April 11, 2007

Garlic Genius: Merely Clever

Garlic GeniusWe use a lot of garlic in this family, and while mincing (the old-fashioned way, with a knife) is my preference, Morgen likes the convenience of a garlic press. But she doesn’t like cleaning the garlic press, and the fact that it tends to leave a good bit of the clove behind means you miss out on some of that great flavor. Several months ago, we got a Williams-Sonoma catalog in the mail, and as usual I pored over it carefully, making a mental list of all the latest kitchen gadgets I absolutely need. One item immediately popped out as a great birthday present for my wife: the Garlic Genius, a $40 device that supposedly creates perfectly minced garlic with just a few twists. No mess, no tedious chopping. And, of course, it would be a nicely self-serving gift, because I’d get just as much use out of it as she would.

Alas, on the day I went to order, Williams-Sonoma was out of stock (and it was an Internet-only product, so I couldn’t just go to the local retail store). Luckily, I found another source. Morgen loved the present, and we were excited to try it out.

Let me cut to the chase: From an engineering standpoint, the Garlic Genius is extremely clever. It does indeed cut garlic into nearly perfect cubes, about 3 mm on a side, as you twist the top of the cylinder. But from a usability standpoint, it’s not so hot. For one thing, the twisting action takes a considerable amount of force, and it gets harder to turn the farther you go. It also takes a lot of turns to get through just a couple of garlic cloves, because the device’s screw threads are narrowly spaced. And, since you’re not only applying effort to turn the top but pressure to keep your grip on it, your hand is likely to get pretty sore. (Another device of the same name, but with a different casing, at least has knobs on the top to help you keep your grip.) A better design would have been one that, like a can opener, makes good use of hand geometry to provide leverage.

Then there’s cleaning. If you thought a garlic press was a pain to clean, that’s nothing. This device comes apart (not that easily) into quite a few pieces, each with its own nooks and crannies. Cleaning all the little garlic bits out of all these parts, and then reassembling the unit, is not pleasant.

Is it, on the whole, less hassle than just using a knife? Maybe, depending on your knife skills and how highly you value uniformity of size in your minced garlic. But on the whole it was a bit of a disappointment. It’s not really a garlic genius—it’s merely clever.

15 Responses to “Garlic Genius: Merely Clever”

  1. Nick said:

    What’s wrong with a pestle and mortar? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortar_and_pestle Easy to clean and can crush a LOT. Yes I know it’s not always perfect but at least a lot better than most of these “presses”. Another disadvantage, it’s rather big if you only use it for garlic. But it might encourage you to try some new things that can only be done with a pestle and mortar! Create your own curry, guacamole, pesto or som tam. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Som_tam Okay a blender can also be used for most of these but doesn’t have this nice authentic feel to it, you have less control and is harder to clean.

  2. Joe Kissell said:

    Speaking for myself only, I prefer the texture and flavor of discrete garlic pieces to that of a mashed garlic paste, which is another reason I don’t like presses. But you’re right: compared with a press, the old mortar and pestle would be a good bit simpler.

  3. n[ate]vw said:

    Other companies might make something similar, but I’ve had good success mincing garlic with the hand chopper found here: http://www.pamperedchef.com/our_products/use_care/detail.jsp?productId=240 (I’m not a Pampered Chef “representative”.)

    It’s also handy for many other endeavors: from chunking up ham for omelettes to pureeing tomato/avacado into fresh gaucamole. Easy on the hands, and it comes apart quite nicely. The sharp “folded up” blade can be a bit of a pain to clean by hand, but every piece is dishwasher safe if you have that convenience.

  4. al ross said:

    Is the plastic square on the bottom of the press supposed to come of stay on?

  5. Joe Kissell said:

    Al: If you’re referring to the clear plastic piece with all the holes for the little plungers, that stays in. That confused me at first, too, but it’s spring-loaded and it moves out of the way to let the plungers through as you twist the press.

