Look for garlic sold loose, so you can choose a healthy, solid bulb. Garlic bulbs should be plump and compact with taut, unbroken skin. Avoid those with damp or soft spots. A heavy, firm bulb indicates that the garlic will be fresh and flavorful. If the bulb feels light, or gives under your fingers, the contents may have dried to dust.
Check out the clove formation. A bulb of garlic may contain eight cloves, or as many as 40. Choose a bulb with large cloves if you’re a garlic lover. Peeling many small cloves to flavor your favorite dishes can become tedious. An easy solution is to put unpeeled cloves of garlic in a large metal bowl, cover the bowl with a matching metal bowl and shake vigorously for a minute. This frees the cloves from their skin (and is quite a dramatic party trick).