Garlic is the cornerstone of many savory dishes. It adds a wonderful flavor that cannot be mimicked. Sure, garlic powder exists, but it doesn’t quite compete with the richness of flavored garlic.
With a history of human consumption spanning thousands of years, the ways to utilize garlic have grown exponentially. Varying recipes ask for it chopped, minced, crushed, or even left whole.
The form of the garlic can have a huge impact on how it tastes. Part of what makes garlic taste so elegantly pungent is its sulfur content. When cloves are left whole, they don’t release much sulfur and are easily roasted to obtain a sweet garlic flavor.
When you break down the clove, sulfur is released, making the garlic flavor more forward. The more you chop, the more sulfur is released.
As garlic is chopped finer and finer, it is allowed to smoothly integrate into whatever dish you’re making. This is why many recipes call for garlic cloves to be crushed. The smaller pieces meld into the dish, releasing their delicious flavoring into the pot.
Garlic presses are very popular utensils for crushing garlic cloves. It contains the smell to one area, and you can crush the garlic directly into your desired pan or bowl without dirtying up a knife or cutting board.
Garlic presses aren’t essential in the kitchen. They are mighty convenient but there are ways to get around needing one.
1 – Knife
There are two ways that you can crush your garlic with your knife when you lack a garlic press. The first method involves mincing your garlic. When you mince something, you are chopping it into very fine, uniform pieces.
You don’t have to be a professional chef to mince your food. Knife skills are something that any home chef should know.
There are numerous tutorials online that can teach you how to chop and slice effectively and safely. Simply make very thin slices lengthwise. Then, turn your garlic and make wafer-thin slices horizontally.
As your knife intersects the previous cut, you’ll find that your garlic will magically turn into teeny-tiny pieces. These small remnants are now ready to be cooked and enjoyed.
If you’re not the best with your knife skills or you believe that your clove of garlic is just too small to make so many cuts through, fear not. You can utilize the flat side of your knife to crush your garlic.
This method can be tricky since the cutting edge of the knife will no longer be making contact with your cutting surface. If you’re not careful, you could easily cut yourself.
To get the finest crush, give your garlic a rough chop first. Then lie the knife down with the flat side of it on top of the garlic, and the cutting edge out to the side.
Apply pressure to the flat side of the knife facing up. This pressure can come from a swift but firm thump of your hand, or you can just press down on the knife.
After applying pressure, lift the knife up to check on your garlic. If it is finely crushed enough for you, you can stop here. If you feel that it needs to be crushed a little more, just repeat the process.
2 – Jar
A glass jar can have many uses in the kitchen but did you know that it could help you prepare your garlic? Not only can you peel your garlic with a jar but it can help you crush your garlic too.
To crush garlic with a glass jar, simply place the garlic on a cutting board. Take the bottom of the jar and place it firmly on top of the garlic.
Apply even pressure downwards as you rotate the jar in a circular motion back and forth. The great part about using a glass jar to crush your garlic is you can see through the top of the jar and tell how finely your garlic is being crushed.
When you’re satisfied with your garlic’s fineness, rinse the jar with warm soapy water and you’re ready to go.
3 – Mortar and Pestle
Mortars and pestles have been used since ancient times to grind up spices and herbs. These two pieces of equipment are widely used in food preparation but they also have industrial and pharmaceutical uses.
Place your garlic cloves into the mortar. You can elect to give them a rough chop first or you can throw them in there whole.
With a firm grip on the pestle, use the rounded edge to place pressure on the garlic clove. You can whittle the garlic down by moving the pestle back and forth as well as side to side.
As you’re crushing your garlic, pause to scrape large pieces off the sides of the mortar and direct them back to the center of the bowl. This will ensure that all of the pieces of garlic are uniform.
After a few grinding strokes, you should have crushed garlic. You can continue to work with the garlic until you’ve reached your desired size of crushed pieces. You could even continue to grind the garlic down in the mortar until it forms a paste.
4 – Microplane
A microplane is a long grater that reduces your desired material into fine slivers. Microplanes are often used to create zest from citrus fruits. Hold your microplane by the handle. Some handles may be metal but most are made of plastic or silicone to ensure a good grip.
Take your peeled garlic clove and run it up and down the length of the microplane. You can work in small, swift strokes or you can take your time and carefully drag the garlic across the grate. Either way, the end result will be very fine pieces of garlic that will melt into your desired dish.
Using a microplane to reduce the size of garlic is extremely popular in soup applications. Unless you’re making garlic soup, most people don’t want to take a slurp of soup and have a chunk of garlic to chew through.
You can add the finely milled garlic directly into stock and allow it to come to a rolling boil to fully release its flavor. You can also add the garlic to a small amount of oil or butter and toast it lightly before including the rest of your ingredients.
Keep in mind that this method results in very small pieces of garlic. It will take no time at all to cook the garlic. This is great when you need to get dinner together in a hurry or you maybe forgot to add garlic at the beginning of your recipe.
5 – Handheld Garlic Mincer
Mincers can be used in place of garlic presses and they aren’t limited to just mincing garlic. You could also chop down ginger and herbs in these handheld mincers.
The most compact form of a mincer is two interlocking chambers with projecting teeth on either side of the mincer. You place your garlic clove within, push the two halves together, and twist.
The twisting action forces the pieces of garlic to collide with the interlocking teeth, crushing them as they are shredded. These devices are super handy for whittling down herbs before adding them to a dish. It can take the place of a knife for many uses.
Other mincers are hand-operated food processors. With these devices, you place your garlic cloves in the holding chamber. Using the force of your hand, you propel a bladed attachment towards the garlic cloves. The garlic comes into contact with the blade and it is quickly chopped.
Blade attachments vary. Some are better used for chopping, while there are also blades that mince. These items are ideal options for anyone who travels or wants to reduce their energy usage.
6 – Your Hands
When you’re truly at a loss for how to crush garlic and you have none of the previous options available, you can always use brute strength. Garlic in clove form may seem hardy and tough to penetrate, but it’s really not.
Press the heel of your hand firmly on the garlic clove and press down. You’ll need to put your weight into it and you may have to repeat the process a few times to get your garlic crushed just right.
Just be careful to wash your hands promptly after crushing your garlic to avoid irritation.
7 – Rocks
If you’re really roughing it, perhaps in the great outdoors, you can also use a rock to crush your garlic.
Pick a smooth but hefty rock for the job at hand. Place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper over the garlic.
Then slam the rock down onto the garlic. The paper layer will keep dirt from the rock out of your crushed garlic. If you’re extremely concerned about food safety, you should wash the rock in warm, soapy water before employing it to crush your garlic.
The protective layer also keeps garlic out of the rock. Rocks are extremely porous and if they have jagged edges, they’ll take some of your garlic with them.
If you’re returning the rock back to nature once you’re done with it, make sure that there are no garlic bits on it. These could deter away animals and lichens that use that rock as a habitat.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.