November 16, 2011

Garlic Confit

I remember making lentils for the first time in my pressure cooker (this was before I went to culinary school). It blew up. My super-white kitchen was suddenly covered in yellow spots. The thing wouldn’t stop spewing lentils; I had to throw a towel over it. The problem, it turned out, was caused by a single lentil that had become stuck in the old-style pressure release valve, jamming it shut.

For years after that, I was scared to use a pressure cooker. But joining The Cooking Lab cured me of my fear as I saw how safe modern pressure cookers are when used properly — and how useful they are for risotto, stocks, vegetables… you name it. Because water boils at higher temperature inside a pressurized environment, risottos and other grains cook faster, in a pressure cooker, stocks are richer, and natural sugars caramelized more easily. Now I use a pressure cooker all the time — but only after I read the manual.

Anjana Shanker, Development Chef

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We know of no better way to make stock than in a pressure-cooker. This approach vastly improves the yield, takes much less time, and produces a clearer liquid because it cooks the mixture at well over 100 ?C / 212 ?F, yet doesn Pressure-cooking accelerates both caramelization and Maillard reactions, an effect that we exploit in our caramelized carrot soup recipe. Pressure-cooking works especially well with alkaline foods, such as garlic. To avoid breaking jars or scorching retort bags in your pressure cooker, always use a trivet or rack to hold them off the bottom of the cooker. garlic confit

Additional Tips for Pressure-Cooking

  • Each model is different. Always read the manual before using your pressure cooker.
  • Our favorite model is the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic.
  • We love pressure cookers for three main reasons: economy, efficiency, and creativity. Pressure-cooking saves money on ingredients because it boosts yields; a pressure-cooked stock can be made from one-eighth as much meat as a conventional stove-top stock, for example. Pressure-cooking can cut cooking time by as much as three-quarters. And you can make creative use of the higher temperatures inside the cooker to achieve terrific effects that are hard to get any other way. Our recipe for carrot soup, for example, exploits the acceleration of caramelization and Maillard reactions that happen under pressure. Most any alkaline food (like the garlic in our confit) benefits from cooking this way at higher temperatures. So do grains and tough cuts of meat, which become tender more quickly in a pressure cooker.
  • Most sous vide bags are not meant to withstand the high heat of pressure cookers. Use a retort bag instead.
  • If you are using a jar or retort bag in your pressure cooker, it is necessary to use the trivet or rack (included with most models) to hold the container off the bottom of the cooker. Otherwise the bag might scorch, or the jar might rattle and crack.
  • Pressure is created by steam. If you use a jar or bag, fill the pressure cooker with enough water to cover the trivet to a depth of about one-quarter inch, which should be enough to fill the container with steam at 1 bar / 15 psi above ambient atmospheric pressure.
  • Use rubber tongs to remove jars or bags so that you don't burn yourself.
  • When using a jar in your pressure cooker, the jar may crack if you tighten the lid of the jar fully. Back the lid off a quarter turn shy of tight to allow a small gap through which the air in the jar can escape as the contents expand with heat.
  • Most pressure cookers are not designed for canning, so we don't recommend using them to cook food that will be stored without refrigeration. Pressure canners are different from pressure cookers; a pressure canner has a gauge and a calibrated weight, which is crucial for assuring that the temperature inside has reached the pasteurization temperature that is called for in the recipe.
  • If you overheat a pressure cooker, it can become overpressurized and sustain damage to the flanges that hold the lid on. All pressure cookers include safety mechanisms release that steam if the pressure gets too high. But if steam is shooting out the release vent, then the liquid inside is probably boiling rapidly, which is not good for the food inside.
  • Never open a pressure cooker while it is pressurized. The sudden release of the hot steam and water can inflict serious burns.
  • To release the pressure before opening the cooker, run cold water over the lid and sides of the pot, or better yet set the pressure cooker in a sink filled with enough cold water to come about one third of the way up the cooker, and then run water over the top. A slower but simpler alternative is to remove the pressure cooker from the heat source and let the pressure subside naturally as the pot cools in the air.

