A good garlic press sure comes in handy, but some cooks balk at the nearly $40 price of our top choice. The manufacturer of our winning model has lately redesigned a cheaper model that was a previous winner but had been discontinued. The company also introduced another new, inexpensive model. Given the appeal of their lower price tags, we decided to try out these presses in a head-to-head comparison with our winner. We also included an innovative press that caught our eye since it uses an “eject” button for easier cleaning; it also boasts longer-than-average handles.
We squeezed both peeled and unpeeled cloves in all four presses. Neither the redesigned garlic press, nor the new model from the maker of our favorite press measured up. The clunky pressing mechanism and short handles of one model made for hard work, and its crevices trapped garlic. One model was comfortable to press, but it was difficult to clean despite a new attached scraper, which didn’t perform well and merely got in the way. And the quibble that we had with the earlier version of this model—garlic oozing out the sides—remained. The long handles on an innovative model significantly aided in pressing, and its wedge-shaped hopper was a great fit for garlic cloves, but its pressed garlic was more “mashed” than the output from the other presses, and the eject function sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t (and never when we’d pressed unpeeled cloves). Its scraper was also a bust, pushing garlic onto the handles. Although we’d had our hopes up for a new, slightly cheaper press to win out, once again, nothing beats our winner.
How we tested
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.
We tested 15 garlic presses, pressing peeled and unpeeled cloves as well as multiple cloves. We ran the presses through a home dishwasher 10 times to evaluate durability. We ranked the presses using the following criteria:
CONSISTENCY OF GARLIC
We preferred presses that produced uniform pieces of garlic.
We preferred models that were easy to press; handled peeled, unpeeled, and multiple garlic cloves; and left little waste.
We preferred devices that were comfortable, smooth, and intuitive to operate, with durable materials and construction.
We wanted models that cleaned up easily by hand or dishwasher.
Kuhn Rikon Stainless Steel Epicurean Garlic Press
While it’s expensive, this press is by far the best one on the market. It has a heavy, solid stainless-steel construction; a smooth gliding mechanism; comfortably curved handles; conical holes in its pressing plate that help the garlic pass through more efficiently; and a hopper that lifts for easy cleaning. Its mince was very uniform and pressing peeled and unpeeled cloves was no problem. One tester summed it up: “It pressed—and cleaned—like a dream.”
Rösle Garlic Press
Solid, heavy press has pop-up hopper for cleaning. Straight, cylindrical, shiny handles "didn't feel perfectly ergonomic," but the press was "surprisingly easy to use and clean."
Trudeau Garlic Press
"Good press" with a "solid" feel produced garlic pieces that were "uniform but a little chunky." Press was "very easy to clean," with flip handles and "generous" hopper.
Messermeister Pro-Touch Jumbo Garlic Press with Santoprene Handles
"Sturdy and easy to squeeze," except for unpeeled cloves, which required more muscle. Garlic came out slightly "chunky" and "coarse." Construction is solid and heavy. "Jumbo" hopper no bigger than average.
Zyliss Susi 2 Garlic Press
Tapered holes shaped like tiny funnels gave "high yield" of "fine-textured garlic" that was "super-easy" to press. "Effortless" with unpeeled cloves. Some testers preferred this lightweight model, but nonstick finish began to peel around the hopper.
Zyliss Jumbo Garlic Press
"Jumbo" press held four to five cloves; handled unpeeled cloves well, producing a "very good mince." Cleaning tool stores in the handle, but some found it "hard to figure out." Nonstick finish began to peel.
We loved the wedge-shaped hopper that nicely fit garlic cloves and the long metal handles that provided good leverage. But excessive cleverness doesn’t mean flawless results: After pressing, we had to completely flip open the handles to operate the attached scraper, which annoyingly scraped garlic onto the handles. An eject button only cleaned the hopper when we pressed unpeeled cloves, and even then we still had to pluck out softer residue by hand. Pressed garlic was slightly wet and mashed rather than finely minced.
OXO Steel 58181 Garlic Press
Plunger couldn't be fully depressed to bottom of hopper. "Inefficient," complained testers. Flip-handled model cleaned up easily. Testers deemed the sieve holes too large, producing "coarse," "chunky" pieces.
OXO Good Grips 28181 Garlic Press
Plunger couldn't quite get to the bottom of the hopper, leaving some garlic unprocessed. Couldn't handle unpeeled cloves. Traditional flip-handled model rinsed out easily. Handles were comfortable and easy to press.
Giant Garlic Press
Shaped like a potato ricer, this press struck testers as "flimsy." Hopper is "huge" but could press only three cloves, because plunger couldn't get into position with more. Press was "a pain to clean."
Kuhn Rikon Easy-Squeeze Garlic Press
This updated version of an earlier press has a new attached scraper meant to let you skip using a knife to remove pressed garlic, but we found the scraper stiff and ineffective, and it got in the way of opening and closing the press. The long handles provided leverage but were overly flexible and felt fragile. While squeezing was comfortable and easy, garlic oozed out the sides of the hopper, which limited the output.
Cuisinart Red Garlic Press
Testers disliked "tiny hopper," which removes for cleaning. "I'd lose this in a second," complained one, "and it's too easy to put in backward." Unpeeled garlic "spattered and squished up the sides."
Kuhn Rikon Easy-Clean Garlic Press
This new, comparatively low-priced press uses a simple plastic block as a plunger to crush the garlic (the pricier Kuhn Rikon models have a stainless-steel plunger). It made pressing much harder—a problem exacerbated by the stumpy handles, which lacked leverage. The perforated plate is recessed and fits poorly, so when we scraped off garlic with a knife, garlic got stuck in the gaps—and because we ended up scraping the plastic rather than the plate, we worried about getting plastic shavings in our garlic.
Amco Houseworks Garlic Press (Also sold as the Crate and Barrel Garlic Slicer and Press.)
Fell completely apart in the dishwasher after six washes. Press "left a lot behind," and pieces were somewhat uneven. Slices "too thick": garlic looked "chewed-up" and stuck in the blades.
Eva Solo Stainless Steel Garlic Press with Glass Container
"Too cool for its own good" and "very uncomfortable." "I used my whole body weight to press it," complained one tester. "Pathetic" output for peeled clove. Unpeeled cloves "almost impossible."