Browse around a kitchenware store, and you’ll see gadgets for any cooking task you can imagine. Some aren’t especially useful. (My banana slicer and salad scissors are still in gift boxes from three Christmases ago.) However, other cooking contraptions can be game-changers, like the garlic press.
Garlic is a vital ingredient in many recipes. The fresh cloves add vibrant flavor to food and sauces, making garlic a cooking staple. However, chopping garlic into tiny pieces or grating it with a cheese grater can be a chore, plus you then have the garlic smell on your hands, which isn’t always easy to wash out. Then, sometimes as you are enjoying your homemade dinner, you take a bite into a chunk of garlic, overpowering the rest of the meal, and leaving you with garlic breath for hours.
A garlic press, also known as a garlic crusher, is a kitchen tool used to crush garlic cloves. Cooks Illustrated, a well-known cooking magazine from America’s Test Kitchen company in Brookline, Massachusetts, says, “A good garlic press can break down cloves more finely and evenly than an average cook using a knife, which means better distribution of garlic flavor throughout any given dish.”
Garlic presses intensify the flavor while spreading it evenly throughout the dish. In other words, you won’t worry about taking a big bite of garlic that has not been minced. Not to mention, garlic presses save cooking prep time.
What does a Garlic Press/Crusher Look Like?
Garlic presses are usually metal, hand-held tools that resemble nutcrackers. They come in various sizes and can be metal or plastic, but they all include a chamber that holds the garlic, two handles, and a grid of small holes used to mince the garlic.
The features of a garlic press vary; some are larger to accommodate larger or multiple cloves. The holes vary in size, too. Some are larger, while others are smaller. Some garlic presses have built-in cleaning devices and other fancy features.
How to Use a Garlic Press
Using a garlic crusher is incredibly simple. Place one garlic clove into the chamber, and squeeze the handles firmly together while holding the press over a bowl, container, or directly into the meal you’re preparing. In less than ten seconds, you have fragrant, minced garlic.
After you are finished, open up the press and use a food brush or knife to scrape out the skin. Yes, I said skin, which leads me to the next question.
No, you don’t need to peel the skin first. A garlic press pushes the garlic through the holes while leaving the skin intact in the chamber.
Some people still prefer peeling garlic before placing it in a press, and that’s a preference. However, peeling garlic is not necessary—another time saver!
Some people avoid garlic presses because of the tedious cleaning, but most presses on the market today are actually easy to clean. Before you use your garlic press, spray it with a little cooking oil, which will allow easier cleanup later.
After you use the press, you can take a sharp object like a toothpick or knife and remove the peel and any garlic residue. Then, flush the tool with warm water and use mild dish soap and a toothbrush or small sponge to clean the press.
Some garlic presses are dishwasher safe, so in this case, you can run the press under hot water to dislodge any remaining garlic and wash it in the dishwasher.
Yes! Some garlic presses are advertised to press not only garlic, but ginger, shallots, or small peppers.
Prepping garlic can be a pain, and if you find yourself dreading the chore of mincing garlic with a Chef’s knife, a garlic press may be a good tool for you. If you cook regularly, this contraption will make your life easier.
Before you commit, though, consider how you prefer your garlic when you are cooking. If you like finely grated garlic, look for one with smaller holes. If you prefer small cubes of garlic, look for ones with larger holes. Some garlic presses include both options.
Also, consider the materials. The best garlic presses are built with heavy-duty stainless steel, which will last. The plastic ones may work for a while, but they aren’t as durable as their metal counterparts.
A garlic press isn’t for everyone. Some professional chefs, like the late Anthony Bourdain, for example, show public opposition for the garlic press. However, for the home cook who may not have the time and the skill to quickly and efficiently mince garlic with a knife, a garlic press is a great addition!