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Garlic presses: Good or bad?

In preparing garlic to be added to dishes and sauces, is a garlic press okay to use or does it change the flavor of the garlic?

In her autobiography, "My Life in France," chef Julia Child described a review (p. 254) which "New York Times" food critic Craig Claiborne wrote of her coauthored cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. One": "Claiborne sniffed at our use of a garlic press, 'a gadget considered in some circles to be only one cut above garlic salt or garlic powder,' and thought that our lack of recipes for puff pastries and croissants was 'a curious omission.' I happened to like garlic presses . . ."

Anthony Bourdain wrote in "Kitchen Confidential" (p. 81): "Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please, treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in "Goodfellas'; don't burn it. Smash it with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don't put it through a press. I don't know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain't garlic."

Like Mr. Bourdain, Alton Brown once advised against the use of a garlic press on one of the episodes of "Good Eats" for the same reason. It alters the flavor of the garlic.

Like Mrs. Child, I sort of like garlic presses and haven't notice a change in the flavor, but Mr. Bourdain and Mr. Brown obviously do. What do you think?

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  1. While I certainly respect both ABs, I use a garlic press for salad dressings, and sometimes for an extra garlic kick in pasta sauces towards the end. I find that using the press also releases some of the garlic juice into the dressing, which I like, and that I can't possibly mince the garlic as fine as the press manages to. The garlic press travels with me, and has been traveling with me for the last, oh, 14 years or so.

    For other dishes that don't require a puree-like consistency, I've been known to slice, chop, and mince garlic.

    5 Replies
    1. re: linguafood

      I've noticed the difference in taste and texture which is why I'll use it sometimes. I use it for some applications, and chop or mince for others, just like pretty much any other ingredient. :)

      1. re: Morganna

        Using a garlic press changes the flavor of the garlic -- it becomes stronger, more acrid and less sweet.

        When the cells walls of garlic are broken that violently, the basic allium acid changes into the harsh pyruvic acid and ammonia. It's actually a chemical defense mechanism and very similar to the reason an onion makes you cry when cut it, especially when you cut it or hack it with an unsharp knife.

        In addition, at least for me, garlic presses take too much time to use and clean. Smashing the clove with the side of a knife and chopping take about 10 seconds. And to a garlic clove, that's less violent than a press.

        I do, however, love a garlic press for peeled ginger root -- just not garlic!

        1. re: maria lorraine

          Didn't I just read here that smashing it with a fork is the easiest , with good results?

          1. re: coll

            Yes, that was a Jacques Pepin technique.

    2. I can't really see the difference between crushing garlic between two bits of aluminium (i.e. garlic press) and a bit of stainless and a bit of wood (knife & board). I've tried many methods, many times. Maybe I'm missing something? My Zyliss press from Switzerland squashes unpeeled cloves beautifully and goes in the d-washer so I'll carry on using it.

      Slivering will of course need a knife.

      1. My Zyliss has been my friend for many years. It's used when I want just a hint of garlic flavor without the bits....salad dressings, sauces, etc. In no way do I think it denegrates the garlic bulb. No junk gets squeezed out... that's pure garlic juice! The chef's knife is used for slivers, smashes, and chops.

        1. After using a traditional stainless garlic press for decades, a friend sent me a microplane, fine grind for nutmeg and one day I tried using it on fresh garlic. Loved it! Especially for when you really want to mash the garlic well. I do agree how you slice/dice/mash your garlic depends on the recipe but using good quality, fresh bulbs makes such a difference. My mom would hold onto a bulb til it sprouted back in the day!

          So here's a sample of the microplane but you can find them at a better price in kitchen gadget depts.


          5 Replies
          1. re: HillJ

            Ditto!! I never liked a garlic press; maybe because I always thought there was a lot of waste (stuff that got leftover inside it) and without a dishwasher it was a pain to clean. So I always chopped/etc. everything myself. Then for the holidays this past year I got a microplane (a small one, not like the one pictured). Amazing. I didn't think to try it on garlic at first but it works so well on ginger (and I can't stand big hunks of ginger in food) so I tried it on garlic. It's perfect for when you need really smooth garlic and not bits or slices.

            1. re: HillJ

              I'd be pretty happy to find garlic that I have to actually take home before it sprouts! I think my grocery store bought all of the garlic they have 2 years ago.

              I mostly use the press for marinades. I might try the microplane next time. I don't think my palate is sensitive enough to detect a difference though.

              1. re: jzerocsk

                jzerocsk, I hear ya! Some grocery stores don't take proper care. I was "trying" to buy potatoes for chicken pot pie the other day and I saw bugs flying all over. I reported it and left!

