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Garlic: To press or not to press

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I’ve had a garlic press forever, but for some reason, I hardly ever use it.  After dusting it off the other day and squeezing a clove through it in about 10 seconds, I began to wonder why I don’t use it more.

In the test kitchen, we rarely use a garlic press, apparently because none of our contributors do either. Most of our recipes come in calling for minced garlic, not pressed.

Adding to my indecision is the debate over whether garlic presses are good for garlic or not. Some say that the press creates a better garlic flavor because it breaks down the cloves more fully, releasing more garlic flavor and producing a fine purée that integrates better with other ingredients. But many chefs shun the press, saying it makes for lousy garlic flavor.

Hoping to taste the difference for myself, I made some garlic bread by splitting a clove in half, then pressing one half and mincing the other by hand. I mixed the garlic with equal amounts of butter and salt, spread it on some crusty bread, and baked it until toasty.

The results couldn’t have been more inconclusive. Of the four people who tasted, two thought the pressed garlic bread was stronger and more pungent than the minced.  The other two had exactly the opposite reaction.  Maybe I didn’t mix the garlic thoroughly enough into the butter, or I spread it on unevenly. Who knows. My takeaway from this experiment is that the difference is miniscule. In a dish where garlic is not so center-stage, I don’t think you’d notice it at all.

So will I use my garlic press more?  Probably, but then, old habits die hard. I’m used to mincing, and though the press makes quicker work of the garlic, it’s a pain to clean. 

What do you think?  To press or not to press?

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  • LynPatters | 08/26/2016

    I love my press, but I have found that the pressed garlic will turn bitter if cooked on high heat for longer than a minute. Best to slice when flash-cooking.

  • YvonneRobinson | 03/11/2011

    For so long, I didn't use a press. But I recently got a Pampered Chef garlic press and I love it. It has a small tool attached that pushes out anything that is in the holes. Easy! Rinse it and put it in the dish washer.
    There are recipes that you would want to press the garlic; it releases the oils, gives a stronger flavor.
    I just put on some soup and I chopped the garlic, feeling that it will be cooking in the soup and might be better in small pieces and perhaps not as pungent.
    I used the Pampered Chef manual chopper to do this. It made all the difference.
    Otherwise, I hate chopping garlic or onion, the chopper makes it quick and simple. Great tools if you like to cook a lot, or not.

  • mkacher | 08/27/2009

    I've used both, but I hate the cleanup on the press. I haven't bought another one since the last one broke. Anthony Bourdain said in one of his cook books that if you use a press "you will surely go to hell".

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