Product Review: Garlic Presses

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Press vs. Knife
Desirable Qualities
Alternative Garlic Tools
Recommended Products
Kuhn Rikon Epicurean
Kuhn Rikon Easy Squeeze
Rosle
Trudeau
Cuisipro
Zyliss Susi 2
Zyliss Jumbo
Manufacturer Links

It's only been during the past seventy years that Americans have begun to recognize the inspiring power of garlic, though it's been used in dishes around the world for millennia. Originally from central Asia, this underground bulb of the plant species allium sativum, from the lily class, has been revered, even worshipped, not to mention eaten, by ancient civilizations from China to Egypt, and by people all over the world since. In the early 1960s, as Americans began to embrace international cuisine on a large scale, annual per capita garlic consumption in the US was just a couple of ounces. By 2000, average American consumption was three pounds of garlic per year. Today it's estimated we're consuming about ten pounds annually, as compared to the twenty-two pounds of garlic eaten in a year by the average Korean. (Hmm, must be the kim chee.)

Press vs. Knife

Not exactly what we meant...

As the popularity of this food ingredient has grown in the US, so have the strong feelings of some cooks about how to process the cloves. Many chefs who have cultivated keen slicing, chopping, mincing, and crushing skills with a chef's knife prefer to use those skills rather than be beholden to an extraneous gadget that mashes the food between two metal plates. Widely acknowleged by food writers and foodies is a "trend against presses that began in the 80s", but we observe in 2010 that the press is becoming more popular than it's ever been. For recipes that call for sliced or coarsely chopped garlic, as might be the case for a pizza topping or as an ingredient in a stir-fry, a talented knife hand is best. A practiced chef can precisely control the shape, width, the evenness, and the consistency of the garlic. More commonly though, recipes call for finely minced cloves, for which we prefer a press to a knife for these reasons:

1. The minced output from a press is generally finer and always of a more uniform consistency than hand-minced or hand-chopped garlic. The finer texture yields more flavor to a dish than a coarser texture because garlic's flavor and aroma result from the release of the enzyme allinase, which occurs when the cell walls in the clove are ruptured, and this is achieved more thoroughly with a press than with a knife blade. Some cooks, when they want to maximally break down the garlic, use a mortar and pestle to mash the raw cloves. With a press, the degree of fineness of the mince depends on the size of the holes in the sieve. We discuss these variations in our recommendations of individual models. For an extra coarse mince, or a dice, consider an alligator slicer or a small mandoline. No matter the degree of fineness of the processed garlic, the consistent texture achieved with a press ensures a uniform distribution of the garlic throughout the dish, allowing the mince as a whole to be cooked more evenly than is possible with chunks that vary in size.

2. Using a press is faster and easier than using a knife, and requires no special skills... likely one of the knocks against it made by culinary ninjas. A good press eliminates the need to peel the cloves, has a hopper that will accommodate two or three cloves, and is efficient, comfortable, and easy to care for. The more garlic you have to mince the more work the press will save you over mincing with a knife.

3. Using a press is less messy (and safer) than using a knife, and obviates the need to scrub your cutting board (and your fingers) to get the garlic odor out. This is not a trivial matter when you're simultaneously preparing other dishes—a chocolate cheesecake or a peach cobbler—that would not benefit from a garlic presence.

Chantal KG-GP9 8.5"
stainless press
Garlic Genius, with 17 blades

 

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Desirable Qualities

In addition to the ability to turn unpeeled cloves into a fine, uniform mince, the desirable qualities of a garlic press are:

  • comfortable handles designed to maximize leverage and minimize the manual force needed to squeeze the garlic through the sieve, leaving only the papery skin behind
  • durability
  • a hopper large enough to accommodate at least two medium/large cloves
  • ease of clean-up

Many presses have removable mincing screens for cleaning purposes. Others have built-in cleaning tools that penetrate the holes in the sieve, pushing out the residue. Most have hinges that allow for inversion of the handles, making manual cleaning easier, though all of the models we recommend are dishwasher-safe. Manual cleaning is best done with a soapy brush and hot water.

MIU garlic press

Most of the presses are cast from stainless steel, zinc alloy, or aluminum. We note that two popular models by the Swiss company Zyliss—the Susi and the Jumbo—have an odor-resistant, non-stick coating over the aluminum base. This coating has been known to peel and flake off after a short period of use. Whether this is dangerous or unhealthful, we'd rather not worry about possible ill effects resulting from the interactions of the chemicals in the food with those that might have come from the finish on the press.

Apart from keeping it clean there's not much to caring for a garlic press. When a press breaks, it's usually the hinge that succumbs to the repeated stress of use, and getting knocked around in a drawer. Dishwasher cycles may affect the finish, but rarely weaken the hinge. The well-made tools should last for several years, and many manufacturers back-up this ideal with a long-term (or lifetime) warranty.

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Alternative Garlic Tools

We surveyed a variety of non-traditional garlic tools, such as alternative-mechanism presses, slicers of the slider and/or rotary variety, and a few peelers, with the intent of determining which of these would be worthy of recommendation. While many of them have novelty appeal, their operation is more difficult, and their minced and sliced results don't match those from a press or a well-handled knife.