                1. re: jzerocsk

                  You do have to be careful when buying garlic. I heard a garlic farmer from Gilroy CA state that all garlic grown in Gilroy was some root ends showing at the bottom of each bulb. All those shaven clean come from China. Now I look very carefully and have indeed noticed the difference, both in taste and longevity.

                2. re: HillJ

                  The box grater I have has just such a panel on one of the sides. I think I'll try using that tonight. Thanks for the idea!

                3. Love the press when I'm infusing oil with garlic for dressings as it extracts maximum flavor. I also have one of those presses from Williams Sonoma that has one compartment to "press" the garlic and another to slice it very thin. Very fast and I think both Anthony and Alton would agree it preserves the sanctity of the clove !

                  see: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/srch/i...

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: pondrat

                    pondrat, I've never seen one of those garlic presses. The slice section works well, delivers photo quality slices? Unique!

                    1. re: HillJ

                      HillJ, I think it works great..the slices are identical which assures consistency in cook time. Plus I can give it to my kids and have them crank out dozens of slices without worrying about quality control (or severed fingers) while I'm doing other stuff. As with any press you just need to clean well between uses to avoid crusted garlic residue.

                      1. re: pondrat

                        pondrat, tyou for the add'l detail I'm thinking this would make a nice gift for a friend who just started including her children in cooking tasks!

                        1. re: HillJ

                          Perfect !

                          And its never too early to have children develop a relationship with garlic !!

                          1. re: pondrat

                            You said a mouthful, pondrat! Garlic is our friend!
                            While on the topic, roasted garlic is a staple in my kitchen. Does anyone have a unique way of preparing roasted bulbs? I usually splash with good olive oil & kosher salt...but how about infusing with herbs, vinegar, etc. Any ideas?

                            1. re: HillJ

                              Roesmary sprigs inserted between the bulbs before baking works. Using infused oil (like basil) also adds a complexity. I also like to spread some anchovy paste on top and let it melt down inside while baking. But eliminate the kosher salt if you do this.

                              1. re: pondrat

                                Man, anchovy paste! What a fab idea :)
                                Making caesar salad tonight!

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  Or just get a crusty bagette or some crostini and smear away !! But I'd recommend getting about 6 bulbs to bake because the garlic anchovy butter is addictive.

                                  1. re: pondrat

                                    oh man, pondrat you have so sidetracked my day (in a good way)!

                    2. re: pondrat

                      I received this press for Christmas. I love the slicer. Easy perfect slices. The only con is it doens't come with the cleaning tool that punches out leftover garlic. So sometimes the crush part has to be cleaned with a tooth brush.

                      1. re: Janet

                        I don't have a garlic press, but I do have a truffle shaver, and it's wonderful for getting paper thin slices of garlic for vongole, etc.

                    3. Maybe it's just me, but I have found little need for a garlic press...if I need to mince or chop garlic, I do it by hand or in mini processor and if I need to crush garlic, I use the side of my chef's knife.

                      1. Gotta say, I love my Pampered Chef garlic press...but it depends on the recipe ...of course, I'm not going to use it for 1 or 2 cloves of garlic chopped or sliced but if I need to crush 5 or 6 cloves for a recipe, I darned well will use it. I agree with the above post about using it to crush garlic for salad dressings, works great.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Val

                          Me too. I got a Pampered Chef garlic press about a year ago, my first press ever, and I love it. Even after hearing how "bad" a garlic press is for the past 20+ years.

                          Also, I am seeing "granulated garlic" on some of the Food Network cooking shows now. Granulated Garlic was once verboten.

                        2. Ditch the press.

                          Sharpen up your knife skills (pun intended).

                          1. I love my garlic press for certain applications, such as marinades and salad dressings. For my tomato sauce, however, I tend to toss a few halved cloves into the oil while it heats up, and leave them in the pan throughout the cooking process (I add the tomato while the garlic is still only very lightly brown). I fish them out when the tomato sauce is finished, and I find that the garlic tends to sweeten this way, and the flavor of the sauce is smoother and richer, overall.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: vvvindaloo

                              Same wavelength. (What's the frequency, Kenneth?) A garlic press is the equivalent to date rape of a vegetable, but relatively victimless. I scrape out the residual in the cylinder of the press on a saucer and mince the remainder in 5 seconds. Occasionally I want slices or cloves to be prominent in a dish, but usually I want, well, garlic. The press is very efficient when you have many tasks to perform in a short perioid.

