This article is part of a product-testing series called Food52 Approved, a column where we thoroughly try, test, and review the kitchen and home products you’ve always wondered about. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
Have you ever been cooking with a loved one, reached for your garlic press, and noticed them subtly roll their eyes? Or seen the snark-filled comment section of a cooking video—branding presses as unitaskers, wasters of drawer space, ruiners of garlic?
After decades of acceptance and praise from home-cooking champions like Madhur Jaffrey and Julia Child, the shame around garlic presses started to mount around the turn of the 21st century, thanks to hot takes from Elizabeth David (“utterly useless”), Anthony Bourdain (“abominations”), and Alton Brown (“there is absolutely no reason for a garlic press to exist”).
But, if you take the time to talk to home cooks, you’ll find that garlic presses aren’t going anywhere. We asked the Food52 community on Instagram which life improvers they most wanted us to review: It was garlic presses by a landslide.
When we asked them to tell us more, 60 percent of our audience said they love the divisive garlic press, and shared their greatest frustrations (“cleaning!”) and tips on their favorite brands.
So, what better way to kick off our new product-testing column, Food52 Approved, than by putting the hard-working, much-maligned garlic press to the test? Keep reading for what differentiates a press from a Microplane, our testing process, tips on how to clean your press of choice, and our five favorites (we do our best to boot the shame, too).
A Microplane is Not a Garlic Press
Let’s address a common complaint about garlic presses: A sharp knife and cutting board or a Microplane can (allegedly) do the same job. This is subjective and some people will like mincing by hand better, while others will prefer the Microplane or the press, they do not produce the same thing.
Allicin, the compound that gives garlic its pungency, is created when the cell walls are crushed. So the more obliterated the garlic cells are, the stronger the fire will be—though it typically mellows with cooking. Mincing with a knife will have the most subtle flavor, followed by a garlic press, then a Microplane, which is designed to shred and makes an extremely pungent substance that doesn’t entirely dissipate with cooking.
Now, the next time someone tells you it’s all the same, you’re set to explain how and why it’s not.
How We Tested
We tried out 15 brands, including our community’s favorites, squishing endless unpeeled cloves, both one at a time and stuffing as many as we could into the press.
We looked out for clever, practical designs and the main gripes with garlic presses: space for too few cloves, difficulty pressing, wasted garlic, and—loudest of all—cleaning. For cleaning, we dishwasher-ed and hand-washed; to test flavor and texture, we tasted the results both raw and warmed up as a garlicky oil with pasta.
We are not a scientific lab, but we are a community of home cooks plus one obsessive researcher and food writer (me). As someone who grew up with a garlic press but hasn’t owned one as an adult, I’ve wanted to investigate and clear their name for a while—now’s the time.
But first a fun fact: The modern garlic press was invented by Karl Zysset, who owned a bicycle repair shop in Lyss, Switzerland, in 1948—have you ever noticed the similarity in a bike’s hand brakes and the design of a standard garlic press? With the success of the press, he left bicycle repair and founded the company Zyliss, which still makes this descendant of his original Susi garlic press design. Growing up, my family had the older sibling of the Susi 3 (the Susi 2). Julia Child, who thought garlic presses were a “wonderful invention,” was a fan of the original design—it’s even part of her collection in the Smithsonian.
Now, onto the rankings.
The Classic (& Julia Child’s Go-To): Zyliss Susi 3
Mince: Fine, pulpy.
Pros: It’s very lightweight, comes with a handy cleaning pick that clips into the press rather than floating loose in a drawer, and was a favorite in our Community poll.
Cons: It’s dishwasher safe, but hand-washing is recommended since the aluminum will eventually darken in the dishwasher. The little cleaning pick has a habit of falling out and could get lost (a fork or table knife could do the job if so), and, like so many presses, it requires a knife to scrape off the minced bits.
Community Pick: IKEA’s 365+ VÄRDEFULL
Pros: This press from IKEA was one of the major front runners in our Community poll, it’s amazingly sturdy for the low cost ($7.99 at the time of writing), it swings totally open for easy cleaning, and has a very generously sized hopper for larger garlic cloves.
Cons: The press’s smaller holes means it takes a little more pressure to get the garlic through, it’s a little harder to rinse out, and could lead to more waste. Additionally, like others, it requires a knife.
Least Fiddly to Clean: Dreamfarm’s Garject
Mince: Very fine but not pulpy.
Pros: This is the only model we tested that scrapes itself clean without a knife (!) and has a neat eject button to get the peel out, making it a true all-in-one tool. It also has a very generously sized hopper.
Cons: At 14 ounces, this press is the heaviest we tested (Dreamfarm also makes a lighter plastic version, if that’s a concern) and even the built-in scraper doesn’t get it 100 percent of the way to the pan or bowl, so you might need to nudge it off the scraper with a finger.
Easiest to Squeeze: Männkitchen’s Double Lever Assisted Stainless Steel Garlic Press
Mince: Medium fine, with some juice.
Pros: This one required the least pressure of any hand-squeezed press, even with multiple cloves. (My wrists got pretty tired through all this testing, so it was extra appreciated!) Also, the curved shape sits nicely in your hand.
Cons: Like most, this press requires a knife to scrape and the lack of side walls on the basket is handy for cleaning, but it might let more debris sneak out the sides.
Note: The Kuhn Rikon is nearly identical, but has smaller holes—if you prefer a finer, spicier mince and like easy squeezability, that could be a good model for you.
Handy for Limited Mobility: Joseph Joseph Garlic Rocker
Mince: Quite chunky.
Pros: There’s no need to squeeze, just rock with your hands, then scoop it off with a spoon. It’s also easy to mince multiple cloves in a row, you can rub your hands against the stainless steel under running water to remove some of the garlic smell, and it’s another Community fave.
Cons: You have to peel the garlic cloves first (though using a silicone garlic peeler makes this a breeze) and it still requires some wrist pressure. It produces a very chunky mince, but you can spoon it out and run it through the rocker one more time easily. It also dirties a cutting board and loses some garlic in the pressing process.
Another helpful option for limited mobility: My mother-in-law has used a Black+Decker electric mini chopper for decades (here’s the modern version) and it makes a surprisingly perfect mince with only a few cloves. There are also hand-pumped choppers, but I haven’t tested them myself—please let us know if there’s a brand you love!
A Note About Easier Cleaning
In my testing, there was always a little mess with a press (but also with the other methods—garlic is sticky! But worth it). The best way to make sure cleaning goes smoothly with any of these tools is to rinse them shortly after using them under running water. Use your fingers or a brush to loosen any stuck bits—dried garlic will glue itself to the surface and probably won’t come out in the dishwasher.
Now that you’ve gotten the full breakdown in The Great Garlic Press Debate, hopefully you feel fully equipped (and empowered!) to choose the best tool for you and use it proudly.