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Garlic: To press or not to press?

Garlic: To press or not to press?
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  • Garlic: To press or not to press?

    Post #1 - January 20th, 2006, 9:11 am
    Post #1 - January 20th, 2006, 9:11 am Post #1 - January 20th, 2006, 9:11 am
    I have not used a garlic press since very early in my culinarly life. At one point, I decided that I hated cleaning my garlic press and that it left way too much garlic inside the chamber. Plus, you needed a little knife anyway to get the garlic off the end of the press, so why not reduce your toolset by one and just use the knife?

    I have heard many different opinions about the use of the garlic press from amateur and professional cooks. Alton Brown doesn't use one because a) it's a unitasker and b) it leaves too much garlic behind. Americas Test Kitchen uses one religiously, based on it's convenience (I suspect).

    For years, I have minced countless cloves of garlic with my 5" Global utility knife. I will occasionally throw a few cloves in my Cusinart Mini-Prep, if I have to mince more than two or three cloves.

    Watching ATK, I feel as though I'm starting to come around to their way of thinking. I'm guessing that for the vast majority of applications, using a press for a clove or two isn't going to make a darn bit of difference in the dish, but it will save me a couple precious prep minutes. But, then again, I hate a unitasker.

    I am interested in hearing opinions about this kitchen gadget from those of you who cook regularly with garlic. Is it something you use or is it a waste of space and just something else to wash?

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #2 - January 20th, 2006, 9:23 am
    Post #2 - January 20th, 2006, 9:23 am Post #2 - January 20th, 2006, 9:23 am
    I have a press that I haven't used in years. I just don't find myself needing it lately. However, I remember from my pressing days that if you put a clove in the press with the skin on, a lot more garlic will end up on the side that counts. Plus, it's easier to clean that way.
  • Post #3 - January 20th, 2006, 9:25 am
    Post #3 - January 20th, 2006, 9:25 am Post #3 - January 20th, 2006, 9:25 am
    EC,

    I no longer use a garlic press because of the clogging problem you mention, but in retrospect, another problem is that the garlic press seemed to "juice" the garlic, squishing out the liquid, which I didn't like either. In many preparations, I kind of like to SEE the garlic in there, and when you press it, you tend to get a kind of puree that just isn't the same thing. I do, however, frequently use an electric chopper if I need, like, a whole head of the stuff.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #4 - January 20th, 2006, 9:32 am
    Post #4 - January 20th, 2006, 9:32 am Post #4 - January 20th, 2006, 9:32 am
    i used to use a press. the one i had was a cheapo press as i thought that because they all did the same thing there was no reason to spend more thasn i had to. well, i ended up losing a lot of time and clove. i upgraded to a press that had teeth to press out garlic caught in the chamber. still eneded up losing time fishing out clove.

    after that, i switched to the smash and chop method. i give the clove a real serious whack to sort of mash it in one thump, then i give it a quick, but thorough (depending on how fine i want it) chop. does not take much longer than pressing, and, if i add in the time trying to fish out the garlic from the chamber, i might actually be saving time. and, of course, i lose no garlic (tho perhaps a bit of its juice and oil).
  • Post #5 - January 20th, 2006, 9:42 am
    Post #5 - January 20th, 2006, 9:42 am Post #5 - January 20th, 2006, 9:42 am
    eatchicago wrote:Watching ATK, I feel as though I'm starting to come around to their way of thinking. I'm guessing that for the vast majority of applications, using a press for a clove or two isn't going to make a darn bit of difference in the dish, but it will save me a couple precious prep minutes.


    You are only going to save a few minutes if someone has searched for, found and mise en placed your garlic press for you.

    Like you, I haven't used my garlic press in years. I'm not sure where it is, I may have tossed it even. In the years since I got it, my knive skills have improved so that I can peel (one bladeside thwack) and mince a clove faster than I can find and use the press.

    I think I totally ditched my garlic press when I heard the comment (Alton? Pepin? Child?) that the garlic press was inefficient and for the lazy...

    As I mentioned, it has helped my knife skills. I don't use a cleaver, but I aspire to handling garlic like Yan.
  • Post #6 - January 20th, 2006, 9:48 am
    Post #6 - January 20th, 2006, 9:48 am Post #6 - January 20th, 2006, 9:48 am
    I never use a press, but for taste reasons.

    I can't shake this feeling that pressed garlic takes on a much stronger bitter flavor which, while I suppose it isn't a bad thing in and of itself, isn't usually what I'm looking for in my garlic. So I almost always mince. The most I'll do is occasionally very lightly crush a clove when I'm sauteeing them and then removing them to start of a pasta. But even that, I do gingerly.

    I've felt this way for a long time, but I've never heard anybody else claim the same, which makes me wonder if I'm just insane.

