So many cooking blogs recommend a garlic press. I have a hard time understanding it. Why would you want a clunky pair of pliers to pulverize garlic? It hardly has any other use. Yet, it is one of the most popular kitchen gadgets in existence. In my opinion, it is a silly product.
Calling the garlic press a silly product may sound snobby, I know. It is difficult to express a negative opinion about a kitchen tool without sounding snobby, especially one that many people love. My reasons, I think, are practical. Most folks who recommend a garlic press say it is so you don’t have to mince up a whole lot of garlic. Ignoring the fact that you can’t really use a garlic press for a whole lot of garlic at once, mincing garlic is not the same as pulverizing it. And, pulverizing garlic is not something you need to do unless you are making a paste, such as a curry paste or other spicy mixture.
There is a reason that some chefs tend to be turned off by the garlic press. The pulverized and juiced mess makes for a strong bitter garlic flavor. Pressing garlic makes it much more potent. You basically want to avoid things that force the oily juice out of the garlic, and that is really what a garlic press is: A garlic juicer.
I have a secret for when I want more garlic flavor. I simply chop up, or even slice, more garlic. The advantage to this is that you get more garlic, which is darn good for you. I never really finely mince garlic unless there will be a short cooking time or chunks of garlic would be a turn-off. Even then, fine mincing is usually not required. I chop it fine, at most, and sometimes not even that. As stated, much depends on the cooking time. Larger pieces of garlic that have had plenty of time to cook will taste mild and nobody will be offended by it. A large piece of almost raw garlic, on the other hand, could be a problem.
Still, there are easier ways to mash up large amounts of garlic if you want a garlic paste.
Lo and behold, you can do it with a mortar and pestle], something that will serve more than one use in the kitchen. A favored chef’s method, as well, is to simply smash the cloves with a knife, sprinkle on some salt, and use the flat of the knife or another tool such as a bench scraper to mash and puree the garlic. The salt helps the process along. This will smash and grind the garlic without producing copious amounts of garlic juice, but you’ll still get some juice, regardless. The idea that this is superior to the results of a garlic press, however, holds little credence. A garlic paste is a garlic paste.
Another problem that I always had with a garlic press is that they are hard to clean. The tiny little holes get filled with tiny pulverized bits of garlic. Sure, you can find many reviews of garlic presses and try to figure out which ones are easiest to clean, but you always leave some of the garlic behind, and cleaning the press is not my idea of fun. That smashed up garlic doesn’t like to come out of those tiny holes easily. For a cook like me, who doesn’t want to spend too many ours on KP duty, that is enough to use a cooking tool once and then throw it in the junk drawer, where it will sit there for years before finally vanishing mysteriously, which is exactly what happened to my garlic press.
All of this is just my opinion, mind you. I personally do not like garlic presses, but if you like the convenience of one (I don’t think the cleaning is convenient), I will not make fun of you. The drawbacks I’ve described, however, might make you wonder about other alternatives. They exist in abundance. These are products such as the Garlic Crusher Twister Mincer & Peeler
This is one of a class of products I would call “garlic twisters.” Two pieces of plastic with a line of teeth inside. You put the garlic in one side, fit the two pieces together, and twist. The teeth slide past each other and cross-cut or mince the garlic.
Whether any of them are necessary is, again, open to debate.