Published July 1, 2007. From Cook's Illustrated.
Can your choice of garlic press affect the flavor of your dishes? You'd be surprised.
Why not just mince? Over the years, we’ve learned that for the average home cook, a garlic press is faster, easier, and more effective than trying to get a fine, even mince with a chef’s knife. More important, garlic’s flavor and aroma emerge only as its cell walls are ruptured and release an enzyme called alliinase, so a finely processed clove gives you a better distribution of garlic and fuller garlic flavor throughout the dish. Even our test cooks, trained to mince with a knife, generally grab a garlic press when cooking. And here’s the best part: With a good garlic press, you don’t even have to stop and peel the cloves.
Beyond how easy it is to squeeze, does your garlic press really matter in your cooking? Will the right garlic press make your food taste better? We were skeptical, but a quick test revealed a surprising answer. We chose seven representative presses and used them to make seven batches of our Pasta with Garlic and Olive Oil. It was remarkable to note the wide range of garlic flavor, from mild to robust, when the only difference was the press used to prepare the garlic. Larger chunks of garlic tended to drop to the bottom of the bowl, making most of the dish too bland. And when the pieces were uneven, tiny fragments overcooked to bitterness. Tasters overwhelmingly preferred the samples with the finest and most uniform garlic pieces, which produced a well-developed garlic flavor and consistent texture throughout the dish.
We determined that a garlic press’s most important attribute was the ability to produce a fine and uniform garlic consistency. We also wanted a press that was simple and comfortable to operate and did not require the hand strength of Hercules. It should be solidly built, with no contest between the press and the garlic about which is going to break first. It should be able to hold more than one clove and should crush the garlic completely through the sieve, leaving little behind in the hopper. It should handle unpeeled cloves with ease. Finally, it should be simple to clean, by hand or dishwasher, and not require a toothpick to get the last pieces of garlic out.
As a side note, we also noticed that on many of the garlic presses we use in the test kitchen, the nonstick coating had peeled off each one in the test kitchen, particularly around the hopper; a tiny amount of black liquid was sometimes extruded along with the garlic. After some digging, we discovered that when the nonstick coating peels off, copper and iron in the aluminum base metal react with the air and sulfur compounds in the garlic to create oxides and sulfides, which we sometimes see as a black substance on our extruded garlic. It’s similar to the discoloration from an old-fashioned carbon steel knife, and while it’s not toxic, it's not very appealing. We downgraded those models.
A longer handle and a shorter distance between pivot point and plunger help make pressing less work.
At one-third the price of the Kuhn Rikon Epicurean, we found the chrome-plated Trudeau Garlic Press produced uniform pieces of garlic, had a generous hopper, and was easy to clean.