Frozen vs. Fresh: Garlic Bread

Garlic bread rules. It epitomizes all that is good and holy about Italian-American cooking. Garlic bread’s mere existence implies a pool of marinara that will need to be mopped up with carbs. It’s so comforting you could replace your therapy sessions with 15 minutes of sopping up sauce with bread (don’t actually do this). It’s synonymous with spaghetti and meatballs, big glasses of red wine, and a deli-style side salad. And that meal, friends, makes my damn heart beat—and, make no mistake, I’m talking about frozen garlic bread.

Foodies turn their noses up at frozen garlic bread. The fresh stuff has earned a place alongside bruschetta, crostini, and focaccia, but frozen bread is still seen as a bit gauche. Don’t let the food snobs rob you of a delicious meal; if foodies think something lacks sophistication, that’s how you know it tastes good.

The most craveable kind of garlic bread is the frozen, drenched-in-butter Texas-toast style, and it all comes down to the specific types of bread, butter, and garlic. A textural triumph in the frozen food world, this type of garlic bread has a dark golden ring around its crust, but still maintains its soft, buttery, chewy center. Fresh garlic bread, on the other hand, is often dry and crumbly. Sometimes a flaky piece of bread crust unpleasantly gets stuck in your throat. The bread is just too high quality for garlic bread. 

While people tend to skimp on the butter with fresh garlic bread; frozen garlic bread is soft and butter-laden throughout. The package it comes in is drenched with butter, like a bag of well-buttered microwave popcorn. The toast, even while frozen, is soft thanks to a liberal application of fat.. That butter, by the way, is surely fake. But, as Sporked staff writer Jordan Myrick will tell you, fake butter is a whole damn mood. A good slathering of artificial butter tastes pleasantly greasy, fatty, and unctuous. Fake butter is what makes movie theater popcorn slap so hard. It’s the stuff that a lot of diners and delis use to butter their bread on a flat top for your tuna melt or breakfast sandwich. Peek behind the counter of a Waffle House, and you’re bound to see a big ol’ jug of Butter-It or Whirl. Fake butter drenches garlic bread in a way that a simple pad of whole butter does not.

Oh, and let’s talk about the aforementioned style of bread—because white bread works very well for garlic bread. The texture is what makes frozen garlic bread so memorable, but it’s also light enough that you could inhale six to seven slices before you black out and wake up in another state. Factory white bread, including perfectly squishy Texas toast, is ideal for garlic, butter, and sauce. Sometimes fresh garlic bread is made out of a country loaf, or some sort of naturally leavened sourdough, which, hey, those are great, but they’re almost a bit too chewy or too crusty. When turned into garlic bread, pillowy processed white bread becomes crispy, yet you can fold it in half without it bursting into crumbs.

At Olive Garden—the apex of Italian-American chain restaurant greatness—the breadsticks aren’t frozen, but the OG doughy, delicious sticks do have two critical things in common with frozen garlic bread: a generous brushing of butter-like-substance and dried garlic. Dried garlic is potent in all of its forms: garlic salt, garlic powder, and granulated garlic. It’s rumored that Olive Garden uses garlic salt on their breadsticks. Fresh garlic, like you find on homemade garlic bread, can often be a little too much for people if not roasted properly, but granulated garlic offers a salty, garlicky kick that feels a bit more even. It permeates every bite of buttery bread. 

Moving on to my closing statement: People should stop fetishizing freshness. If it tastes good, my man, it just tastes good. A lot of freshly prepared garlic bread can be dry, bland, and uninspiring. If you must insist on fresh-baked, do as I do: Apply the frozen, Texas-toast style garlic bread principles. Recognize that processed white bread, fake butter, and dried garlic aren’t mere imitators of their original states. When the trio combines, they form a lovely and unbeatable experience. Frozen garlic bread rocks—even made from scratch.

About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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