garlic image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com

It’s been used as currency, as an aphrodisiac, medicine, in magic potions and food, and cultures around the world hold major celebrations to honor its pungent powers. Author Bram Stoker’s Dracula was afraid of the tiny clove that wielded such strength, and Eastern Europeans wore bulbs around their neck to ward off vampires. But garlic, one of the oldest herbs (it’s also a vegetable) in recorded history, didn’t come into fashionable use as an addition to food until the 1940s. Its lingering effect was offensive to polite society. But as cooking skills advanced, so did the appreciation of this powerful bulb, whether it’s used whole, minced or pressed.

Muss and Fuss

Pressing garlic isn’t rocket science, but it’s a technique that everyone who prepares food, whether you’re a home cook or on your way to becoming a professional, should know. And there are as many techniques as there are gadgets for doing the deed. It’s a laborious, fussy process to remove the thin skins surrounding the clove, and your hands will get messy. But there are ways around the chore that’ll make your food prep easier.

Why We Mince and Press

There’s nothing worse than enjoying a fragrant sauce and biting into a chunk of garlic. The overpowering flavor dominates in your mouth and leaves you with the dreaded “garlic breath,” not to mention destroying the delicate flavors of the sauce. Pressing garlic releases all its essences and spreads them evenly throughout a dish. Pressed garlic doesn’t burn as easily as whole or even minced, avoiding the acrid smell and taste of the burn.

Life Before the Garlic Press

A chef’s knife and a clove of garlic can easily yield an aromatic pile of pressed garlic. Some cooks prefer to mince the clove first and then press it.

  • Use the knife with two hands, one choked up on the handle and blade, and the other on the top of the knife to guide it.
  • Rock the knife from the tip to the base, over the garlic, reducing it to small bits. 
  • Sprinkle kosher salt over the mince to aid in reducing the pieces to paste. 
  • Once the garlic is fully minced, turn the knife on its side and rub it from front to back over the minced garlic. 
  • Press as the knife moves over the minced garlic, and it’ll start to resemble a paste, which is known as pressed garlic

Using the Garlic Press

The wonders of a garlic press are numerous. It’s easy to use, quick to accomplish your task, and gives you perfectly pressed garlic. The press can be either metal or plastic, large or small, but the result is the same. Its only drawback is that it’s not the easiest tool to clean. A food brush works best to clean those tiny crevices.

  • Put the clove, skin and all, into the cavity of the garlic press.
  • Press the handle down.
  • Watch as the garlic paste oozes out of the bottom with the skin remaining in the press.
  • Scrape the pressed garlic onto a cutting board and repeat if necessary.

Types of Presses

Magical cylinders, garlic rockers, twisters, peelers – there are many different types of mincers and pressers. They range in price and fabrication, but simple is best. And get one that fits into your hand easily. All kitchen tools, especially knives and handheld equipment, are personal to the user. Don’t equate their effectiveness to their price. Sometimes the least-expensive kitchen gadgets work best.

About the Author

Jann Seal

My seventh grade English teacher didn't realize what she was unleashing when she called me her "writer," but the word crept into my brain. I DID become a writer. Of advertising copy, dialogue and long-term story for several network soap operas, magazine articles and high-calorie contents for the cookbook: Cooking: It AIn't Rocket Science, a bestseller on Amazon! When I'm not writing, I'm cooking!