    Tell me I'm not insane. Please.
  • Post #7 - January 20th, 2006, 9:52 am
    Post #7 - January 20th, 2006, 9:52 am Post #7 - January 20th, 2006, 9:52 am
    I think I read somewhere that the more the garlic cells are compromised, the stronger (and somewhat different) the garlic flavor, so a garlic press should yield a rather strong taste, moreso than even smashing and chopping. That said, I like the flavor and use my garlic press a lot, but sometimes if I want a slightly milder flavor, I'll just do a mince.
  • Post #8 - January 20th, 2006, 10:05 am
    Post #8 - January 20th, 2006, 10:05 am Post #8 - January 20th, 2006, 10:05 am
    I think it is important to remember that it's a matter of taste and aesthetics as opposed to convenience.

    Also, the quality of the press yields different results. I've never forgotten the Frugal Gourmet's insistence at using the Susi - Zyliss.

    From: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/garlic.htm

    Methods of Use
    You can vary the amount of garlic flavor released by how you prepare the garlic. The more juices and oils extracted, the more garlic flavor will be incorporated into the food.

    Pressing - Garlic put through a garlic press or pureed release the most garlic oils and therefore provides the strongest garlic flavor.

    Crushing - Releases the pungent flavor and natural juices of garlic. Good for use in sauces when you want a strong garlic flavor.

    Minced - Finely minced garlic will release more oils than chopped or sliced garlic, but less than pressed or crushed. Great for flavoring oil to be used for sautéing.

    Chopped - The chopping process does not extract a large amount of juice or oil. The amount of flavor obtained will depend on how small the garlic is chopped and allowed to dissolve in the cooking process. This method is good for use in salsas and stir-frys.

    Slicing - Slices or larger pieces of garlic won't completely dissolve when cooked resulting in a lighter garlic flavor.

    Browning - Garlic browned in oil imparts a very strong nutty flavor. While some recipes suggest browning others will warn against it. Try browning some minced garlic in a small amount of olive oil and see if you like the flavor.
    Reading is a right. Censorship is not.
  • Post #9 - January 20th, 2006, 10:07 am
    Post #9 - January 20th, 2006, 10:07 am Post #9 - January 20th, 2006, 10:07 am
    Garlic is very fickle. My Nonni would never use crushed or bruised garlic, insisting on a tiny mince that would make a sushi chef proud. For some purposes, such as mojo de ajo or for smearing accross bread for bruschetta, pan amb tomaquet, etc., I prefer freshly crushed garlic. But, as with onions, if you break it down too much (as with a blender) it is horribly bitter.
  • Post #10 - January 20th, 2006, 10:08 am
    Post #10 - January 20th, 2006, 10:08 am Post #10 - January 20th, 2006, 10:08 am
    Linda Lau Anusasananan, in Sunset, Summer 1997, wrote:The way you cook and cut garlic mellows or ignites it. Garlic's characteristic smell becomes pronounced when the compound alliin meets the enzyme allinase, from which it has been separated by cellular membranes. When the membranes are broken - by chewing, pressing, or cutting - allinase comes into contact with alliin, forming the hot-tasting sulfur compound called allicin. The more thoroughly you crush the cells, as in a garlic press, the stronger and more pungent the results.

    The heat of cooking inactivates and eliminates the effects of allinase - mostly by driving away the volatile sulfur. Keep these techniques in mind to make garlic taste the way you want.


    A self-cleaning garlic press is a wonderful tool.
  • Post #11 - January 20th, 2006, 10:24 am
    Post #11 - January 20th, 2006, 10:24 am Post #11 - January 20th, 2006, 10:24 am
    Dmnkly wrote:Tell me I'm not insane. Please.


    You are not insane. (not about the garlic, at least :twisted:)
    There are many aromatic compounds, many containing sulfur that give rise to the smell of garlic. Many of these are released or produced by enzymatic action only when the cells are broken. Cutting with a sharp knife only breaks limited cells, crushing will lyse or break-down many more – hence the greater garlic 'flavor'. Some of these nascent or freshly produced compounds break down further rapidly, hence it is better to use freshly minced garlic.

    For pasta alio-olio, I warm with the oil the thinnest slices of garlic (that way you break more cells (= more flavour) in the same piece of garlic than if you cut thick slices) and take them out before they start to colour.
    When mincing garlic, I crush the slices a bit with the side of the blade to enhance the garlic-iness before the final mincing. Also I use a mortar and pestle to make garlic paste – greater garlic flavour than (equivalent amount of) minced garlic.

    http://www.garlic-central.com/allicin.html

    http://www.herbalgram.org/default.asp?c=garlic (especially the "Modern useage" section)
  • Post #12 - January 20th, 2006, 10:47 am
    Post #12 - January 20th, 2006, 10:47 am Post #12 - January 20th, 2006, 10:47 am
    Heh... glad to hear it :-)

