Is the Garlic Press a Tool of the Devil?

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The great kitchen divide.

Cooks of the world, pick a side. Will it be the press or the knife? Do you extrude or do you mince?

The argument:

The garlic press is a one-trick pony.

No one wants a space-squandering uni-tasker in the kitchen. But a garlic press can press more than just garlic: try it to crack peppercorns, cumin and coriander seeds; press out the skinless flesh of olives, capers, anchovies, and canned chipotles; or use it to press small quantities of onion or shallot juice.

The garlic press produces harsh flavors.

The oils within garlic cloves are responsible for the pungency. The more technical among us get all geeky on the subject expounding on cell wall elasticity, vapor pressures, and dissolution rates. While it’s true that more of these compounds are released by pressing than mincing, the real culprit is the bitter stem at the center, which is included in mincing but is too coarse to pass through a press.The finer mash of the garlic press produces garlic that is more evenly distributed throughout the final dish, which can further tame its natural pungency.

The garlic press disrespects the garlic.

Anthony Bourdain  popularized this notion in the best selling Kitchen Confidential with his oft-repeated statement “I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out of the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic.” Of course with his no-doubt fabulous set of chef’s knives and expert kitchen skills, Bourdain is entitled to his purist, snobbish stance. For the less culinarily blessed, the  garlic press will produce the better results.

The garlic press: taking a stand.

The world shouldn’t be divided into different kinds of cooks and kitchens. We’re all after the same things: pleasure and nourishment, satisfying both body and soul, and doing it with integrity. Sometimes we cook to the supertaster sensibility. Sometimes we just need to get dinner on the table.

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7 Responses to Is the Garlic Press a Tool of the Devil?

  1. Janice says:

    I think that each has its place- the knife and the press. One of garlic’s great virtues is its ability to present itself in so many different strengths and tastes and textures.

  2. I hardly ever use it- we use a lot of garlic in food and hand-mincing produces the best texture and allows it to retain its flavor much more delicately. That said, I use it when I want those strong oils to come out and to get the liquid paste ready quicker. Anthony Bourdain would dunk my press straight in the trash!

  3. Janice says:

    Dana-

    The whole point of using the garlic press is expedience. Easy to clean is a must-otherwise you defeat the whole purpose.

    My favorite has a little cup that inserts to become the head of the press. After, it pops out and can be cleaned really easily. I don’t know who makes it or where it came from, but it’s the best I have ever found.

  4. Dana says:

    I agree with Jillyann, I generally avoid the garlic press because the one in my kitchen is so hard to get clean when you’re done with it.

    I’m a big fan of mincing the garlic and then pressing it into a paste using a little bit of salt and the flat of the knife. It gives the same result as the garlic press (most of the time, discernible chunks of garlic aren’t what I’m aiming for) with easier clean up.

  5. Janice says:

    I too rely heavily on a press, but sometimes you want the hit of a bigger chunk or slice of garlic. That’s a good time to pull out the knife.

  6. Very nice post:) I use both methods depending on the dish…Oh, and great tips for the additional uses, never thought of that:)

  7. Jillyann says:

    I have the pampered chef garlic press that comes with the little comb to clean out the holes and I love it! Prior to getting that one I barely ever used one because I couldn’t get all the tough fiberous stuff cleaned out of the little holes. I feel that it does release more of the flavor compounds but hey…when you are using garlic, isn’t that the point? I agree that pressed garlic is distrubted more thoroughly (and inconspicuously)in the finished dish. Bottom line…I only mince when nothing else will do!

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