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Equipment Review: Garlic Presses

Fine Cooking Issue 84
by Maryellen Driscoll, Fine Cooking’s editor at large.  Photos: Scott Phillips
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When there’s garlic to be minced, many cooks reach for their garlic presses. Some cooks like the convenience—with just a squeeze of the handle, a single clove of garlic (or more) is reduced to a fine mash. Other cooks use presses because they want to avoid getting the pungent smell of garlic on their hands. Yet, after working with 18 different presses for a day, we found only three that really offered both advantages. 

Plenty of garlic presses have obvious failings—poor leverage, shoddy hinges, uncomfortable grip, or chambers that are too cramped to fit a whole garlic clove—but after crushing clove after clove and interviewing a number of garlic press users and nonusers, we discovered that the most pervasive problem seemed to be cleanup. Nobody likes to dig mashed garlic out of a space slightly larger than a thimble. The pronged cleaning attachments that come with (or are built into) some presses help marginally. And pressing a clove unpeeled minimizes the mess to some extent. But either way, there’s still stuff to scrape out, be it with the tip of a finger, a paring knife, or a toothpick. Now what’s convenient about that?

In an attempt to solve this problem, a number of brands have begun making presses with removable sieves that are meant to be easier to clean. In some of these presses the sieves look like tiny, removable rectangular baskets. It’s an improvement, but these presses aren’t perfect: Cleaning them still requires a bit of digging, and then there’s the risk of misplacing the loose parts. Our winners, the Kuhn Rikon and Rösle presses, took another approach. These have flat sieves that swing out on a hinge, making them refreshingly easy to swipe clean without the risk of lost parts. This innovation might cost you more than you’d expect to spend on a garlic press, but if you use one often, you’ll appreciate the time and trouble saved when it comes to the real dirty work—cleaning.

Winners

Kuhn Rikon Epicurean garlic press
$34.95 at Hugthecook.com

We like that the roomy stainless-steel sieve on this press is a hinged plate that swings up for simple cleaning with a sponge. An interior thumb rest holds the sieve in place when you open the press to load with garlic. The arched handles offer real ergonomic advantages and are friendly to small hands; you just have to be careful not to pinch your skin as the handles meet. The only disadvantage to this clever design is that a small amount of pressed garlic can seep around the sides of the chamber. Kuhn Rikon makes another “easy-clean” model  with a scraper on the face of the sieve, but we like this one better

Rösle garlic press
$34.95 at Cutleryandmore.com

Very similar in design to the Kuhn Rikon press, this sturdy model is strong and has nice balance. The handles provide good leverage once you begin to crush the clove, but if you have small hands, you may have to use both of them to get started because the handles are spaced far apart. Once shut, the brushed stainless-steel handles stay agreeably in place for storage. As with the Kuhn Rikon model, pressed garlic can seep around the edges of the chamber.

Runner-up

Oxo i-Series garlic press
$16.95 at Lascosascooking.com 

This garlic press is strong, comfortable to grip, and innovative. A small handle cleverly tucked inside the lower handle makes it easy to lift out the sieve plate for cleaning. The garlic chamber isn’t as long as Rösle’s or Kuhn Rikon’s, but it’s plenty deep, and the sieve plate fits snugly in place, so pressed garlic doesn’t seep out. The plate, however, is thick, and some garlic does get stuck in the tapered holes; although the sieve mostly rinsed clean, we resorted to a toothpick to poke out those last few specks.

How we tested

For this review, we crushed garlic—small, medium, and large cloves, peeled and unpeeled—through 18 models of garlic presses. These were the other brands we tested: Amco, Anolon, Chantal, Cuisinart, Dalla Piazza, KitchenAid, Leifheit, Messermeister, MIU France, Pedrini, Progressive International, RSVP  Z-Gadgets, Wüsthof, and Zyliss.

Minced vs. pressed: Can you taste a difference?

Garlic presses aren’t for everyone. Some cooks find it simpler to mince garlic with a knife; others argue that pressed garlic has inferior flavor. We’ve long wondered whether minced and pressed garlic actually taste any different. So to find out, we held a blind taste test, serving two versions of a quick marinara, sautéed Swiss chard, and gremolata (a garnish of minced garlic, lemon zest, and parsley). For each dish, we made one batch with minced garlic and one with garlic crushed in a press. Almost everyone found that garlic crushed in a press gave dishes a more aggressive garlic flavor. Many tasters found the pungency offensive in the gremolata, which featured raw garlic, but acceptable in the marinara, which was cooked.

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