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I’ve always avoided owning a garlic press. Fibers from the clove get stuck inside of them and have to be fished out and then minced by hand. Presses are a nuisance to clean, requiring a toothpick and a scrubber to clear out the little holes. I have been a steadfast hand-chopper and -mincer, partly out of pride in my knife skills, but mostly because presses seemed like such an unnecessary hassle. With a little more time I could have uniform bits of neatly cut garlic tiny enough to melt into whatever I was cooking, with minimal waste, no frustration, and nothing to wash but the cutting board.
For years, my only “fancy” garlic tool was a simple tube of silicon rubber used for peeling the cloves. You put one or two cloves inside the tube, then roll it around on the counter, pressing down with the heel of your hand. This works great at loosening the peel, an annoyingly fiddly task.
But then I sold my city apartment and moved to a small town in coastal Maine. It’s not that takeout doesn’t exist here, but there are maybe four choices—and that’s in the peak of summer. Delivery, like Uber, isn’t available at all.
Suddenly, I had to cook all of my meals, and I soon discovered that’s a lot of garlic to mince. Then I was struck with a family curse in the form of early-onset osteoarthritis of the hips, which made standing around in the kitchen for any extended period increasingly uncomfortable. I have since been seeking out ways to cut a minute from my food prep here and there.
So I bought a garlic rocker, a surprisingly simple device made of stainless steel. You place the peeled clove under a sievelike web of holes, then press down with hands on each side, rocking it back and forth. While this doesn’t produce the precise bits that mincing does, when the garlic is positioned correctly, it cuts through the fibers that run lengthwise along the clove. The result is small “tubes” of garlic that fall apart when cooked or stirred. I love it because it takes up next to no room in the drawer or dishwasher, and offers all of the convenience of a press without the fuss—nothing could be easier or faster to clean. What’s more, its elegant simplicity makes me feel like I’m using a tool with a primordial history, something devised by women who can cook delicious five-course meals over an open fire. Thanks to this nifty little device and my silicon tube, that almost feels doable.