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Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Design: The Kitchn

We Tested 5 Wildly Popular Garlic Tools — And the Winner Wasn’t What We Expected

published Nov 8, 2020
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When it comes to prepping garlic, there are those who do the smash-and-chop (me) and those who believe the cloves should be carefully peeled and precisely minced (my husband). And then there are also those who don’t even want to touch the cloves because garlic is sticky and makes your fingers smell like dinner (my teenagers). For them, the garlic press is a godsend. 

I totally get it. When you can tuck a garlic clove into a tool and press the chopped flesh right into your sauté pan, it feels like you just shaved hours off your prep time (especially if you’re a precise-mincer type). But not all garlic presses are really that effective at mincing garlic. And some make cleanup such a hassle you’ll wish you had opted for a good old-fashioned knife.

I recently put five of the most-popular, highest-rated garlic tools to the test, in attempts to find the very best one. The results surprised even me, a seasoned kitchen gadget tester!

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Design: The Kitchn

How I Tested the Garlic Presses

I’m not ashamed to admit I cook with garlic every single day. So, over the course of several weeks, I really put these tools through their paces. I’d use one to cook with for several days in a row, jotting down notes on the pain points, and then switch to another brand. I very quickly found my favorites to work with.

When I was done trying them all, I lined them up for some side-by-side comparisons. I took apart four heads of garlic, separated the cloves into groups according to size, and tested each press with the same size cloves, taking notes on how well they handled giant ones to itty bitty ones, how well the garlic pushed out of the holes, and how much got left behind. I also pressed unpeeled cloves, to see how well the tools handled the papery skins. Then I timed myself washing each one, to see how long it took to get them clean. 

The ratings: Usually, when Kitchn does these sorts of stories, we grade on a scale of one to five, with five being the absolute best. Usually, the worst option gets a 1 and the best one gets a 5. While I had some clear favorites, nothing deserved a 1. Or even a 2. So you’ll see some fractions here. Let’s take a look.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Tomorrow’s Kitchen

This garlic press gets points for having a handy little scraper built in, so you can scrape the crushed garlic off the face of the tool without having to get another tool dirty. I really liked this bonus feature and it worked great. It took some effort to squeeze the garlic, but the output was more generous than some of the other tools I tried, mainly because the pusher is made of pins that really squish the garlic through the holes. However, those pins were a blessing and a curse. First of all, they didn’t work great with unpeeled cloves. (In those tests, the garlic came out in more of a juicy purée.) But the worst part is that the pins make cleanup super onerous. This press lost a lot of points due to that alone. A sponge just gets torn up and, even though the press is dishwasher-safe, it really needs a scrub brush and careful scrubbing in order to come clean. Trust me. 

Pros: Handy scraper tool built in. Constructed with pins instead of nubs to really push the garlic through the holes for a generous output. 

Cons: Pin construction makes cleanup really hard, even with a scrub brush to get in between them. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

OXO Good Grips Garlic Press

I tend to like OXO tools, and this is probably one of the most common garlic presses out there, so I was surprised by how much I didn’t love using it. The handles are big and comfortable. The construction is solid. But the output isn’t great. It just didn’t do a great job squeezing the garlic out, and was particularly bad at squeezing small cloves and unpeeled cloves. It’s like there’s just enough of a gap between the presser and the screen to keep it from being truly effective. The little red spikes are supposed to help clear out the holes in the screen for “self-cleaning,” but they’re not long enough to actually do the job, which means you still have to get in there with your fingers or a sponge. 

Pros: Large, comfortable handles. 

Cons: Not as effective at pushing the garlic through the holes, which results in reduced output. Plastic cleaning spikes don’t really work. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Alpha Grillers

Heavy-duty but harder to close than the next best option (see below), this press did a solid job. Its output was decently impressive, and it also has a screen that flips out for easy cleaning. But the screen has sides, so you’ve really got to make sure you get all the little crevices. The press’ Amazon page is probably a bit overzealous: It purports to be easy to squeeze (not really), able to accommodate unpeeled cloves (sure but so can most others), and can mince a whole head of garlic in seconds (only if you’re counting minutes in seconds).

Pros: Heavy-duty construction. Screen flips out for easier cleaning. Fair output.

Cons: Takes more strength to close. Some garlic gets left behind in fibrous pieces. Lacks any bonus features like a built-in scraper.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Tool: Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press

If you want a straight-up, classic, old-school garlic press, this is the one. It’s heavy-duty and very well-constructed. The design is rather sleek. And best of all, it’s really effective at crushing garlic almost effortlessly. While some of the presses took quite a bit of strength, this one is designed in such a way so that it’s super easy. Even unpeeled cloves weren’t that hard to press. Cleanup is pretty easy, too: The screen with the holes flips out and can be cleaned effectively.

Pros: It’s sturdy and attractive, and crushes cloves without much effort. The metal screen flips out to make cleanup easy. 

Cons: Like most garlic presses, you’ll have to scrape the crushed garlic off the face of the tool with a knife, your fingers, or the side of a pan. Some garlic gets left behind the screen in the form of fibrous shreds. Also, this is, by far, the most expensive garlic press on this list. It’s not cheap, but at least you know you’re getting a quality press that will last.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Tool: Chef’n Garlic Zoom

I truly scoffed when I first saw this silly-looking plastic orb. It seemed like such a gimmick. It has tiny metal rotating blades inside like a mini food chopper, and when you rub the orb back and forth on the cutting board, the blades inside chop the garlic. Then you open the thing up and tap the garlic out. I felt slightly vindicated for my skepticism when I tried using it for the first time with just one clove of garlic. The result was a mish-mash of irregular pieces in a variety of sizes — not ideal. When cooking, the tiny pieces could scorch before the bigger pieces became tender. But then I noticed it said to use it with up to three cloves, so I tried that. Lo and behold, it chopped them perfectly. It’s kind of like how food processors and blenders don’t work great when they’re under-filled, because the contents don’t evenly make contact with the blades. Same principle here. Turns out, this is a great tool for those who typically chop more than one clove at a time.

Pros: The garlic actually gets chopped, not smashed, which means you get regular pieces that will cook evenly and not scorch. Plus, because the garlic isn’t pressed (something that destroys more of the cell walls) it won’t taste as hot and strong (the smaller the garlic pieces, the more intense the flavor). If you tend to cook with more than one clove at a time, you can get it all chopped at once. The tool is also a great alternative for those who don’t have the hand-strength to squeeze a garlic press. All of the garlic gets chopped and none gets left behind and goes to waste. And because there aren’t any tiny metal holes, cleanup is super easy — just dunk in hot, soapy water.

Cons: If you do just want to chop one clove of garlic, this tool won’t do it evenly. It doesn’t work great with tiny cloves either, unless you have a lot of them. It won’t work with unpeeled cloves. It’s a bit bulky in shape and the plastic housing might not stand the test of time.