    However, though it's a completely subjective observation, I think it goes well beyond just strength. To my palate, it completely changes the character of the flavor. For many dishes, I'd use two minced cloves before I'd use one crushed one... they may be of approximately equal "strength", but I think they're still going to give your dish a different character. This may call for a little small-scale controlled scientific testing :-)

    And to be clear, I don't think this is a question of which is better. They're just different. Minced is better suited to the dishes I'm usually preparing, but I can certainly see how crushed or pureed garlic with less of a sweet component and more of a bitter component could be preferable for certain dishes.
  • Post #13 - January 20th, 2006, 1:34 pm
    Post #13 - January 20th, 2006, 1:34 pm Post #13 - January 20th, 2006, 1:34 pm
    No less an authority than Anthony Bourdain has weighed in on the issue...in typically caustic fashion.

    "Use fresh garlic. Slice thinly -- like in Goodfellas -- or chop it fresh. Always do it by hand. That garbage that comes out of a garlic press is not food. Ditto the vile sludge in jars."
  • Post #14 - January 20th, 2006, 2:35 pm
    Post #14 - January 20th, 2006, 2:35 pm Post #14 - January 20th, 2006, 2:35 pm
    CoolerbytheLake wrote:"Use fresh garlic. Slice thinly -- like in Goodfellas -- or chop it fresh. Always do it by hand. That garbage that comes out of a garlic press is not food. Ditto the vile sludge in jars."

    I love garlic -- in all its forms. I slice it, chop it, mince it, mash it with a chef's knife and salt, put it through a garlic press, pound it in a mortar, whirl it in a food processor and buy it as fresh heads, as whole peeled cloves, as jarred puree and even as garlic salt, depending on what I'm using it for and how much I need.

    If he never presses or purees his garlic, I don't think I'd care for Bourdain's garlic bread.
  • Post #15 - January 20th, 2006, 3:01 pm
    Post #15 - January 20th, 2006, 3:01 pm Post #15 - January 20th, 2006, 3:01 pm
    If someone smeared pressed or pureed garlic on an otherwise fine piece of bread, I don't think I'd care for that person's garlic bread. For me, rubbing a cut clove on the surface of toasted bread is the only acceptable garlic delivery system where bread is concerned.
  • Post #16 - January 20th, 2006, 4:00 pm
    Post #16 - January 20th, 2006, 4:00 pm Post #16 - January 20th, 2006, 4:00 pm
    CoolerbytheLake wrote:If someone smeared pressed or pureed garlic on an otherwise fine piece of bread, I don't think I'd care for that person's garlic bread. For me, rubbing a cut clove on the surface of toasted bread is the only acceptable garlic delivery system where bread is concerned.

    No, no, you're thinking of bread flavored with a whisper of garlic, like bruschetta -- not garlic bread, which is bread as a medium for garlic.

    First you mix the puree with softened butter and then you smear it on the bread. And then you top it with grated parmesan or romano and bake it till the bread gets all hot and crusty and completely permeated with melted garlic butter.

    Or else you make skordalia with mashed potatoes or with bread and smear that on more bread.
  • Post #17 - January 20th, 2006, 4:14 pm
    Post #17 - January 20th, 2006, 4:14 pm Post #17 - January 20th, 2006, 4:14 pm
    LAZ wrote:First you mix the puree with softened butter and then you smear it on the bread.


    I use a similar method, but I use my microplane for the garlic. I barely warm half of it with some butter, mix that, the unwarmed garlic shreds, and whatever herb I have on hand with more butter. Spread thickly, no cheese, under the broiler. I think this might be an ATK recipe? Cook's Illustrated?
  • Post #18 - January 20th, 2006, 4:20 pm
    Post #18 - January 20th, 2006, 4:20 pm Post #18 - January 20th, 2006, 4:20 pm
    KL5....

    Oooooooo, the microplane is an EXCELLENT idea. If that would give a superfine grating of garlic that maintains the sweetness of minced, I'm SOLD. I'll have to give it a try. Kudos to you or whoever you got the idea from.
  • Post #19 - January 20th, 2006, 4:53 pm
    Post #19 - January 20th, 2006, 4:53 pm Post #19 - January 20th, 2006, 4:53 pm
    Dmnkly wrote:Oooooooo, the microplane is an EXCELLENT idea. If that would give a superfine grating of garlic that maintains the sweetness of minced, I'm SOLD. I'll have to give it a try. Kudos to you or whoever you got the idea from.


    Give it a try! I have also used my Mouli grater for garlic. I like this especially for guacamole, which I like extra garlicky.
  • Post #20 - January 20th, 2006, 5:16 pm
    Post #20 - January 20th, 2006, 5:16 pm Post #20 - January 20th, 2006, 5:16 pm
    Late on the bandwagon, I received a microplane zester/grater in my Christmas stocking. Holy Cow! I want to marry this beautiful device.

