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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: http://www.google.com/products/catalo...

      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.

                      1. Count me in as a garlic press fan! I think the pressed garlic is more intense than chopped. I don't find it hard to clean, just soak in the sink while waiting for dinner to finish -then scrape out the skin, it is clean. It takes much longer to chop finely (and I have excellent knife skills). It takes me approximately 3 seconds to press garlic for each clove. No comparison to chopping by hand- that cannot be done in 3 seconds.

                        1. I venture it's because it's a one trick pony and in some cases a pain to clean and besides with a little practice you can achieve the same or better results with the flat of your knife and a little coarse salt.

                          1. Tonight I needed 5 cloves of garlic--4 sliced for cockles in white wine and 1 cut in half to make garlic bread. They all looked and felt fine, two of them had brown spots that I would not have wanted in my final dishes. I'm just saying it's something to think about with garlic presses.

                            1. If a garlic press was good enough for Julia Child, it's good enough for me.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: nofunlatte

                                I tossed my press years ago and just hand minced for years. Since I discovered the micro plane in 2000, that is my go to tool for garlic.

                                1. re: dratlover

                                  Okay, I just gotta ask: how do you Microplane your garlic without planing your fingers? ;-)

                                  1. re: CrazyOne

                                    carefully. obviously you have to stop at the nub and finish on the board or toss. I've cut myself on my things but not a microplane.

                              2. I don't get the hate, either. If you're using it for the right job, a garlic press is great. Saying they are uniformly bad is like complaining that your food processor did a lousy job of whipping cream. Well, of course it did, because that's the wrong tool for that job. I use my garlic press for adding garlic to salad dressings, for stir fry or anything that will be cooked quickly, and for dishes that require a sharp, immediate garlic taste. I use a knife the rest of the time.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Isolda

                                  What Hate? dislike perhaps,disinterest even but I haven't read any hate.IMHO it's just one more very specialized tool that I have to wash after using for 30 seconds maybe? My chefs knives get washed and steeled each time and I'm already using it. Again no hate,just redundancy.

                                  1. re: Duppie

                                    She's referring to my OP wherein every local "chef" says his most disappointing kitchen gadget is a garlic press. I'm just hoping someone will get creative some day and pan something else--like a cherry pitter or egg slicer. ;-)

                                    1. re: Birmingham

                                      None of which I own but somehow accumulated 3 different sizes of melon ballers.....

                                    2. re: Duppie

                                      My garlic press really doesn't take up much room in my kitchen. I use it for perhaps 10 percent of my "minced garlic" uses, but it's there when I want it (usually for one version of garlic bread which my kids like which is mushed garlic and butter between slices of bread wrapped in foil in the oven. They like it , so no hate please.)

                                      1. re: DGresh

                                        Again.... I ask what hate? more than anything just lazy and don't want to search for,use for 30 seconds,rinse or wash,dry,replace in appropriate drawer when the knife is already on the board next to the garlic/onion basket which is next to the salt cellar. for me the press is just not worth the effort...no hate here.
                                        Do you add minced parsley?

                                        1. re: Duppie

                                          No I meant hate for my recipe :)
                                          It's in no way authentic. No just garlic, though parsley would be good.

                                  2. From wikipedia (I'd read the Bourdain comments in his book): "On the other hand, some chefs say garlic crushed in a press has an inferior flavor compared to other forms of garlic. For instance, chef Anthony Bourdain calls garlic presses "abominations" and advises "don't put it through a press. I don't know what that junk is that squeezes out of the end of those things, but it ain't garlic."[4] The British cookery writer Elizabeth David once wrote an essay titled 'Garlic Presses are Utterly Useless'; [5] Alton Brown has expressed suspicion about them on account of their having only one function (being 'unitask')."

                                    I don't like the taste of pressed garlic compared to knife prep.

                                    1. 1: What's wrong with tater tots?

                                      2: Just because you work at a nursing homes doesn't mean you're not a quality chef.

                                      3: Others have said plenty about the possible pitfalls of garlic presses. My OXO rusted in less than a week--and chances are that the local Applebee's is using a cheaper press than that.

