Essential Tools

Why Do People Hate Garlic Presses So Much?

June 21, 2018

Apparently, it’s cool to hate garlic presses. The clunky, single-use tools are much derided across the internet. Epicurious likened them to “the devil”, Delish contends that they’re “a waste of money.” If the Instant Pot is like the Regina George of the current food appliance high school hierarchy, then the garlic press is like the loner goth Janis Ian—once admired, now bullied, largely considered a waste of space.

But how did this happen? Growing up, I knew people who swore by them, yet how did the tool I’d watched countless parents use to turn cloves of garlic into paste become the subject of so much ire? The hatescape claims they make garlic taste unnecessarily bitter and cause garlic to burn in a mere matter of seconds.

In Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain 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.” And suddenly these tools moved from the realm of ill advised to unconscionable. Garlic presses were never to be trusted. Again.

Recently, around the office, a conversation around garlic presses started a’brewing. As you can imagine, the Food52 workspace is one where people have a lot to say about food, cooking, and every kitchen tool and appliance under the sun. Garlic press opinions began to circulate:

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I like the press for things where I legitimately want a paste- for ground meat mixtures, or sauces or dips, for example. It's faster than microplaning (and doesn't put my nails into jeopardy as I get close to the end!), less work than a mortar and pestle (or at least, my mortar and pestle), and the tool is smaller and can be easily rinsed and thrown into the dishwasher. If I'm sauteeing garlic, for sure I use a knife to get a nice mince that won't burn and/or become acrid/bitter. But if just want that smooshed garlic for wonton filling or meatballs? You better believe I use that garlic press.”
— Candy
Comment

Our VP of Engineering, Jim Bishop, pronounced himself anti-garlic press: “My only opinion is that I hate one-use kitchen appliances. I have a Brooklyn kitchen with one drawer. No time for that noise. I have ONE single-use appliance, and it's a vintage glass juicer because it's pretty.”

Nikkitha Bakshani, our Associate Editor, hates how clunky they can be and, like Jim, doesn’t understand having a utensil with only one use. She insists, instead, on using a Microplane to achieve finely grated garlic mush. Hers is actually a pretty popular opinion. Garlic press haters often point to the Microplane as a highly suitable alternative—it turns garlic to paste without being hard to clean. Others suggest finely mincing garlic then crushing and smearing it under the flat blade of a knife until it smooths.


What to do with all that garlic

One of our site's most popular hotline question pivots around this debate. About eight years ago, a community member posed the question. Garlic press: yay or nay?

Predictably, the answers came roaring in. Here are but some of the responses:

  • I find it just as easy to crush it under a good chef's knife.

  • Find the crush method easier, faster to clean up, gives better flavor, allows for mashing with other ingredients (or making a paste, if you add some salt to the chopping board after mashing, and do a quick chop and spread).

  • Nay, nay, nay! The garlic juice (and lots of great flavor) remain in the press, never finding their way into whatever you're cooking. If you're going to peel a clove of garlic, you might as well take the ten seconds or less required to mash it with the side of your knife (which does 90% of the work of peeling it) and then chopping it with the same knife. ;o)

  • I love using my meat pounder (see photo) for crushing garlic. One strike and you're done—boom! (this one's Amanda Hesser!)

  • Ok, I do love my garlic press and use it pretty much every day. When you crush with a knife, some juice lingers on the cutting board and you don't get as fine a mash as you do with the knife blade.

  • Mortar and pestle. And if you add a pinch of salt, it will smash quickly.
  • I love my Zyliss garlic press! No need to peel, just pop in the whole clove. No smelly garlic hands!

But like any good debate, this one isn’t solely one-sided. Our Senior Lifestyle Editor, Hana Asbrink, is actually a proud garlic press fan. “I know I'm in the minority, but I LOVE my garlic press. Between all of the Korean and Italian food I eat at home, it's the ultimate kitchen helper that speeds me through all of the cloves. I think having the right press also helps (mine is a dream to clean, so easy!) and might convert would-be press haters,” she tells me. “I'm also a fan of blitzing up cloves upon cloves of garlic in my Vitamix and putting them in jars for even quicker access, but that’s another story.”

Some people even contend that perhaps the garlic press isn't as single-use as many like to think it is. The internet, with its vast wealth of knowledge suggests using one as a spice grinder—for things like peppercorns and cumin or coriander seeds—or for mincing ginger.

So where does that leave all of us? To garlic press or not to garlic press? Like anything, it’s a matter of opinion, preference, habit—all that good stuff.

Where do you stand on the matter? Let us know in the comments below.

Tags:

23 Comments

Mara R. September 18, 2018
My garlic press is simply amazing. It's made by Kuhn-Rykon, a Swiss company that makes the best quality, most sensible tools I've seen. I bought an inexpensive K-R stainless steel pot online, narrow but deep with a lid that locks on and twists to become a steamer or a strainer and because of it's unique shape reaches a boil in no time. In the last year, it has become my most used everyday pot, sorry thousands of dollars worth of All-Clad. As for the stainless steel K-R garlic press - it did cost $24+ and it is worth every cent. There is no struggle to operate it due to it's - I'm guessing here - hydraulic design? I mean the way it is constructed calls for only the lightest squeeze. Great for those with arthritic hands. The pierced component swings out easily for cleaning. Here's the main reason it's such a joy - In my area this season many growers are producing a type of garlic referred to as 'red garlic.' This bulb has a few large cloves but mostly they are so tiny that it just isn't feasible to smash and peel them. With my magical K-R garlic press I simply drop in 6 to 10 of these tiny, unpeeled cloves and with an effortless squeeze, I have almost a tablespoon of fresh mashed garlic. Go Kuhn-Rykon!
 
