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Garlic Stripped Naked And Pressed Hard!

Mar 23, 2008
You take the garlic clove in your hands. You strip off the skin. You look at it lying there vulnerable and ready. What do you do next?

You have a couple of options - one approach is old and low tech, the other more hip and a little more high tech.

You can chop it with your knife or use one of many types of garlic presses. The first and natural question is - are garlic presses necessary? Well that all depends on a couple of factors. First, your comfort handling a knife and whether your skills or lack there of make you less apt to pick up a knife. Secondly, are you of the school who doesn't believe in owning single function tool for the kitchen.

If you don't feel comfortable with a knife, then yes garlic presses are useful and convenient.

However if you are a strong supporter of the no single purpose tool rule, then maybe this is not for you.

I can go either way here. While, I am not opposed to keeping equipment in the kitchen to a minimum, there are times when a single purpose tool is helpful.

First, I want to cover how easy it is to chop garlic with a knife and then cover presses. Using a knife to chop garlic is the age-old solution to chopping, dicing, mincing, and smashing garlic into a paste. If you want more coarsely chopped or sliced garlic, then a knife is your first and best choice. The size of the desired end result is your main determining factor.

To begin, simply remove the skin and make sure the clove is lying as flat as possible, even if that means slicing in half first. Now make several lengthwise slices. If you want slices, then you are done. To chop - slice crosswise to make chunks of the size you want.

As with many foods, the smaller the dice or mince, the more flavor extraction will occur sooner. So if you are cooking something that will cook for a long time, such as a tomato sauce, you would want a larger dice. This is of course all dependent on individual taste. Some people like a slightly stronger more bitter punch from their garlic while others prefer a milder hint.

As to which knife to use for chopping garlic, that depends on how much garlic is to be chopped and how finely. If one is chopping or slicing one or two cloves, then a paring or utility knife could be used. However if one is chopping many cloves or going for a much smaller dice you might want either a chef's knife or a Santoku style knife.

I would be amiss if I forget to mention the mezzaluna blade that can also be used for the smaller mince or chopping. The mezzaluna blade generally uses a wooden board with a bowl shaped impression carved into one side.

To mince garlic, simply lay the garlic clove flat as possible on the cutting board and smash it with the wide portion of the knife (if not using a mezzaluna) and then begin to quickly mince it with the chopping/rocking motion.

For me this is the fastest way to do it, but then I am comfortable with a knife and I find I probably have the knife out already anyway. Additionally, it is one less thing to clean later.

One can also use the flat portion of a larger blade to make a quick garlic paste for use in marinades or salad dressings. To make this paste, smash the garlic with the flat part of the blade. Then using a dragging motion continue mashing and smashing the garlic back and forth on the board like a board press or scraper until the desired consistency is achieved.

A knife and a good wooden cutting board are all one needs to prepare garlic. It will also prove to be the least expensive way to prepare garlic, as most already have a knife in the kitchen. It is also one less thing to store away if space is an issue.

So without further ado, let's talk presses. What is the main purpose? The main purpose is to press a clove(s) through the device to produce a mince like state. Some, like Mr. Alton Brown, say that the presses actually smash the garlic in an unappealing way. Similar to what others say potato ricers do to potatoes. Never the less, a "mince" is the end result.

A garlic press consists of two long handles hinged at the top. One of the handles has a basket shaped end with holes in it where the garlic is placed. The other handle has a fixed or free-swinging flat end (plunger) that will fit into the basket and push the garlic through the holes.

Most will come with a plastic piece designed to fit over the basket portion with plugs matching the holes to help push out garlic remaining in the basket. It is useful to have.

Presses come in various materials. Some are heavy duty plastic, some stainless steel and others die-cast metal, coated to prevent odors and staining. The key is the hinge strength. Generally, the basket volume is the same size, but all will vary slightly.

Before I go any further, I want to state that this tool is dependent on personal hand strength. If you have some form of arthritis or other malady that causes you to have weak grip or hand strength then you will find using a garlic press difficult. However, one company makes a counter top variety where one pushes down using body weight versus grip. It still may be too difficult to use, depending on the degree of discomfort in your joints.

To use a press is quite easy. Put the clove(s) in the basket end, line up the plunger and squeeze the two handles together and pressing the garlic over the catch container. Some like to scrape the garlic off the plunger, others like to leave it out. As to whether one peels or not, is up to you; presses are designed to work either way. I tend to skin the cloves first as I want all the garlic in my food. You may notice some garlic actually release juice before the garlic comes through the press. This is not something to worry about and some consider it a great benefit.

For the sake of product longevity, rinse off the press as soon as possible after using. If you wait too long to clean it out, the garlic remains and juice will be more difficult to clean.

This can cause problems over the long term.

There are several companies who make garlic presses, some you know some you may not. They come in varying price ranges and not all stores carry every brand. I have not listed every maker or product here, only the ones with which I am familiar.

If you become a frequent visitor here, you will find I don't want to get into ratings and recommendations.

However, based solely on product construction, quality of materials and the aforementioned hinge strength, there are some I like more than others. You will find in general that these presses will perform better and last longer than the others.

I find the Rosle brand to be very good, easy to use. It is the most expensive of the bunch but has a very sturdy all stainless steel body, effective motion and is easy to clean. After that I like Zyliss; it has a very strong hinge, solid die cast body that will last for a long time and presses easily. If I had to pick a third choice, it would be the Kuhn Rikon press. Some have said finger pinching was possible, but careful use should prevent this problem.

After those three, the others fall into the same general class. They work well enough and will serve your purposes, but probably won't last as long. There is one product that both presses and in a separate basket "slices". The slice and press combination from AMCO Houseworks has added versatility with the dual function.

The Alligator works well for garlic; similar to the Cuisipro, it is a body weight press versus grip powered.

About the only ones I am not fond of are the twist styles of Garlic Genius and the Chef'n. The additional effort to provide the same basic result doesn't seem necessary; they are also much harder to clean.

For the most part garlic presses work as expected.

If you would like to purchase one of these presses online, please follow the link listed below.

If you want to know where to buy them in your area, either contact the manufacturer or the local kitchen supply store.

"Traditional" Garlic Presses:

Rosle Garlic Press

Zyliss Jumbo Garlic Press

Zyliss Sushi Garlic Press

Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press

OXO Good Grips Garlic Press

OXO Good Grips I-Series Garlic Press

Cuisipro Countertop Garlic Press

Amco Professional Garlic Presser/Slicer

"Non-traditional" presses:

Genius USA Garlic Cutter

Chef'n Garlic Machine

Alligator Mini Cutter/Garlic Press

There are other products which can also "chop" garlic, but they will part of another article. These products have the ability to chop other food than just garlic. Stay tuned.

If you have any questions or for more information, please visit http://www.kitchenboy.net .
About the Author
I am an experienced cook and baker, who works in Culinary sales. I also write product reviews and provide information about the various tools and gadgets available for the consumer on my website is www.kitchenboy.net
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