Messermeister garlic slicer

 

Pro dicer

 

Williams-Sonoma rotary slicer

The first product marketed by Seattle-based Chef’n, maker of scores of colorful, well designed kitchen tools was the Garlic Machine, a cylindrical garlic press/slicer that was lauded as an improvement to the traditional presses when it came out in 1982. Chef'n succeeded that device with two versions of the GarlicZoom, a slicer with stainless steel blades linked to two rubber wheels, that was powered by rolling it across the counter. Other companies have presses that use a manual burr grinder, like those employed in peppermills. One of the better-known tools in this category is the German-made Garlic Genius mill (pictured above), previously available at Williams-Sonoma, and currently available from other vendors (but not Williams-Sonoma) for $15. The drawbacks to these alternative devices are that you need to peel the cloves before putting them in the hopper, and that the mechanisms are relatively difficult to clean.

A company called NexTrend offers, for $17, the two-piece, plastic Garlic Twist, which gnashes cloves (pre-peeled, again) between its built-in teeth. The 3" mini-hatbox-shaped bowl holds up to five cloves, which we like, but the manual twisting required to process the garlic is more strenuous than the work with any of the good, lever-handled presses. There's a similar device called the Garlic Pro Dicer for a few dollars more with stainless steel teeth; it's an improvement on the Twist, but we'll stick with the traditional presses.

Other slicing and grating tools are available that resemble small versions of either a rasp or a rotary grater. Messermeister and celebrity chef Mario Batali, whose kitchen tool line is made by Copco, offer tools in a rasp configuration, with interchangeable slicing and grating surfaces, for between $10 and $15. Tovolo has a rotary model for $15, and Williams-Sonoma has one for $18. All of these tools require more work than a traditional press. Before using the tool, you need to peel the cloves manually. During use, the cloves move in the various hoppers while being processed, making the work cumbersome and the results uneven. After using the tool, clean-up is more tedious. Still, those tools have their fans, and we provide links to three of them at the bottom of our Manufacturer Links section.

There are several garlic peelers on the market, including an electric one, for $35. Most are of the "E-Z Roll" variety: an $8 rubber tube into which the cloves are inserted and rolled with the palm of your hand. Since we are favoring presses that process unpeeled cloves, and since the chefs we know who use their knives to mince garlic are not about to turn to an unncesessary clove peeler, we make no peeler recommendations.

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kitchenCritical Recommends:  (in order of preference)

Top ratings from professional reviewers and consumers support the Swiss manufacturer's claim that the Epicurean is "the ultimate garlic press". Made of stainless steel, it's as sturdy, comfortable, and easy to clean as any press we know of. It produces a very fine, uniform mince which we always feel great about adding to our dishes.

 

 

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The newest of the three garlic presses offered by Kuhn Rikon is the Easy-Squeeze, nearly two inches shorter than the Epicurean, and with the plunger and grating screen set at a sharper angle. The result is greater leverage, making it easy to squeeze the handles together. The curved plastic handles are just as comfortable as the stainless handles on the Epicurean, if not as heavy-duty. At half the price, it’s deservedly a bestseller, and was Cook’s Illustrated’s winner when they reviewed garlic presses in mid-2007. The Easy-Squeeze is available in red, blue, and black. Kuhn Rikon also makes the Easy Clean, for $16, but it doesn't garner the high marks of the Epicurean or Easy-Squeeze. The Easy Squeeze is available in red, blue, and black.

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The straight handles on the Rosle aren't quite as inviting or ergonomic as those on the Kuhn Rikon, but otherwise this press performs as well and is as easy to use and to clean as the Epicurean. The German manufacturer claims that the superior consistency of the mince is a result of conical perforations in the sieve. The Rosle garlic press is stainless steel with a satin finish, and has a hanging ring and lockable handles for storage.

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The Trudeau is an excellent mid-priced press. It is made of heavy cast metal with chrome plating, and has large non-slip rubber handles that come in a variety of colors. It has a large hopper with relatively coarse mincing holes, and an attached plastic cleaning plate that is engaged by inverting the handles.

 

 

 

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Apart from the stainless plunger and sieve, the Cuisipro Countertop garlic press is made of plastic, with a non-stick finish. This tool has a couple of functional features that set it apart from other presses. It has a non-slip base on the bottom so that it can be used on the countertop, as opposed to held in the hand; this allows the operator to use body weight instead of hand strength to press the cloves—a meaningful advantage when mincing large quantities. The hopper is spacious, and the mince is collected in a plastic, removable spoon of approximately 1-TBL capacity, so that it can be easily transferred to a bowl or pan.

 

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This Swiss company manufactures well-designed, reasonably priced kitchen utensils; however, for years, its garlic presses had a reputation for finishes that dulled, and worse, flaked off over time, especially when washed in a dishwasher. The company has improved the finish, and we haven’t heard those complaints recently.

Zyliss make two models, similarly priced, both with contemporary styling and ergonomic design, both easy to use, and able to handle unpeeled cloves. The Jumbo has a slightly larger hopper and a self-cleaning tool attached. In the photos at right, the Susi 2 is on top, the Jumbo below it.

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Manufacturers Links

The following links will take you to a manufacturer's website when one exists. In other cases, the links will take you to a relevant web page.

Manufacturers of Recommended Models:

Cuisipro
Kuhn Rikon Epicurean
Kuhn Rikon Easy Squeeze
Rosle
Trudea
Zyliss Susi 2
Zyliss Jumbo

Alternative garlic tools:

Chef'n Garlic Machine
Garlic Twist
Mario Batali garlic slicer

Others worth considering:

Anolon
Cutco
Mario Batali garlic slicer


 

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Updated: February 20, 2010