                                      I do *love* my cherry pitter, though.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: guilty

                                        Cherry pitters do something better and faster than any other method without damaging the cherry in terms of its intended purpose, so they earn their keep. Not so with garlic presses, IMO.

                                      2. I have no animosity towards my Pampered Chef garlic press, but hardly use it these days. If I don't peel the garlic, the papery bits seem to hamper the pressing through of the rest of the cloves, and it is a pain to clean. I mostly bash garlic with the blade of my knife, and that works well with one less thingie to clean up. Seems more a personal preference to me than some Commandment of Cooking.

                                        1. I love my garlic press and use it often. I have a Pampered Chef one and agree with another poster about the ease of cleaning. I typically do peel the garlic first and cut out little brown bits if I find them before pressing. And if I am too rushed/lazy to do so, I don't lose any sleep over it.

                                          1. I had gotten rid of my press when I moved and had to deal with a very tiny kitchen. I only used it with garlic for a few dishes. Plus it was a pain to clean.

                                            A few years later I found I missed it. For the dishes I used pressed garlic in, well I really liked the pressed better in those instances.

                                            But I actually use the press most often for ginger. I find ginger tea is a great tonic when I'm feeling like I'm coming down with something. I put a chunk of ginger in the press and squeeze it into a cup of hot water and I have a quick, strong "tea".

                                            I also found a press at Ikea which cleans in a snap. It was a little cylindrical insert which pulls out and washes up easily.

                                            Back to the OP, it does seem as though the interviewees have a very high number of disappointing garlic presses. Short of rummaging through my gadget drawer I'd be hard pressed to say which one was disappointing...way to many other concerns in life than to hold on to a disappointment in a gadget!

                                            Hopefully the journalist will see this thread and mix up their questions a bit!

                                            1. I love garlic and I'm very impressed with the Rosle press. It is extremely easy to clean, frankly I can clean it a quickly as I can the knife, it's that easy. There's got to be a lot of junk I'd get rid of before I'd toss the Rosle press. It's the beset press I've used.

                                              1. Nothing if you don't mind cleaning it (and right away). I've used one before- major pain in the ass to clean. I find that a fork or the side of my knife works just fine for crushing garlic. I can then use the same fork to eat with. And the knife? well i had to clean that anyway.

                                                1. Like so many other kitchen tools, a garlic press serves a useful, if limited use. I use a Zyliss, which I've had for many years, and which I find it very easy to clean. I use the garlic press when I want to make a garlic-infused oil, or when I want to add garlic to a dish and I don't want minced pieces. I used my garlic press this weekend to crush garlic that I added to olive oil along with chopped rosemary and thyme for a marinade for a butterflied leg of lamb that went onto the grill.

                                                  While it's easy to argue the pros and cons of many kitchen tools, I've never understood the particularly negative bias associated with the garlic press.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                                    I don't hate a garlic press. In fact, I bought one because I do find it useful when I have a lot of garlic to crush. However, most of my recipes only call for 1clove of garlic, and in these situations I just find it easier and more efficient to use a knife. Moreover, sometimes my recipes do not call for crush garlic, but rather sliced or rough diced garlic.

                                                    In short, I agree with you. The press is useful, but in a limited way. To put it in perspective, I have not had used my garlic press for almost a year and I only used it yesterday because of this post -- I wanted to verify something.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      I'm a garlic lover from waaaaaay back, and I can't imagine a recipe calling for garlic to which I would add only 1 clove. Even if that's what the recipe called for, if garlic is intended for the dish, one clove could never be enough for my liking.

                                                      So, ChemicalK, did you verify what you set out to verify?

                                                      1. re: CindyJ


                                                        Ok, I often use two cloves instead of one. :)

                                                        Yes, I was verifying a statement I made here. I remember that a lot of garlic was left in OXO steeL garlic press, maybe about 1/3rd to 1/2th of a garlic clove stays behind in the press and in the holes. I wanted to know if my memory is correct and indeed it was verified yesterday. I think this is another reason that I don't use my press for small amounts of garlic. It is not a problem to have 1/2th of a clove stays behind when using for 5-20 cloves. It is inefficient when working with one clove.

