Garlic stinks. But, hey, that’s why we love it so much. This pungent allium flavors sauces, intensifies condiments, and adds complexity to marinades, but it has a nasty habit of leaving its fragrance behind, particularly on human hands. Whenever I mince these oily cloves, the robust aroma seemingly clings to my fingernails for days. Or rather, it used to. Now I use this simple trick to get garlic smell off my hands: I just rub my fingers on the sink to de-stink them.
Garlic, as well as onions and other fragrant alliums, have sulfur-containing chemicals. When you chop, slice, or mince garlic cloves, these chemicals are released. Since your fingertips and nails interact with the oils and juices as you chop and transfer the pieces during cooking, it’s only natural for them to pick up those odors. Unlike fruits and other veggies, these chemicals are stubborn and won’t readily drop off even with soap and water.
To get rid of garlic smell, turn to stainless steel. It’s a helpful metal that is rust-resistant, and many objects in the average kitchen are made with it. If you’ve been plagued by stinky fingers, the answer is likely right in front of you. See if your sink is metal; it’s probably stainless steel. Most silverware is stainless steel, and your stove or refrigerator might be stainless too. Knives are usually stainless steel, but maybe not the top candidate for massaging your fingers.
All you have to do is rub your fingers, or palms–wherever you’ve made contact with the garlic’s juices– on the stainless steel object. Make sure to get good contact and try to get all the angles you can. This can be difficult with fingernails because of their shape, but you could stick a spoon under there if you have particularly long nails. Just try your best. I rub my fingers on my sink walls for only two or three seconds and rotate the angle of my fingers as much as is humanly possible. Stink-vanished. It’s such a common part of my garlic and onion chopping now that I just do it quickly when I bring the cutting board and knife over to the sink. I actually only notice when I don’t do it, for obvious reasons, and it’s easy enough to take care of.
You could argue that this doesn’t eliminate all of the odor, or that you still caught a whiff of garlic. That might be so because of the natural variables that can occur. Maybe you missed a spot when rubbing your contoured human fingers on a hard, flat, unyielding metal surface, but trust me, it’s effective. If you could compare your fingers with and without the stainless steel rub, you’d absolutely notice a difference. Personally, the point is to get as much of the smell neutralized as possible, with the goal of my garlic hands not keeping me up at night.
Stainless steel is an alloy of different metals. Even with a number of different types of stainless steels out there, the odor-causing chemicals in alliums bind to one or more of the metals that are found in the stainless object. These chemicals are transferred off of you, and you can get back to cooking without being haunted by garlics past. Now you can enjoy your garlicky steak for dinner, and only during dinner.
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