Garlic Presses

From Italian-American Classics
Update: March 2014

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:


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.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.