There are two kinds of cooks in the world: those who use garlic presses, and those who denounce them as useless gadgets. The latter group includes many French chefs, who think that processing pounds of tight, papery heads, especially in the daily race against a restaurant’s mise en place clock, is best done by smashing the heads with the side of a knife, then chopping quickly.
I’m all for using a press, if it’s a pungent garlic paste you want. A good garlic press should extrude cloves better and faster than slamming your fist against the top of your knife—and a great one processes unpeeled cloves without clogging immediately. It should have a roomy hopper and not require feats of strength to press thoroughly. It should also be easy to clean, ideally with nothing more than a quick dislodge of the peel and a rinse.
Here are a few popular presses put to the test. All work by simply loading cloves into a hopper, then pressing two handles together.
Good Grips Garlic Press
By OXO, $14.99
OXO redesigned its Good Grips press, giving it curvier, heftier handles covered in the line’s signature black rubbery grip. The sturdy die-cast zinc head’s roomy hopper clears easily. A small red plastic plate flips over so that its nubs fit perfectly through the extrusion holes to push out any remnants.
Though pressing one clove at a time is fine, a full hopper requires placing the press on a cutting board and pushing down with your full body weight. And the press can’t handle unpeeled cloves—a single one clogs up the works completely.
If you have the upper-body strength—or want to bulk up—then this press could do double duty as kitchen and workout gear for you.
Strong, slightly curved handles give some leverage, but strength is required with this peeler too.
A detachable cleaning tool, also with nubs to clean the holes, has an added feature with its flat end to dislodge peels, saving your fingernails or knife tips from the process. The cleaner stores inside the handle.
There are reports (membership required) that the coating on both Zyliss presses may peel from dishwashing and/or metal-on-metal wear.
Kuhn Rikon’s Epicurean press costs much more than the previous two, and it’s worth it. Its dramatically curved upper handle makes pressing a hopper full of unpeeled cloves shockingly effortless. The entire press is stainless steel, so there’s no worry about the coating peeling off.
Another big plus is that the sieve actually lifts out and the holes can be rinsed easily and completely.
The Epicurean is strong enough to press fibrous ginger terrifically too, creating a fine, juicy ginger mash.