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:
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.