A lot of people feel a garlic press is unnecessary. Mincing garlic isn't exactly rocket science, and it's simple enough to smash it with the back of a knife and mince quickly with the blade--that is, if you're confident wielding a knife. But a lot of people who are new to cooking and are just getting their culinary feet wet find garlic impossible to work with. Until you have a good technique down, just peeling the papery, odd-shaped cloves can be aggravating enough. Once they're peeled, they tend to be sticky and a bit difficult to mince efficiently.
As such, a sea of gadgets has been developed to make the confounding things easier to handle. A lot of them, of course, are no less irritating than the problems they're meant to solve. But a good-quality garlic press can really come in handy. Cooks Illustrated
liked the Kuhn Rikon 2315 press best.
Of course, garlic shouldn't always be minced. Garlic behaves differently depending on how you treat it
: Sliced cloves give food a subtle garlic flavor; minced garlic releases a stronger flavor; and pressed or pureed garlic has the most potent flavor. And how garlic should be prepped also depends on the texture of what it's being added to. For garlic mashed potatoes, for instance, you'd want to press or puree it to avoid biting into a chunk of raw garlic.
So while a garlic press isn't critical, it'll come in handy for recipes that require pureed garlic. And if it keeps new chefs from cheating and using garlic powder to avoid the hassle of mincing, I'm willing to move it into the list of must-have tools.
Test the press with CHOW's recipe for chicken noodle soup