwise have very little prep work involved. To use fresh garlic with your sous vide, cook it before placing it in the bag (sauté it, roast it, whatever you prefer). If you don’t feel like taking the extra step to cook the garlic, either omit it entirely or use dried, granulated garlic.