                                                        Again, this is only about the OXO steeL garlic press. I cannot say that for others.


                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          If your problem with garlic presses is simply a waste issue, then I recommend checking out the Kuhn Rikon, which I love and leaves no waste at all, especially if you don't peel the cloves. Just don't buy it from them - yikes $$$


                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            For years we had an old inexpensive cast aluminum no name garlic press, it wasted a lot of garlic and was all but impossible to clean. Then my wife bought, dare I say it, a "pampered chef" garlic press, at least two steps backwards in the garlic press evolution. It was junk, hard to clean, and the paint started chiping off, which was when I steped in and found one of these: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000... at a local store. It may have been there a while as there was no made in China sticker on it like there is the new ones. When the press unfolds the press plate comes up and you can just wipe it off. Easy to clean and virtually no wasted garlic, just a bit of fiberous material left behind. This is no doubt the best press I've ever used.

                                                            1. re: mikie

                                                              "It was junk, hard to clean, and the paint started chiping off, which was when I steped in and found one of these"

                                                              You do understand that you painted yourself as the hero here.... all the "resucing" talks. I doubt your wife will agree with your account of the incidient. :)

                                                              1. re: mikie

                                                                From looking closely at the photo, it looks exactly like the Kuhn Rikon I love with a different handle. Looks like there are at least 2 well-designed garlic presses out there.

                                                      2. Why pick on the poor, innocent tater tots? I happen to love them. Did you have a bad experience with them as a child?

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Fowler

                                                          I agree. I love tater tots. It is my favor guilty pleasure food. Do I eat them often? No, I don't think I have eaten them for over a year, but I do enjoy them when I do. I like to use mayonnaise or tatar sauce instead of ketchup.

                                                        2. The garlic press I just picked up has one side with prongs that clean the plate when reversed, Smash the garlic, then flip the handle to the other side to push out anything that is stuck. Easy to clean.

                                                          It may be that the "Chefs" heard someone famous on TV say that they hated the press, so they must now hate it too. After all you wouldn't want to be contrary to the real chef on TV now, would you?

                                                          1. Just so everyone know. I used my OXO garlic press to crack nuts today.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Why didn't you just use your laser sword? Er, uh, they make a tool for cracking nuts, but I guess if you want your garlic press to be a multipurpose tool, then cracking nuts works. This just cracks me up. ;) pun intended.

                                                              1. re: mikie


                                                                I had some pistachios which weren't fully opened/cracked, so I thought of using my garlic press. The OXO SteeL garlic steel looks very sturdy, so I decided to give it a try and it did work.


                                                                Yes, I admit that I WROTE about this because of the above comment of it being a single purpose tool, though I didn't USE it because I wanted to prove something. I just wanted my pistachio.

                                                                The Sith word takes too much concentration and focus to use and I was tired.

                                                                "they make a tool for cracking nuts"

                                                                True, but I don't have a real nutcracker.

                                                            2. To puree garlic use the Lee Valley Stainless-Steel Rasp - it liquifies the garlic easily when you want the garlic to 'disappear' in your basil-tomato sauce.
                                                              Varied preparations of garlic are for different uses - you might fine mince, or bash & chop, or just crush very well. I think very small cubes of garlic would cook less than a puree, giving a different final flavor.

                                                                1. I have a garlic press and use it frequently for certain things that need crushed fresh garlic, for example salad dressing. I believe that chefs use the butt end of the knife and maybe some salt for this operation, but the garlic press works fine for me I always peel my garlic cloves, however and trim off any brown spots and remove a green sprout. However, if I need a lot of garlic I will usually chop the garlic instead of pressing it. or put the half cloves in the mortar or processor if I am making pesto or another paste. I think you need to know your garlic well and have a fresh supply to use without peeling and trimming the individual cloves.

                                                                  this is definitely not the most disappointing kitchen tool I have bought.

                                                                  1. Imho, garlic presses are a pain in the ass to use and end up with too much usable garlic still in the "hopper" unpressed. This tool is much more efficient and will produce garlic that is minced, finely minced, very finely minced, or smushed into a paste. It's also way easier to clean and virtually unbreakable.


