Garlic Gadgets: Cool Tools or Waste of Space?

by Sarah Henry on February 3, 2010 · 25 comments

in food flotsam & jetsam

So I need to come out. I am, indeed, a (gasp!) garlic press user. Not sure when this habit started or why I can’t kick it.

But, well, I used just last night. Okay, I know I’ve probably lost any pro chefs who have stumbled upon my posts. I’m probably losing some of you savvy home cooks too.

Here’s the thing: I’m not a gizmos gal. I don’t own a food processor, microwave, toaster oven, or other large kitchen appliance. In theory I’m down with the idea that all you really need to whip up a feed is a good knife, cutting board, and a pot.

And yet somehow I find myself reaching most nights for that unwieldy metal object that’s a pain to clean and takes up too much room in the drawer where I store the veggie peeler, can opener, and the like.

Who knew what a culinary faux pas I’ve been committing all these years? Or that so many people had such strong opinions about the usefulness, or lack thereof, of this kitchen aid.

I’ve had a crash course in the whole discourse around the garlic press, viewed by some as an unnecessary, ridiculous, pathetic, even heinous addition to any cook’s toolbox, in a recent story by food writer Felicity Cloake in The Guardian.

Cloake quotes a bunch of culinary big guns on the matter of mincing over pressing.  Anthony Bourdain, for one, doesn’t hide his disdain for the press. “I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic.”  Cloake’s conclusion? Crushing works well for salad dressing but for all other purposes…carry a big knife.

Judging by the loads of comments — 135 and counting — the Brits take their garlic mincing, chopping, or pressing very seriously. Many reveal their scorn for the offending implement.  Some admit to a preference for a grater, microplane, or mortar and pestle. A few brave souls speak out in favor of the humble garlic press.

One man even ‘fesses up to owning “the most effete garlic gadget imaginable…it’s a poncey little pipe of silicon rubber in a nursery shade of blue, its ends apparently trimmed with pinking shears.” Most of you real cooks won’t have a clue what he’s on about. Alas, I do, because I own one of these as well — at least mine is clear — and find it the handiest dandiest device. Here’s how it works: You pop whole cloves, skin and all, inside the tube, give it a roll and a press under the heel of your hand, and hey, presto, out pop perfectly peeled cloves ready for pressing. I mean mincing.

So, dear readers, where do you stand on the great garlic debate? Do tell.

And do you have any other kitchen gadget lurking in a drawer that you’re actually ashamed of and only get out under the cover of darkness?

Just curious. Your secret is safe with me, no culinary judgments here.

Let’s face it, anyone who owns an egg slicer and a garlic press has no business sniffing at the kitchen tools favored by others.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

M'Lisa Kelley February 3, 2010 at 9:27 am

I am a professional chef. My Husband, bless his heart, is always trying to buy me cooking gadgets….but I have a firm stance. I hate em. I hate the space they take up, I think most have mediocre performance and produce mediocre product. Give me a good sharp knife any day instead.

That being said, I do have a few that I cannot live without.
Juice press, I got the one for the lemon… and can do all manner of citrus fruit with it.
Various sizes of graters. Love them….love how sharp they stay after years of use.
Immersion blender. Totally love this, use it for everything. Does a much superior job of finely chopping garlic for garlic oil.


Sarah Henry February 3, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Hi M’Lisa,

I’m with you on the juice press, graters, and immersion blender (love that baby, great for soups, smoothies, hummus). Hmmm…maybe I do have a think for (small) gadgets…Cheers, Sarah


Stephanie - Wasabimon February 3, 2010 at 10:40 am

I have one, but I don’t use it often. Like a crow, I’m attracted to shiny things. Actually, I think I may have two or three of these things lying around. :P


Sarah Henry February 3, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Hey Steph,

Are crows attracted to shiny things? I know bower birds collect colorful objects, especially blue ones. Go figure.


Cheryl@5secondrule February 3, 2010 at 11:14 am

Okay, I’ve got to tell you, I remember very clearly when that silicone tube first came on the market. It was sometime in the 1990s, I believe, and I was staying with my mother in NYC, and there was a big article in the NYT or somewhere prominent about these things, and I swear, i RAN over to Zabars to get one and they were sold out within minutes. It was, like, THE HOT thing.

