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Jul 30, 2011 01:47 PM

What's so bad about garlic presses?

In Birmingham, AL, our local paper has a weekly arts and entertainment section that always includes an interview with "local chefs." I put that term in quotation marks because that's what the paper calls them, but very often it's someone like the manager for a chain restaurant or even a local nursing home. Yikes. The paper asks everyone the same questions, regardless of how much actual food prep experience these people have. (You know they can't be real chefs when their favorite other restaurant is Taco Bell and their last meal request includes tater tots.)

One of the standard questions is "Kitchen gadget you are most disappointed with" and 9 times out of 10 the reply is "a garlic press." I've begun to think they only say that because the refer to earlier interviews.

IS there something terribly terribly wrong with garlic presses? I bought mine probably 25 years ago on the recommendation of "The Frugal Gourmet." It's a Susi and it has always worked fine for me. So what's the problem?

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  1. I have an OXO garlic press. While it is useful when I have a lot of garlic to crush, I find a knife to be a better tool for small amount of garlic. The garlic press has two problems. Difficult to clean, and some garlic pieces are left behind. It is fine when I have 10-20 garlic cloves to work with, but when I only have 1 clove and half of it left inside the garlic press, that is just not very useful.

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    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      But I like my Susi garlic press because I don't even have to peel the garlic. Just pop a clove in there, hold it over the sauce pot, and press. I don't find it difficult to clean either.

      The point of my question is why every single "chef" would say a garlic press is "the most disappointing kitchen gadget." That's not the same thing as preferring to do it yourself. I would say "disappointing" equals it doesn't work as advertised.

      1. re: Birmingham

        I have heard great things about the Zyliss Susi garlic press, but I have not had the pleasure to use one. My experience is limited to the OXO steeL garlic press.

        I think garlic press being the most disappointing kitchen gadget is probably an overstatement. I am sure there are plenty other gadgets which do not work at all, period. My guess is that a garlic press is a very common tool and there also invite more exposure and therefore more disappointment.

    2. I worked in a kitchen store so sold a lot of garlic presses. What always grossed me out was when people said they wanted one so they didn't have to peel their garlic. Personally, the idea of not peeling the garlic--and therefore not getting rid of the brown spots or problem areas that lie under the skin--is disgusting. My favorite is the garlic slicer that is like a mini mandoline on one side and a shredder on the other with a small chute that holds the cloves of peeled garlic. This is it:

      5 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        use fresh garlic and avoid those issues.

        1. re: rasputina

          I buy garlic every week, but sometimes there are flawed cloves that look fine until they get peeled--at least that's my experience.

        2. re: escondido123

          What you're describing sounds like a microplane, not a press. Completely different thing.

          1. re: mcf

            I was describing my favorite garlic slicer which I know is not a garlic press, but it's also not a microplane. I sold all of them at the store so knowing the difference was part of my job--and I loved that job.

            1. re: escondido123

              I also wrote microplane when what I was picturing and meant to say was like a mini mandoline... your link didn't work for me.

        3. For a long time I just didn't see the point of a garlic press. Then I bought my kuhn rikon epicurean garlic press. I love that thing, don't even have to peel the garlic first.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rasputina

            I have, and am a fan, of the Zyliss press too. So easy to clean; I never peel first either.

            I think sometimes the knife is better, but I usually use the press.

          2. I use and like my Zyliss garlic press, but I often find a knife to be less trouble, and also, a knife allows you to cut the garlic in the way you like--say, in wafer-thin slices, thicker slices, sometimes even half cloves that I'll anticipate picking out later.

            A garlic press gives you one thing, but very well: a fine garlic puree that maximizes immediate intensity. That's great for many recipes, such as stirfry, but I don't favor it for longer pan sautes, like a chicken dish in a skillet, and I'm not so sure such a fine mash is optimal for longer simmers and braises, either.

            The chefs are being pretentious if they claim that a garlic press is generally ineffective.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Bada Bing

              Thanks, Bada Bing, for actually answering the question. ;-)

              I was really just venting about my frustration with these area "chefs". We do have some great chefs here in Birmingham, but for some reason, they never get interviewed.

              1. re: Bada Bing

                It's not pretentiousness, it's that the garlic tastes is altered by the process and it really doesn't taste as good. I noticed that long before reading Bourdain's comments, and had stopped using the press years before. After reading it, I got rid of the press.

                1. re: mcf

                  Well, the way that garlic affects a dish varies according to the treatment of the garlic. But that also means that the flavor is altered by every way of preparing it. The garlic press is but one form of alteration--and not, I should point out, my favorite method.

                  But, to clarify my point: I know of a couple of Italian cooks who refuse to leave garlic in a dish at all, insisting that one should use only peeled whole cloves or halved cloves, which should infuse the ingredients but be picked out before serving (I actually do like this approach in many cases). For those guys, leaving chopped or minced garlic in a dish is low-brow.

                  We each draw the line somewhere!

                2. re: Bada Bing

                  I love my garlic press. It's about 40 years old, and I got it from my parents when they upgraded to a fancy one. They've gone through several since, and my battered basic one handles everything I throw at it, including crushing garlic. I always peel the garlic, though.

                  When I want sliced or chopped garlic, I use a knife. When I want crushed garlic, I use a garlic press, it really depends on what I'm cooking. For some things you do what garlic crushed to a paste, like for curry pastes.

                  1. re: Bada Bing

                    I'm glad I read this post because I was going to post basically the same thing but wouldn't have worded it as succinctly. I see the garlic press as a specialized tool that serves its purpose when a really intense, integrated garlic element is called for. Or, a garlic puree that will mellow and dissolve in a slow-cooked sauce for instance. I use mine very rarely, but it's ideal when a pasty consistency is called for and I don't feel like screwing around around with a morter and pestle or a cleaver and salt.

                    (Ugh - just realized I replied to a post that's two years old)


                    1. re: TheCarrieWatson

                      I now use my microplane grater the way you described. I really did donate my press!

                      1. re: TheCarrieWatson

                        As the poster of the old post that you responded to: I'm still here and listening. I do think it's good to revive and develop most threads rather that start up repeats of a topic already touched upon. Not to worry.

                    2. I've always used a garlic press and my current version is one from the Pampered Chef. It comes w a tool for cleaning that really works so all it needs is a rinse under the tap. I've had it for 10 years now.

                      Most garlic presses actually crush the garlic so all the juices are released and the flavour is more intense than if it had been sliced or, hand chopped. I tend to press garlic when I only need a small amount or, want to infuse a dressing or oil w a quick hit of garlic flavour.

                      If I need a lot of chopped garlic I use my mini cuisinart.