                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: grampart

                                                                      interesting. There are always better mousetraps but this one looks like it would take up more room in my gadget crammed drawers than my perfectly functional garlic press.

                                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                                        To each his own, but this device is much more versatile. As far as "taking up more room", mine sits under my garlic keeper.

                                                                        1. re: grampart

                                                                          Ah, you have a "garlic keeper." I have a big, old, wooden bowl in the pantry that holds all vegetables that don't have to be refrigerated, including garlic.

                                                                    2. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/890331

                                                                      Here's a recent thread I started. As a result of this recipe, I got rid of my garlic press that I hardly used anymore.

                                                                      I really never understand the argument that you don't have to peel the clove. But you DO have to remove the peel from inside the press which IMO is a lot more work than a quite smack with a chef's knife. But to each his/her own.

                                                                      1. I've had a Kuhn garlic press for years now, which has long been Cooks Illustrated's recommended press. It's a bit pricey, but I got it as a gift. I rarely used it for a long time, due my belief in the superiority of the knife, but over the last 6-8 months, I've started using it a lot more. I find it very quick and convenient and quite easy to clean. I do think some garlic is lost, but it's somewhat negligible, It also depends on the recipe and whether I want larger pieces of garlic. I do tend to shy away from one trick pony gadgets (again, a good knife does a LOT of things in the kitchen) but I've been quite satisfied with the garlic press results in many dishes.

                                                                        Also, just as a counter to the claims against the terrible harm to flavor that a press can cause, Cooks Illustrated once recommended presses over using a knife to finely mince garlic due to the uniformity in size that comes from a garlic press. That said, as I mentioned above, I think the difference in flavor is completely negligible.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                          I'm with you on the one trick pony. Especially $40 ones.

                                                                          1. re: grampart

                                                                            Well, it was a gift from my kitchen gadget loving mother, but like I said, it really does work well. If I lost it, I don't think I'd spend $40 to replace it (on my salary, $40 isn't an inconsequential amount of money) but I would miss it.

                                                                        2. A short story:
                                                                          It was a hot and stormy night when I beat a hasty retreat from Dallas to Florida last summer. I inadvertently forgot my garlic press. I felt naked, incomplete, emasculated, and incompetent without it. I bought a fancier one, and I am living happily ever after.

                                                                          The end.

                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                            You know, Veg, the older we get the less it takes for "happily ever after" feelings :)

                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                  Actually less "after" will make it easier to be "happy ever after". For one, the older we get, the easier it is for "the gadget outlives me".

                                                                                  I think there are fewer things to be "happy" about.

                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    Nah. Try grandchildren for one, er, actually two :)

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      :) You are not buying cookware for grandchildren, are you? :P

                                                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                      <... 'the older we get, the easier it is for "the gadget outlives me".'>

                                                                                      I inherited my mother's garlic press so it outlived her and I'm sure it will outlive me. It does have its own specific applications and I could not be without it.

                                                                                      When I use it I remove the skin and the hard root end of each clove. The garlic paste that emerges from the press is perfect.

                                                                                2. re: Veggo

                                                                                  And happily we don't know when The End will come...

                                                                                3. I have and use a garlic press whenever I need to mince garlic. Of course I can do it with a small knife but for me, it's not worth the trouble. If I need sliced garlic, then I use the knife.

                                                                                  "Disappointing"? What expectations can these people have had of a simple garlic press, that they were disappointed? Maybe they're disappointed with garlic...

                                                                                  With the Kuhn Ricon Epicurean garlic press, cleaning couldn't be easier. If rinsing it in the kitchen sink doesn't do it, just spread the handles and put it in the dishwasher.

                                                                                  1. not that I use either (the garlic press or ginger/wasabi paster~masher) that much. other thread I stated I'd like to be Martin Yan-what a magic garlic smasher he is.
                                                                                    I did use the garlic press last night because of remembering these threads. needing 4 cloves&thinking maybe I hadn't really used it correctly. I had - there is no easy way to clean. washed with super hot water blew, scraped then dried then pried the extra pulp out with toothpick and more blowing ;:-/

                                                                                    1. pix didn't appear