The garlic press is one of the most reviled kitchen tools.
“Garlic is a godsend. Garlic abuse is a crime. “Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic chopped too long ago, garlic squashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all revolting,” writes Anthony Bourdain in his groundbreaking memoir Kitchen Confidential. While most of us have one in our kitchen utensil drawer, we may be hesitant to use it after celebrity chefs like Bourdain have spoken out against it.
A garlic press is never used by many of the chefs and foodies I interview. I chatted with Toronto chef Alida Solomon, owner of Tutti Matti, a few years ago, and she joked that she hadn’t tasted one since 1990.
Instead, she, like the majority of her peers, minces garlic with a knife (using the jarred stuff is considered a sin far worse than reaching for a garlic press).
Why Do Chefs Hate The Garlic Press?
Garlic press detractors are divided into two groups: those who believe the press affects the flavor of garlic cloves and those who believe the press produces too much waste. According to the notion, the more garlic is crushed, the stronger it tastes because more allicin is released, which is responsible for the garlic’s characteristic garlicky flavor. Garlic that is chopped with a knife is said to be less pungent.
But Here’s The Thing
A high-falutin chef may easily chastise a one-use equipment that would look out of place in a high-end restaurant kitchen. It does, however, serve an important purpose for home cooks. Sue Riedl, the former food director of Chatelaine, recommends the garlic press as a time-saver, especially for meals with more than two cloves. Instead of wasting valuable pre-dinner time peeling, chopping, and dicing garlic, simply place a whole clove (peel and all) in the garlic press and voila: minced garlic.
Bring on That Garlicky Flavour
Bourdain may think pressed garlic is terrible, but Sue claims that if you like garlic, the stronger flavor (due to the pressing) is a positive thing. Simply use less garlic if you prefer a more delicate flavor.
Avoid Stinky Fingers
Sue and Irene Ngo, culinary editor at Chatelaine, both use their garlic presses on a regular basis (something these trained chefs were proud to reveal). It not only speeds up the process of getting meals on the table, but it also prevents the dreaded garlic fingers (that smell lingers). Mincing garlic with a knife or a microplane grater is risky for young fingers, so using a garlic press is a terrific way to get toddlers involved in the kitchen.
You Just Need The Best Garlic Press
Choose a high-quality press to avoid wasting valuable garlic. Irene suggests the $7.99 Koncis stainless steel garlic press from Ikea. It’s not just small, but it also performs a fantastic job of mincing a complete clove with very little waste. The insert, which is generally difficult to clean, is removed, making cleanup a pleasure. Sue swears by the Zyliss garlic press, which allows her to mince two cloves at once for $20.
Sure, utilizing a garlic press won’t get you any brownie points with top chefs, but who cares if it makes it easier to serve a flavorful meal?
Using the best garlic press gives you a sense of accomplishment. Swing the arm over and squeeze a knob of peeled garlic into the hopper. Stress relief, plus the best garlic you’ve ever had! Is a garlic press, as entertaining as it may be, actually a required kitchen tool?
A garlic press, on the other hand, is highly useful for producing evenly “minced” garlic that is much smaller than we could achieve by hand. This is wonderful for those of us who appreciate garlic flavor in every meal, or if you’re a little self-conscious about your knife abilities. When we need to crush a large amount of garlic at once, a garlic press comes in handy.
It’s a kitchen multi-tasker, on the other hand, that takes up room in our drawer. Garlic skins clog the hopper, making it difficult to clean, especially if we forget to do it straight away and the skins begin to dry.
When we’re cutting vegetables for dinner, it’s just faster to mince the garlic with the rest of the vegetables rather than pulling out another tool. If you’re worried about mincing anything so little with a knife, you can crush it with a dinner fork just as easily as you can with a garlic press.
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We’re not convinced that this is a vital tool in our kitchens on the whole. But, what are your thoughts?