The Classic Kitchen Tool You Can Use To Avoid Garlicky Fingers

It's a tribute to how delicious garlic is that we put up with it despite how messy it can be to work with. Everyone from Ina Garten to Alton Brown has tricks for easy peeling, but its fussy stickiness means garlic clings to knives, hands, and every other surface it comes in contact with. This adhesion is great when cooking because you get a pleasant diffusion of garlic flavor in the whole dish, but cleaning up can mean scraping dried hunks of garlic off cutting boards and utensils and desperately scrubbing your hands to remove the persistent smells. We love garlic and the way it smells, but not that much.

Many people opt for a garlic press because mincing garlic can be a chore. A press makes preparing garlic easier, and as America's Test Kitchen notes, you can even keep the garlic unpeeled for easier cleanup. But garlic presses can still be annoying to wash out and often require you to scrape the minced garlic with a knife or handle it with your fingers. They are certainly helpful but aren't the best way to prepare garlic if you want to avoid extra cleanup. For that and other garlic prep advantages, we turn to one of our oldest kitchen tools created.

Use a mortar and pestle for the easiest garlic prep

The mortar and pestle is an ancient tool, but one that's still used around the world today. The Atlantic says the design of the tool has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years, from ancient Greece to modern-day Mexico. Its ease of use and basic utility will become clear the second you start using it on garlic. According to Food & Wine you can crush garlic cloves in your mortar and pestle, and then easily discard the skin, just as you would with the flat side of a knife. The mortar and pestle also has the advantage of being easier to clean. The garlic won't stick as easily, the bowl is easy to rinse out, and the non-porous materials won't hold on to that pungent garlic flavor.

Beyond keeping your fingers and knives clean, pulverizing garlic in a mortar and pestle has another big advantage. One of the reasons they have endured is because crushing ingredients is a potent way to bring out flavor. Saveur notes that vegetables release the most oils and pungent notes when their cells are crushed — slicing only crushes the cells the blade divides. Adding a pinch of salt makes grinding the garlic into a paste easier and brings out even more garlicky goodness. You'll notice the difference the second you taste your shrimp scampi, and your garlic press may get banished to the back of your drawer for good.