Ttrockwood June 26, 2018
Not a fan. I swear half the garlic gets stuck in there and the rest is lost somewhere between trying to get it off the press and into the pan or dish. I use a knife most of the time and a microplane when i need it to be superfine.
 
Amy G. June 25, 2018
I like my Pampered Chef garlic press very much. It's also easy to clean.
 
Candy June 24, 2018
I like the press for things where I legitimately want a paste- for ground meat mixtures, or sauces or dips, for example. It's faster than microplaning (and doesn't put my nails into jeopardy as I get close to the end!), less work than a mortar and pestle (or at least, my mortar and pestle), and the tool is smaller and can be easily rinsed and thrown into the dishwasher. If I'm sauteeing garlic, for sure I use a knife to get a nice mince that won't burn and/or become acrid/bitter. But if just want that smooshed garlic for wonton filling or meatballs? You better believe I use that garlic press.
 
Leslie June 24, 2018
I have fond memories of the garlic press growing up. It isn’t necessary, but it is magical. The joy of extruding, then slicing against the holes to get the last little bit!
 
Matt H. June 24, 2018
People who think they need to use a garlic press, because it's easier than using a knife, need to learn how to use a knife better. Garlic presses are the think you give to a child to make garlic in order to make them feel like they know how to cook.
 
Smaug June 24, 2018
I'd be interested in your methods of evaluating the knife skills of total strangers; mine, at any rate, are fine and I use a press occasionally anyway. Perhaps you need work on your garlic press skills.
 
arcane54 June 23, 2018
Shouldn’t we ALL be channeling our best selves.. commenters and writers alike? Feel free to go after my choice of tools or appliances and I’ll happliy engage in a polite “throw down” but this unnecessary snark “then the garlic press is like the loner goth Janis Ian—once admired, now bullied, largely considered a waste of space” is just mean ... and uninformed.
 
Charlotte C. June 23, 2018
Janis Ian is not a waste of space. She is a smart, witty woman who writes beautiful songs. Don’t insult her.
 
Smaug June 23, 2018
The comment you refer to seems to have been deleted, but I do remember seeing it and dismissing it on the grounds of "who knows what this guy's on about? Who cares?", but this site has generally been blessedly free of that kind of garbage, and I'd like to see it stay that way.
 
Matt H. June 24, 2018
It's not a response to a comment… it's the first paragraph to the article.
 
Smaug June 24, 2018
So it is- wonder if that's really the author's opinion or an unattributed quote. Could she be Cosby's last fan?
 
tinybanquet June 22, 2018
I often don't use a garlic press, because I don't want a paste -- but boy is it handy when you just need a little garlic for a weeknight dinner. Yesterday I was making a recipe where garlic was the only thing that needed chopping, and I was so glad not to need to get out a cutting board and knife.<br /><br />That said, cleaning is much easier with my current Kuhn Rikon, which is all stainless and swings open for cleaning. A quick rinse and it comes out of the dishwasher spotless.
 
Chris June 22, 2018
maybe it's because i'm handy around the house (and have spent time under the hoods of cars) that i have never bought into the "single use tools are evil" blather. between my various toolboxes and kitchen drawers i have several specialty tools (dad taught me to always use the right tool for the job) and my garlic press is one. what else do you use your whisk for? thought so.<br /><br />as far as cleaning it goes, drop it in some hot soapy water right after using it and let it soak for a bit, then hit it with your dish brush and keep it moving.
 
Smaug June 22, 2018
Blather is the word- the practice of putting something in an arbitrary category and then dismissing the category is simply a copout on thinking something through. For all of you who make coffee by boiling it in a saucepan and pouring it through a sock, and then wearing the sock, congratulations on sticking to your guns, but really, you're causing yourself unnecessary trouble. I use garlic almost every day- why not have a tool exclusive to it?
 
Author Comment
Valerio F. June 22, 2018
Thanks for the definition, Smaug! Also, love that you two could find agreement. Maybe you're right—single-use isn't always a bad thing.
 
DrPRW June 22, 2018
I don't use a garlic press but my husband, whose knife skills are not as advanced, does (and he love it). I hate it because I don't like cleaning it. That is the only reason I don't use it- it hard to clean. All of them are (we've tried many). 9/10 times, I will already have to wash a knife so no extra work to just use my knife to deal with the garlic. The garlic press can't just be thrown in the dishwasher. You have to manually clean it. Trust me, my husband throws it in the dishwasher and I have to manually clean it when it comes out. To each their own!
 
DrPRW June 22, 2018
Just noticed all my typos!<br />
 
Mlok June 22, 2018
I like my garlic press, always have. It takes up little more space than a pair of forks, so I don't have any problem storing it. If I'm making chili and adding in six + cloves of garlic, that squeezy little sucker is invaluable.
 
Smaug June 21, 2018
Utter nonsense- hard to believe that in a world that permits powdered garlic people should attack the poor garlic press. Sometimes it's the right tool, sometimes it isn't. I don't use it very often, but it easily earns the 3 cubic inches of space it takes up. Mincing garlic is fine if you're doing a lot of it, but one clove, most of it will stick to the side of the knife with every stroke. Mashing a clove with the side of a knife will do exactly the same damage to it as mashing it with a press (none, far as I can see). TV chefs never get heads of garlic with billions of tiny cloves, but real people do- do you spend all day cleaning them? Plant them? Or throw them into the press whole and be glad for what you get.
 
Syl June 21, 2018
A garlic press is useless and easy way is slice garlic and/or mince...place in a sandwich baggie and hit with hammer roll over with a can ✌🏼
 
A.S. June 21, 2018
Unless you are washing and re-using the sandwich bag... this is very wasteful!
 
Smaug June 21, 2018
How is this easier than a garlic press?