                            2. I love my Zyliss, had it for eons. Lost the cleaning doodad almost immediately, but never had any problems cleaning it: set it to soak in some water-filled vessel in the sink (what, you don't have any of those?) and then scrape the stuff out with a knife-point or fingernail, and finish by reverse-flushing against the faucet nozzle.

                              The only explanation I've read of why some folks hate these was from (I think) Barbara Kafka, who is always pissing me off one way or another anyway. She said the "problem" with presses is that they give one clove of garlic the potency of several. That to me sounds like a simple case of ingratitude; would she complain if her bank paid TOO MUCH interest on her deposits?

                              I'm with Julia on this...but then I'm usually with Julia on anything.

                              1. Good! Love my garlic press. I use it all the time, it does what I want it to, perfectly. The flavor of pressed garlic is different, of course- it's not as sharp to me. I also really love to chop and mince garlic with my knife. It's like therapy.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                  "I also really love to chop and mince garlic with my knife. It's like therapy."

                                  So there with you Boccone Dolce! I really love chopping and mincing large amounts of garlic! Really gets my stresses from the day out. And it is so satisfying to see the large mounds of teeny weeny garlic pieces. I love the rhythm of the knife - chopchopchopchop.

                                  I have also switched to the microplane when I need to quickly pulverize garlic. It is very fast and easy to clean too. I have almost completely stopped using the garlic press.

                                  I must say I haven't noticed a huge change in taste when I used crushed garlic done with a press. But what I really miss is the texture of the small pieces of chopped garlic. I like pieces of garlic in food, and you definitely don't get that with a press, or a microplane.

                                2. When you need it completely pureed (which for me isn't very often), a press seems like a good idea to me, and I've used one for salad dressings, hummous, etc., like others here. Lately, though, I've been using my microplane instead of the press.

                                  I've tried other methods, like mortar and pestle and smooshing the garlic with salt against the board with a knife. For me the press or the microplane is easiest, and maybe I'm too unsophisticated, but I really can't tell the difference in flavor.

                                  1. I got myself one of the cheap $10 mini food processors, thats all I use it for, and quite often I must say. If it doesn't have garlic, it can't be that good !!

                                    1. When I spoke to my mom last night we got into a conversation about garlic presses. She mentioned that the traditional presses with a fairly large garlic section can be hard to mush with "senior" hands so she switched to a microplane. Good point. Reminding once again that some tried & true kitchen gizmos do leave us as we age because they aren't kind to older hands. Wouldn't it be nice if gadgets came in left, right & senior moment :)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: HillJ

                                        How true. I have stopped using my garlic press because I don't have the strength in my hands to use it any more. (and I am not that old)

                                      2. Michael Chiarello (swoon swoon) uses a mini-chop. That certainly must be as harsh as a press. Good point about the senior hands. I'm not there yet, but its coming and that press won't be so easy to operate.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. I have never found anything wrong with a garlic press in the right hands. The wrong hands are those of someone who doesn't keep it impecably clean, most especially if it's made of metal.

                                          My garlic press is "self-cleaning." Immediately after use, it gets folded back on itself and all of the holes are cleaned out by probes designed for the task, then cold water is run through it from all angles, it's inspected closely for any lingering remnants, then put away. Even an uncleaned metal garlic press that's been left for ten or fifteen minutes, then used again can ruin a dish. If you can't bother cleaning it, you're better off without one, but if you are willing to do the little extra work, they are absolutly great!

                                          Which is not to say that garlic should never be sliced or diced or minced without benefit of press. Depends on the recipe.

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            To my great amazement, I can't find a garlic press even similar to mine anywhere on the internet! It's made of some sort of almost shiny cast metal, and inside one of the heavy handles it says, "FORTUNA, A Ahner Austria." It really is quite ingenious and convenient. You close the handles to press the garlic, pull them far apart to ream it clean. I bought it in the sixties or early seventies, and for back then, it was fairly expenisve... About ten bucks, as I recall. After looking at all the models available today, I'm feeling really lucky! Does anyone else have an old garlic press anythin like this? Wish my digital camera hadn't been stolen!

                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              I'm not sure of the brand but one of the garlic presses I own has a built in cleaner which works just by folding back on the press compartment. Helps lift out the skin that's left behind; while the other came with a plastic widget you poke into the press holes to help dislodge the remaining garlic. Neither does a perfect job for me but since switching to the microplane the presses remain "somewhere" in the gadget drawer.

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                Okay. You've raised my curiosity. What size Microplane do you use? Logic says a zester for results similar to a press, but no way I'd try that without a steel mesh glove! And I would think a Microplane zester would be at least as difficult to clean as a garlic press, if ot more so. hmmmm...