I don’t use a garlic press, but it’s mostly because I hate cleaning it. I’ve got to get out the toothpicks, etc. Knife’s just easier.


Sarah Henry February 3, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Hi Cheryl,

How funny. I did not know the back story to the silicon tube. The HOT thing?
Humans are so silly sometimes, aren’t they?


anonymous February 3, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I use garlic all the time, so I buy a bunch of it, peel the cloves, toss them all in the blender and after a few seconds, voila, chopped garlic that will last me for a while! I store it in a jar in the fridge. love it!


Sarah Henry February 3, 2010 at 10:25 pm

In the blender? There’s a new one. And those pungent cloves don’t leave any residual odor that wouldn’t work too well with a, say, strawberry milkshake?

If not, I’ll give it a whirl, as I do have a blender as well.


MP February 3, 2010 at 7:08 pm

I’m in the anti-garlic press camp. Ginger graters, on the other hand…


Sarah Henry February 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Ginger graters are the best, MP. And take up very little room.


Anna, The Lemon Lady February 5, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Over the years, I’ve owned all those gadgets you write of. I always revert back to a trusty favorite knife. Everything is lost in the gadget drawer. Wish I would just toss them all away! I still enjoyed using the garlic press – I just tire of looking for it.


Alexandra February 6, 2010 at 5:27 am

Okay, so my husband uses the press for his salad dressing, and I mince, as I always did when I lived in France (25 years), so I have been able to compare and do still have a preference. Oh, and hey, what a difficult tool to clean a garlic press can be!


Jen Haupt February 6, 2010 at 9:00 am

I used to use a garlic press but I find that I really do like the flavor better when I slice it up.


marthaandme February 10, 2010 at 4:54 am

I had one, but found it was such a pain to clean. I don’t mind chopping it by hand.


Sheryl February 10, 2010 at 6:47 am

I have the silicone thingie (which turned out to be really silly and useless; hey, I should just toss it already) and I also have a garlic press (which I absolutely hate to clean). But I end up using a good, sharp knife and that always does a better job.

Love my citrus juicer, though, as well as my microplanes.


Sarah Henry February 10, 2010 at 8:43 am

Sheryl you are not alone in thinking that the silicone thingie is silly…kids love it but when I brought it along to an adult cooking class at my local school…well, let’s just say, cue eye-rolling…


Ruth Pennebaker February 10, 2010 at 8:09 am

Oh, dear. I am so out of it, I had no idea a garlic press was objectionable. But I plan to keep using it, anyway.


Sarah Henry February 10, 2010 at 8:41 am

Hey Ruth, I like your attitude;).


Frugal Kiwi February 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I don’t have one. Give me a good sharp knife any day. I do have one of those garlic tube things, but it was a gift and I can’t say I see the use of it.

I do love my immersion blender and my mortar and pestle. If you can even call a mortar and pestle a “gadget”.


Susan February 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I don’t own a garlic press, but I think they’re nifty. I love my electric mixer and food processor, though (both courtesy of my Mom now that she’s an empty nester and doesn’t cook much). And this Christmas I got a sandwich press, which I absolutely love. No shame here.


Kris February 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

I have TWO. I use them almost daily. I know it’s not what the cool kids do, but I like them. I also use them (gasp!) to squeeze juice from pieces of ginger. Double duty!


Phyllis Kirigin February 2, 2011 at 9:13 am

Garlic presses are by no means the worst gadgets (And there are those tiny pronged garlic press cleaners). What should truly make one hang her/his head in shame is the hotdogger, the crepemaker or the gizmo that beats the egg inside the shell. I mean, really.


TD February 4, 2011 at 9:10 am

Ahh, the garlic press controversy… I am a kitchenware designer and I wonder if the garlic press is slowly becoming obsolete? – especially with the food network chef’s pushing the knife over the press.

My wife and I prefer using a knife to mince garlic, however it seems the two main objections to the press are that (1) it takes a lot of effort to yield such a little puree, and (2) it’s difficult to clean. Still, there are almost a million garlic presses sold in the US every year, so that tells me that the flaw maybe isn’t in the utility, but in the design…


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