Additional Tips for Garlic Confit

  • Try using duck fat instead of olive oil. We often do!
  • The cooking time in this particular recipe allows for a large margin of safety, so it can remain at room temperature indefinitely as long as the lid remains sealed. Once opened, the garlic confit will last about two months, refrigerated (the colder, the better).
  • We use the garlic confit in a wide range of soups and sauces, including our Thanksgiving Gravy.
  • If you do not have a pressure cooker but want to try one of our recipes that calls for garlic confit, roast the garlic and store it in olive oil. Roasted garlic lacks the deep caramelized notes that form during pressure-cooking, however, and it should be refrigerated.
  • Garlic confit is also delicious spread on toast or warm bread. Try it on hors d'oeuvres or just make some up for yourself and curl up on the couch with a slice.

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  1. ben December 10, 2012 Reply

    Are there any botulism concerns about this method of preperation? reference:

  2. maztec January 1, 2013 Reply

    Good question Ben! I too would like to know for certain, especially with herbs in the mix that are also known for causing botulism. In the MCAH book they mention that the jar is only good to store for a month, which may imply there is some worry. However, I have a hard time seeing why – other than the fear of botulism – an unopened jar would only be good for a month, as it should have sealed when pressure cooked.

    Pressure cooking can kill the botulism spores, but only at 121C for 30 minutes. In theory that means this recipe should kill off the spores more than adequately. Plus, when refrigerated, the production of toxins is slowed. It would be nice to get confirmation from the MC team on that though.

    On the other hand, you can acidify or add salt to preserve the garlic, which will keep clostridium botulinium from developing. However, that would requiring modifying the recipe.

  3. Jonny January 2, 2013 Reply

    I tried this method for garlic confit pressure cooked at sea level with 15psi for the time specified, and the garlic is basically black, and tons of oil leaches out. This recipe is flawed.

  4. tikidoc January 7, 2013 Reply

    We have a pressure canner and use it to make this recipe. It seems to work fine but a little bit of oil always leaks out of the jars during the cooking. We have a fair amount of head room, so I don’t think it is because we are overfilling the jars. Is this OK?

  5. Tim April 30, 2013 Reply

    Why won’t Modernist Cuisine answer these botulism concerns? They won’t respond on Twitter, either. Makes me very, very hesitant to try this.

  6. Larissa Zhou May 1, 2013 Reply

    Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobic bacteria that is commonly found in soil. In harsh environments, the bacteria form spores that lie dormant until more conducive environments lead them to replicate and grow. At this time, the spores produce neurotoxins that are highly harmful to humans. Garlic-in-oil at room temperature is a low-acid, anaerobic, and ambient environment that has been known to foster spore growth and to consequently cause botulism. The two outbreaks in in North America in recent times both involved “an aqueous mixture with a pH above 4.5 prepared without heat treatment or chemical or acid additives. Both products were marked with instructions to keep refrigerated, but had been stored at room temperature” (

    We’ve never had health issues with our garlic confit. Cooking the garlic in the pressure cooker for one hour should be more than enough time to kill the C. botulinum spores and bacteria. The other key factor is to store freshly-made confit in the refrigerator and never at room temperature. We’ve in fact held the confit for much longer than a month in the refrigerator. However, we do so because we understand our storage environment well and do not want readers to assume that it is OK to store it for months in _any_ setting. Also, from the beginning to the end of the cooking process, take the utmost care in keeping ingredients and equipment clean.

    The FDA now requires commercial garlic-in-oil manufacturers to add acidifying agents as an antimicrobial measure. If you’d like to implement this at home, we suggest adding a small amount of vinegar or sherry vinegar to the mixture before heating, noting that it’ll change the flavor (though perhaps for the better!)

    I hope this clears up your concerns; let me know if you have other questions.

    Larissa | Food Scientist | Modernist Cuisine

  7. Lorenzo Ridolfi May 31, 2013 Reply

    Hi, I have two questions:

    1) The sousvide method, I believe, doesn’t give the caramelised flavour from the pressure cooking. Is it true?

    2) Why just putting all the ingredients in the pressure cooker, without any bag or jar, isn’t an option?

    • Riley September 23, 2013 Reply

      Hi Lorenzo. I believe that heating oil in a pressure cooker can be dangerous. Pressure cookers must be filled with water, while pressure fryers may be filled with oil, the two are designed differently. Also the water provides a temperature of 250F/120C at 1bar/15psi while the oil would heat beyond the desired temperature.

  8. mja July 12, 2014 Reply

    I pressure cooked my confit garlic for 2 hours and it came out very dark and bitter – overcooked. No oil leaked which was nice. Do you suggest less time say one hour instead of 2 – or maybe 75 mins.

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