The Super-Simple Solution to Your Most Annoying Garlic Press Problem

updated Jan 24, 2021
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Someone holding a garlic press and can of cooking spray.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

If you’re anything like me, fresh garlic is a staple in your kitchen. Sure, garlic powder or pre-minced garlic work just fine in a pinch, but there’s nothing like the warm, nutty flavor of fresh garlic (and the lingering garlicky smell on your fingers for days after you cook). The only annoying thing, in my book, is the garlic press cleanup. It’s super satisfying to actually press the garlic bulbs, but digging the garlic threads and pieces out of the hopper? Not so much.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Fortunately, it’s SO easy to solve this common garlic press problem, and the solution is likely already stowed in your kitchen cabinet. Ready for it? Just spray a bit of cooking oil — PAM, or whatever you have on hand, will work just fine — inside the hopper of your garlic press before using it. (Any sort of garlic press will do! Whether you’re using something wacky like the one in the photo above or a more traditional one.) Then, add your garlic (with or without the paper still on) and press. 

Next, prepare to be delighted. When you open up the press, the remaining garlic skin slides RIGHT out with none of the usual finger-picking required. With a quick soap-and-water wash, the spray and garlic residue totally disappears, and you’ll be ready for your next garlicky recipe — sans frustration.

When I first tried this tip, I was a little worried that the cooking spray would affect the garlic’s flavor. But it wasn’t even remotely noticeable (even when used raw in tzatziki sauce). The only drawback of the spray method: Because the spread of the cooking spray is much wider than a typically garlic press hopper, it does make a bit of a mess on the counter. But that’s an easy fix: Just spray the press over the sink or facing into the dishwasher.  

Next time, I might even try using a dab of olive oil and just applying it with my finger. The main idea is to make the hopper slippery for easy cleanup, so any oil (and any application method!) should do the trick! 

Did you already know about this trick?