Wipe out Garlic Odor on Cutting Boards

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2016

We've got a new trick up our sleeves to remove the potent smell of garlic from cutting boards.

In the past we’ve advocated rubbing cutting boards with a water–baking soda paste to remove potent garlic smells, but some of the smell has always lingered. When we read about a study in the online magazine Science World Report that found that garlic breath can be eliminated by eating foods that brown, like apples and potatoes, we wondered if we could apply the concept to removing the odor from our boards. The principle is this: Browning is a sign that a certain enzyme (polyphenol oxidase) has been released by bruising or cutting and is reacting with oxygen. This enzyme can oxidize sulfurous compounds, including the thiols and thiocyanates that give garlic its pungent odor, turning them into odorless compounds.

We knew that a prepared product like applesauce wouldn’t work since the pasteurization process inactivates the enzyme, so we grabbed a fresh potato and apple and got to work. We took three cutting boards, each of which we’d rubbed with garlic paste over a small area for long enough to leave a noticeable odor even after washing. On one board we applied our old baking soda paste. For the other two, we grated a few tablespoons of either potato or apple over the offending area; grating finely ensured that the maximum amount of enzyme was released. We let the treatments sit for 10 minutes and then washed them off.

The results? The two boards treated with apple or potato had no trace of garlicky smell, winning the contest hands down. From now on, for boards free from garlic odors, we’ll keep an apple or potato at the ready.

ULTIMATE ODOR FIGHTERS: Finely grated apple or potato eliminated the pungent smell of garlic.