  6. Brenda A said:

    Garlic has to be handled gently fort he best flavor. Too much battering by tools makes it bitter as the cell walls are broken down and some of the flavor components intermingle. A mortar and pestle not only makes a paste not distict pieces, it brings out the bitterness of the garlic like nothing else. When you eat something and the garlic is perfect and a ver distict taste, it will often be from the gentle handling of the clove (watch smashing it with the side of a knife too when pealing it)

  7. Dawn ELizabeth said:

    My answer: Trader Joes. I’m sure you can buy it elsewhere as it isn’t a Trader Joe’s branded product but @ Trader Joe’s you can buy, in the frozen section, Garlic Cubes. These are minced garlic frozen into little ice cubes and you just pop out as many as you need. Now I know what you’re going to say… you’ve tried precut galirc buefore (in jars and maybe even cans) and it just doesn’t measure up. Not the same with garlic cubes. They are delightful! I’ve hactually been known to sauteed a whole tray of garlic cubes with just a little olive oil with intent of adding it to some creation or dipping bread but then just eating it with a spoon. Mind you, I will still buy and hand chop fresh garlic, but for convenience without sacrificing taste, frozen cubes are the way to go. The brand is Dorot, oh, and they also have other delightful cubes, like cilantro and basil, but garlic is the way to go.

  8. Joe Kissell said:

    Dawn Elizabeth: Thanks for the suggestion. I’m living in Paris now – a bit far from the nearest Trader Joe’s – but there’s a chain of frozen food stores here called Picard that sells something similar. Haven’t tried their garlic yet, but I have tried the ginger, which was not too bad, if less flavorful than fresh stuff.

  9. billy mitchell said:

    Why such a fuss about mincing garlic when a decent chef’s knife does a lovely job? For a fine mash, use the side of the knife, but sprinkle a little salt on the chopping surface to soak up all that delicious juice. I confess, I use my press now and then, but I also use it to squeeze ginger root when I’m too lazy to shred or grate. Now pardon me while I lament that our dog dug up all the garlic I had been carefully growing in the back yard!

  10. Barbara said:

    I LOVE my Garlic Genius. I got it for Christmas in 2006 and it’s the most used gadget in my house. Cleaning isn’t all that difficult. It comes apart easily and goes right into the dishwasher. I keep a mushroom brush handy by the sink and just push the bristles through the cutting blades to easily clean the garlic out of the squares. Mine is the stainless steel version and it is true that it takes more turns than necessary to get to the garlic. I’ve not tried the white one mentioned in another review .. it sounds like that one may be easier to turn.

  11. Allie said:

    I love garlic, obviously since I clicked on a link about garlic. I have a pampered chef garlic press. I couldn’t find a picture of the entire thing, but it comes with a part to clean it. Just like anything else, it is much easier to clean immediately. The part has prongs that fit right into the holes, and when not in use, it attaches to the press so that it does not get lost either. It also claims that you do not have to peel the garlic first. It is $16 and it wastes less garlic than any other press that I have used.

  12. Allie said:


  13. John C. Campbell III said:

    I’ve had two of them, if you use a modest amount of garlic a week? then it’s fine but if you process more? the Teflon threads stripped each time. The technology has been licensed to Rösle to be sold exclusively through Cheftools. http://www.cheftools.com/Rosle-Garlic-Cutter/productinfo/06-5301/ redesigned and since it is from Rosle? Lifetime warranty. Releasing late June. I actually sent them my last Genius stainless model so they could see the design flaws for themselves. jccampb

  14. Help! said:

    Hi, y’all will think I am crazy but I’ve had this garlic genius for about 4 years ( a gift from my mom). I don’t recall getting any directions with it and have never been able to figure out how to use it. I know, evidently I’m not a genius! Does anyone have an instruction manual? A link to some pics on how to use it? Which is the top, which the bottom? I put garlic in and close it up and it seems to make some sort of sound like a piston and then I open up the “bottom” and my clove is in tact…Like I said…y’all can think I am crazy but please let me know the secret!



  15. Joe Kissell said:

    @Einstein I don’t have an instruction manual, but I think we can get to the bottom of it (as it were). You’ve obviously figured out how to open it so you can insert the garlic. The bottom end is the one with the metal cutting grid – that’s where the diced garlic emerges. There may be a plastic cap on that end; if so, just pop that off before using it.

    After closing the device, you have to twist it quite a few times (and with a bit of “oomph”) before the diced garlic starts coming out. I’m guessing you stopped turning it too soon.