Ina Garten's Trick To Free Stubborn Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranates are the crowning glory of fruits. Not only do their seeds (known as arils) look like ruby-red jewels, but their delicious sweet and tart flavor elevates anything you add them to. From their juicy crunch to their gorgeous color, there's just so much to love beneath the fruit's thick, leathery skin. But that's also where our love for them sours a bit. 

The tough outer peel, along with a complex inner anatomy, make pomegranates difficult to open and the seeds hard to remove. And don't even get us started on the mess and stains they leave behind in their wake. It's enough to make anyone pay extra to purchase them already deseeded ... or give up on the fruit entirely.

Thankfully, Ina Garten has a pro tip that makes the entire process so much easier. In her book, "Cook Like A Pro," the Barefoot Contessa shares her solution for dealing with perplexing pomegranates using nothing but a wooden spoon. Following her trick, you'll be able to get all those precious arils out easily.

First, set out a large bowl or spread out a sheet of parchment paper. Using a chef's knife, cut the pomegranate in half horizontally. Gently pull at the edges of each piece to loosen up the seeds without prying the whole thing apart. Hold one half with its cut side down over the bowl or paper, then with the back of a wooden spoon, whack it firmly all around the outside. This will release the seeds with very little effort.

Get those pomegranate seeds out with less mess

Ina Garten's helpful hack does have its drawbacks. For one, it's still messy. If you release the pomegranate seeds over parchment paper, you still risk the juice spilling everywhere. If you do it over a bowl, then the juice will tend to splash. The smacking motion can also cause seeds to go flying rather than trickle down into the bowl. Furthermore, as your hands give the fruit a good push, they also get covered in the beautiful but staining red juice.

If it sounds like too much, there's also the water bowl method for how to eat pomegranate without making a complete mess. It doesn't take much longer than the wooden spoon trick, but it is much cleaner. All you'll need is a bowl filled with cold water. First, cut the fruit into quarters. Working with one piece at a time, hold the sectioned fruit underwater and use your fingers to separate the arils from the peel. Gently tugging at them should do the trick, as most will detach easily. Some stubborn seeds might need firmer coaxing, while others may be trapped behind a thin layer of white pith. Just peel the pith out of the way and continue lightly prying.

The freed seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl while any loose pith will float to the top. Best of all, the water keeps your hands clean and prevents the juice from splattering. Skim away the pith, rinse and drain the arils, and your cleaned pomegranate seeds are now ready to enjoy.

How to make the most of pomegranate arils

Pomegranates are great to snack on as is but also have many other uses. They're wonderful when tossed into a salad, sprinkled on top of hummus, baked into cakes, or used as the finishing touch on roasted vegetables. Ina Garten prefers to use them in boozy applications. In fact, three of her cookbooks feature recipes for pomegranate cocktails. Her book "Go-To Dinners" features the fruit in pomegranate spritzers, "Modern Comfort Food" has them flavoring gimlets, and "Back to Basics" puts the juice in her cosmopolitans. For these cocktail recipes, Garten uses store-bought pomegranate juice and reserves the fresh arils for garnish.

There is one drink in "Cook Like a Pro" however that does incorporate the seeds — it's the fruity fall sangria Bobby Flay taught her to make. While the mixed drink is more commonly associated with summer, Flay and Garten switch their versions up with autumnal fruits that make it perfect for cooler weather. Apples, pears, and pomegranate seeds are soaked in a blend of sugar, cinnamon, apple cider, Cabernet Sauvignon, and apple and pear brandy. The fruits and alcohol are left to infuse their flavors for up to three days, at which point the punch is ready to enjoy.