There is almost certainly no such thing as the perfect garlic press, which is one reason why I have so many of them. The one that gives the best results, almost to the point of turning the garlic into a puree, is beautifully made but a swine to wash. The one that's easiest to wash gives big, coarse chunks of garlic, which is fine for some purposes but not for others. Two others are intermediate in both departments: reasonably finely crushed garlic, and reasonably easy to wash. A fifth is all but useless. It's the only one I bought new (the rest came from vide-greniers): we'd rented a house in the Pyrenees for a week and I had forgotten to bring a garlic press.
Classic garlic press. Often found at vide-greniers for a euro or two. Marked "Bte. SDGD" (= in effect "patented, but not necessarily any use") and "Made in France". For: easy to use, easy to wash, incorporates olive/cherry stoner, pliers for removing recalcitrant corks (you can just see the teeth above the olive stoner), bottle opener. Against: it crushes the garlic rather coarsely, and the post on the stoner broke on a similar one I used to have. I'm not sure what the row of studs opposite the bottle opener are for.
Piston-type garlic crusher. Rare. I've only ever seen two at vide-greniers: I paid 3€ for this one. No makers' name or anything else. For: very finely crushed garlic: the studs on the piston engage perfectly with holes in the cylinder. Against: awkward to wash, and I had to replace the hinge-bolt when it broke.
Zyliss medium-fine crusher. Again, a euro or two at a vide-grenier. As well as the maker's name, it proudly informs us (cast into the inside of one handle) that it is Swiss Made and that there is a patent pending. For: fairly fine, fairly easy to clean. Against: can't handle large cloves.
P.P.L. medium-fine crusher. Also marked "Patent Italy". Similar to the Zyliss but slightly easier to use and to clean. For: good compromise. Against: can't handle large cloves, but still works slightly better than the Zyliss. If one had to go, it would be the Zyliss. Another vide-grenier find: 50 centimes, from the same source as the bent-wire screwdriver. Our most recent acquisition: Martaizé, May 2016.
Our worst garlic press. Bought new in Spain a few years ago. No maker's name or other markings. For: easy cleaning because the plastic studs clear out the perforations when folded back against them. Against (and it's a major against): the perforated plate is recessed, so you cannot easily scrape off the crushed garlic with a knife-blade. As this is how I normally use a garlic press, squeeze-scrape-squeeze some more, this gets the lowest score of them all.
Do you really need a garlic press at all? It depends on how much you like garlic; how much you use; and whether you believe that there is a significant difference in taste between chopped and crushed garlic. Because Frances and I use lots of garlic, we find crushers useful, whether or not there is a difference between chopped and crushed garlic; and, of course, if you are used to the one, you may not like the other. We like both, and chop or slice depending on how we're cooking the garlic.
It should be possible to make a better garlic press, based on the information above. If anyone does, please send us a sample.
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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016