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Cooking Tips

How to Use a Garlic Press (the Right Way!)

Have you been using your garlic press wrong? Try these tips.
By Published Sept. 1, 2022

In the test kitchen, we like using a garlic press instead of mincing tricky, tiny garlic cloves with a knife. If you’ve got the knife skills (and the patience) go for it—but for most of us, a garlic press provides pieces that are all the same size, in a matter of seconds. 

Using a garlic press is easy: You just put the clove in and press. But some home cooks can find them finicky to use and hard to clean. If you’ve given up on garlic presses, we’re here to help you fall back in love. (It’s not you; it’s the press!)

Here's how to make sure you're buying the best one and some handy techniques for pressing with success.

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What to Look For in a Garlic Press

Of course, the most important thing is to make sure you're using a good garlic press. You could use every trick in the book and still not be satisfied with the results if the tool isn't right.

Look at the output of your garlic press. Is it all mostly the same size? Uniform pieces make a huge difference in your cooking. We tested two batches of simple spaghetti with garlic and olive oil with garlic prepped in our top- and bottom-ranked garlic presses, and the results were astonishingly different.

Our winner produced small, uniform pieces of garlic that browned evenly and stayed distributed all throughout the pasta, for perfect golden, garlicky taste in every bite. 

Not so much with the loser: With garlic pieces both enormous and minuscule, we tasted both burned and harsh raw garlic flavor in the same dish. Those bigger pieces also dropped to the bottom of the bowl of pasta, so about half of it never made it to our forks. 

How to Use a Garlic Press

When testing garlic presses, we learned a few tricks for better pressing.

  1. Don’t peel the cloves. You could peel the garlic cloves, but save yourself the fuss and just press them with skin on. Bonus: The skin lifts almost all the residue right out when it’s time to clean the press.  
  2. Cut off the stem. If you’re a weakling like me, trim off the tiniest bit of the stem end of the clove (at the bottom of the bulb) before putting it in the garlic press. This breaks the tension of the skin and makes it much, much easier to squash. (You can also cut the cloves in half.) 
  3. Use the back of a knife to get all of the garlic out. Scrape off any extruded garlic that sticks out of the face of the press using the back of your knife. This gets every last bit of garlic out of the press and saves your blade’s sharpness, too.
  4. Wash (or soak) the press immediately. Garlic really dries on, turning into garlicky cement. This can clog the holes of your press, making it a pain to clean. If you don’t get it all out, you’ll be working with fewer and fewer holes in your press over time. So, if you don’t have time to wash it right away, at least soak it.