-Courtney Miller, Home & Kitchen Director of Testing
Before the invention of the garlic press, people who wanted that delicious garlic flavour to infuse their food during cooking would have to finely dice every clove with a sharp knife. Aside from the inevitable need for a good supply of adhesive plasters, the end result wasn’t simply garlic-infused food. Garlic-infused fingers were an inescapable part of the process, too. The humble garlic press put paid to that problem overnight. These simple but ingenious kitchen tools are now available in an array of colours and designs.
Best Garlic Press
About Garlic Presses
Garlic itself has been used for a very long time, with an historical pedigree stretching back as far as the ancient Egyptians. Garlic presses in the contemporary sense have a shorter history, but their ability to mince garlic to the point where it permeates food effectively means they have attained a place in many modern kitchens. Despite speeding up what is generally considered a very mundane task, some garlic presses are a little tricky to clean, although many come with a grid of pins or nubs fitted to the piston-part which align perfectly with the extrusion holes in the clove hopper, ingeniously pushing virtually every bit of garlic residue out of the chamber and into the food. In most cases running a stream of warm water over an upside-down hopper while giving it a good scrub with a brush normally does the trick effectively, too.
Types of Garlic Press
Garlic presses have made the whole process of chopping and producing finely grated garlic for use in the preparation of food a much less labour intensive affair. Before making a final decision on which press to purchase there are a number of questions to consider. If the press is going to get some heavy use, it is worth looking at metal or steel garlic presses. In general terms these have larger hoppers and well positioned pivots that mean gaining enough leverage to crush the cloves is less of an effort. Plastic presses – although equally effective in some regards and simple to keep clean – can probably more comfortably filed under ‘occasional use’. If crushing garlic needs to be executed at high speed and in great volume, there are a limited number of electric garlic presses available from some specialists. However it is more likely that a food processor would be used to accomplish this task once the skin of the clove has been removed.
Stainless Steel Garlic Press
Stainless steel garlic presses are possibly the optimal material for a garlic press, although at the “higher end” of the product range they tend to be the most expensive. They will keep their pleasing sheen more or less permanently (some other metals may “peel” with repeated use) and they are exceptionally robust, so that they can press several cloves at once if the hopper is roomy enough (they vary in size, however). Some come with rubbery grips or contoured and rounded handles for comfort – crushing a hopper crammed with a few cloves takes a little strength and some of the heavier-duty stainless steel presses will handle the job without protest. Stainless steel is also rust resistant so the gadgets will go on looking good no matter how many times they are washed. Be careful with dishwashers, though – some experts believe the detergents used in them attack stainless steel leaving mottled marks. The best method of preserving the lustre of the metal as new is to wash and dry the press by hand making sure that all garlic detritus has been removed from the head. Most stainless steel or cast models of press have ‘self-cleaning heads’ that make the job of looking after them that much easier. In this case, they usually possess an attachment that can be removed so any remaining garlic is flushed out under a running tap.
Metal Garlic Press
Other metals and alloys beside stainless steel are used to manufacture garlic presses, including aluminium. Like their stainless steel counterparts, metal garlic presses are robust and hardwearing and, at the heavy-duty end of the range, will similarly press out several cloves at once. As with the stainless steel models, beside the basic piston design, some are self-cleaning, with pins or nubs on the piston plate aligning perfectly with the extrusion holes in the hopper so that most of the garlic gets pushed through. Some have pleasingly contoured grips for added comfort while squeezing the cloves. One slight disadvantage about the “shinier” models is that, with prolonged use, the surfaces are liable to peel, and if they’re plunged into the dishwasher regularly, they start to dull. A few of the cleverer designs incorporate a cherry stoner on the grips.
Plastic Garlic Press
Plastics are increasingly being used in the manufacture of garlic presses. While some plastics are formulated to be tough and durable, plastic garlic presses are generally less robust than their mighty stainless steel cousins and will inevitably have a shorter working life. However, what they lack in fortitude they make up for in flair and clever design (and they are noticeably less expensive than steel presses, too). While some are more properly described as choppers, others adopt the classic garlic press design and some “switch” to metal at the hopper/piston end. Often colourful and ergonomically designed, some even use the power of a screw-thread mechanism to push the garlic through the extrusion holes.
Handle Garlic Presses
These devices – while often-labelled garlic crushers or slicers – effectively perform the same function as hand held presses. The garlic clove is fed into the top and turning the handle crushes the cloves with the resultant pulp collected at the bottom.
Remember that garlic presses serve more than just a fine chopping function. In some cases extracting juice from the garlic cloves is the preferable option and this can readily be achieved with most good quality presses, whatever material it is made out of. The trick is to put gentle pressure on the cloves before straining the pulp over a bowl. If this is a requirement, look at presses that have the capacity to strain a large number of cloves at once, as this will prove a real boon for chefs in a hurry. Garlic presses are also available in sets that often comprise of a selection of graters of different perforations. A kit like this can make a perfect addition to a kitchen and prove to be very versatile aid in preparing dishes such as pasta that can require sauces full of garlic and cheese. Be sure to check for listings for collections of kitchen gadgets such as these, as purchased second hand they can represent really good value.