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Aug 6, 2008 04:24 AM

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 !


                  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.