Imagine Freddy Krueger with rusty garden rakes for fingers instead of razor sharp blades. Better yet, think of his wrists ending in old-fashioned meat grinders. He approaches you menacingly as you stand there perplexed wondering how he’s going to do you in with these useless tools attached to his arms, daring you to put your hand or body in it and turn the crank for him. And, with that, you now understand my own particular viewpoint on the utility of — or lack thereof — the ‘evil’ garlic press.
If I convert one of my readers from their garlic press back to the great wonder of a chef’s knife, this post will have served its purpose.
First, let me show any of you who haven’t come to this same conclusion the difference between the process and outcome of using a knife vs. an evil garlic press. Check out my “garlic gallery” here for my laboratory results. (smile) … And if that doesn’t convince you, well, then, read on as I continue my rant against the evil garlic press.
Our kitchens are overflowing with gadgets — some of them useful but most of them are merely beleaguered replacements for low cost tools that are already in our drawers. Some actually destroy food or the ingredients so important to our creations; some don’t even save time; some cost money; and all take up precious space. The evil garlic press? It’s guilty of all.
First think of what a clove of garlic is …. If you look at it closely, it is formed like a tightly wrapped baby onion. It has the same layers of flesh that hold within its clutches a very flavourful, sweet liquid. Yes, this pungent liquid is very high in sugar and what I’ll call essential oils. This liquid is all the goodness that is garlic. In my opinion, the flesh is a conveyance to move this into our foods. These sugars explain why garlic browns (and burns) so much more quickly than its cousin, the onion, and why it leaves our fingers sticky when handling it.
Now ask yourself this … would you stick an onion into a bigger version of a press? For those of us who remember experimenting with our first food processors (remember those first few weeks or months when you exhausted your kitchen putting everything imaginable into it to see what it would do?), recall putting the onion in there a little too long till it came out a bit more like mush than like finely minced pieces. This is what the garlic press does.
Did you ever put that onion mush into a saute pan? Remember how mush had a propensity to burn in blobs … that is, once you got past the 20 minutes of steaming it in its own juices. (But I digress) …
Why spend $5, $10, $20 on a garlic press at all when you have a good chef’s knife? Well, if you don’t, use that money towards the knife and a good steel. The beauty of this is that not only do you then have a knife to show for your money, you can use the knife to chop, slice, fillet, julienne, and also carve. You can even crush with it. Can your garlic press do all this? (No, of course not — it’s not a Ginsu knife, is it?) (kidding)
Time — ah, that oh so important ingredient when we’re preparing our creations and racing against the clock to have things come off the range at the same time. What time does the evil press really save? I’ll argue, actually, it costs time when you consider the time to find the device in your drawer, time to pry/pick the garlic pieces out of its maw, and time to clean it and re-stash it. And truthfully, the evil press costs you more time when you consider the fact that you have chop up the pieces of garlic that are jammed into the press’s grates.
How long does it take to use the same knife you used to open and peel the garlic — simply put, the knife you’re already using the knife to prepare other ingredients for your dish. It’s already in your hand, and the time to crush and dice/mince the clove is probably 15-20 seconds. Perhaps it takes a person new to their knife a bit more time — but keep practicing this and you’ll soon look like the Garlic Ninja in your kitchen.
Really, it’s that simple. Four easy steps:
- Peel the clove.
- Press it against the cutting board with the flat of the chef’s knife till it “breaks” and splits. This breaks the grain/layers, releases some of the ‘oils,’ and ensures the clove doesn’t turn on you for step 3.
- Slice it one direction (against the bias)
- Slice/mince it the other direction.
Voilà. In other words, it’s like slicing an onion with the addition of the first step which makes it easier than an onion and with the added bonus that it won’t make you cry.
The benefit of the knife in the end is that it is faster and you’re more in control of your product, you don’t lose any of the garlic flesh in the pressing, and you don’t spill (and lose) all the liquid over your cutting board … and you don’t have any extra clean up at the end of the process because, one way or the other, you probably need the knife to clean up the hack job the press left behind and to transfer it to your pan anyway.
I’ll admit, my one concern in asking all of you to rid yourselves of the evil garlic presses cluttering your homes is that our landfills are already overflowing with crap. So if any of you out there have any creative ideas of what to do with these useless tools, please share and let’s save the world … one press at a time.