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  C1, I posted the link a bit upthread to the microplane version I have. See what you think. It's wider than a rasp (which I use for shaving fine chocolate bits, lemon/lime zest or perfect nut powder for baking). As for clean up, under the tap for a few seconds and wipe with a paper towel.

                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    Interesting that it shreds/ribbons in both directions! I suppose what you're using garlic in should be the determining factor on how you slice/cu/mash/press it. I seem to be in a play-with-it phase when it comes to garlic. I braised some roast beef last weekend using nearly 40 cloves of unpeeled garlic cloves (variation on 40 thieves chicken) scattered on top of and around it. Lovely mild garlic flavor in the beef and sauce, and now I have a goodly supply of "wet roasted" garlic for garlic bread, sauces, the custard for quiches, and such. It gives a gentler yet very rich flavor, and I'm loving it. The only times I ever use raw garlic again could be for my wok, and I slice that on my mandoline! But I don't think I'm going to toss my garlic press aside. Just in case. '-)

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      omg, what a savory absolutely delicious sounding beef...40 cloves yum. I love roasted garlic.Nice play on getting more out it too!

                                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                                        It was good. I'm just not sure all this roasted garlic left over is that good for my waist line! I had FOUR (count 'em; one, two, three, four!) slices of garlic toast for breakfast this morning made with the roasted garlic and deep yellow grass fed butter on French bread. Hey, when you live alone, who cares how much garlic you have on your breath? It doesn't traansmit by telephone! '-)

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          You are so like me. Dinner for breakfast is so my favorite thing.
                                                          Big deal, enjoy your garlic toast! And so far you're right about the phone, now if you use Skype, just be sure to dust for facial crumbs!

                                              2. re: Caroline1


                                                I found this site while doing a patent search for the garlic press you own. I saw them about 30 years ago and bought all 6 that the store had, which I distributed to my sisters, mother, myself and a couple friends. I have never seen another like it since.

                                                By flapping it rapidly under running water right soon after using, it takes all of 3 seconds to completely clean it of all fiber and residue. All the ones I bought are still actively in service, though no longer shiny by any means.

                                                As far as crushed vs diced, my taste buds are fairly acute. A year or more ago, I threw out an entire leftover chicken because a sandwich tasted rotten, and made a ham sandwich. It tasted rotten too, so I checked the new mayonaise jar I just opened, It was the mayonaise. So I bought a new jar the next day and it too was bad.

                                                Then I realized, after inspecting the label, that the brilliant Hellman's executives had added omega 3 to their mayonaise, and it now tastes like rotten fish. I now have to buy kraft, since hellman runined the good mayonise.

                                                The only difference I can tell between diced and pressed garlic is that the former looks nicer, takes a long time and requires a lot more garlic than the pressed for the same amount of flavor.


                                            2. I have two presses, one a zyliss, the other...not sure. For years I would reach for the press but I found it messy. Often I'd try to eek in two or three cloves at a time so you know how much that hurt my hand-sort of a whimp...... and I'm not very patient...afterwards there is quite the need to clean the press and the area where I'd been..

                                              A few years ago it just struck me, using the press was an extra unecessary step. In most braised dishes you can simply quarter the cloves, during the long simmer they break down anyway, so why bother? For marinades, if I used a press, I didn't use the stuff left behind or if I did then I had to pick it out and chop it anyway.. too time consuming. I finally just threw them both in a bottom drawer. I am just as happy chopping, or smooshing garlic with the blade of my knife. To get a nice smooth garlic paste, I smoosh with salt and oil. It's fast and you get a lot of garlic flavor.

                                              I've found that its just an unecessary tool for me. I cook a lot of Asian dishes and I love garlic and ginger. For me it's just so much easier to mince finely than to stand there with a press and squeeze, clean and reload.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                good point chef chicklet, when a recipe calls for ginger & garlic I either grab the microplane for both jobs or the glass ginger grater to do both jobs.

                                              2. Like HillJ, I use microplane or give it good whack and 'smooshing' (chef chiklet) it too. Er..actually, I have never even use garlic press. Too scared my mom will find it in my kitchen drawers and say things like 'You need fancy tools JUST for garlic, now?' Just kidding!! :) I only have three drawers in my kitchen, so..the less thing I have, the less time I spent in playing pull and tug with the drawers. :)

                                                1. I've seen Jacques Pepin do it by just mashing the clove with a fork. I can't recall if he peeled it first. Another time he mentioned that if you cut the root end of the clove off first, it's easier to peel.