    Having never used a garlic press and being equally suspicious of shredding cell walls, I gave it a go with the microplane. Rock on.

    Can I procure the appropriate certificates at City Hall?
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #21 - January 20th, 2006, 6:50 pm
    Post #21 - January 20th, 2006, 6:50 pm Post #21 - January 20th, 2006, 6:50 pm
    I'm also in the school that gently smashes the clove (a little, to get off the skin), the chops/minces. My garlic press hasn't come out of the drawer for years...or if it has, it might be in a bag waiting to be taken to the Brown Elephant. But count me among the folks who thinks it sounds like a brilliant idea to use the microplane. My only question...how much of the clove do you actually get microplaned before you're in danger of shaving your fingers and nails? Or do you use a fork/toothpick/something else to hold it so you can shave almost the entire thing? It's one thing to microplane a block of cheese or the rind of a lemon, but another to use it on a small clove of garlic. :)
  • Post #22 - January 20th, 2006, 7:44 pm
    Post #22 - January 20th, 2006, 7:44 pm Post #22 - January 20th, 2006, 7:44 pm
    Christopher Gordon wrote:... I received a microplane zester/grater in my Christmas stocking. Holy Cow! I want to marry this beautiful device.

    It should go without saying, but use protection if you plan to get intimate with your love.

    Back on topic, I too read Tony Bourdain's rant on pressed and jarred garlic recently (boy does that book tell me I don't want to be a chef), and he's shamed me into cooking with the real thing more often -- very happy. Chopped fine into yoghurt and lemon juice for fatteh, or toasted whole (and then blended when soft with some of the veggies) for a soup, I'm getting loads more flavor. Gotta try that microplane trick next.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #23 - January 20th, 2006, 8:21 pm
    Post #23 - January 20th, 2006, 8:21 pm Post #23 - January 20th, 2006, 8:21 pm
    Well, as usual, I'm late to the wedding, but here's a couple of observations. I've got an Oxo press the really works well, I mean, it *mooshes* the garlic. I scrape the residual 'skin' from the hole-y press plate, put some more garlic in, press again. In the end I scrape out the residue and chop it, and put it into the dish as well.

    Now, I must admit, that there's a bitter tang AND aroma that never goes away. For some dishes, that's ok--Chinese, especially. Seems to marry nicely with soy.

    But my forray last fall to Joe's Noodles opened my eyes a bit to garlic's many forms. All of his dishes --it's a Sichuan place-- have garlic. But some have these oval-shaped, thin thin thin slices [obviously he's got some student histologist chained to a microtome in the back room...] that give a sweet nut-brown taste to the dishes. Other times, he makes slivers, just like almond slivers, for the dishes. These taste different from either my mooosh or his slices.

    Clearly, I discern, there's fine-tuning involved.

    Then there's the microplane. Wonderful gadget. I've had one for several years, medium-size, although I'm hankering for a large-size one at this point. Once I discovered that this device would shred ANYthing, I started using it for frozen ginger: freeze the ginger root solid, then microplane it when needed. Damn. Which led me shortly to doing the same with frozen garlic cloves. Damn.

    Final stage: last Fall I got in a rush, failed to have frozen garlic cloves on hand, in desperation grabbed one from the head on the counter. Wallah! (as my students write) and Damn--that worked great, too! So it works with garlic frozen or unfrozen.

    So now my Oxo moosher is retired--unless and until I need the bitter dimension--and I use the microplane otherwise.

    Do you suppose Joe's Noodles used a mandoline device--Benriner maybe-- to make their thin thin thin slices? Would that be possible? How could you do so without making thin thin thin slices of your fingertips??

    I count the microplane as one of the leading kitchenary inventions of the recent past.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #24 - January 21st, 2006, 10:50 am
    Post #24 - January 21st, 2006, 10:50 am Post #24 - January 21st, 2006, 10:50 am
    I believe I've seen a microplane grater with a sliding cup for grating cheese. That might be a safe way to grate garlic without getting nutrionally significant amounts of fingernail in your sautee.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #25 - January 21st, 2006, 10:54 am
    Post #25 - January 21st, 2006, 10:54 am Post #25 - January 21st, 2006, 10:54 am
    Geo wrote: How could you do so without making thin thin thin slices of your fingertips??


    _____That's my question. Considering I almost lost the end of my digit one morning on my Mandolin. Obviously it was my dumb choice not to use the guard. While a microplane sounds great, my fingers cringe. I'd rather go for the razor blade technique from Good Fellas.
    _____I appreciate Food Nut's delineation of flavors released by different methods of preparing garlic. I learned a little there. I myself rarely use the garlic press. Frankly it seems like a waste of garlic when I have to go through so many cloves to just get half that amount on the other end.
    _____I DID find a great contraption from Crate & Barrel on a recent visit to a friend's house. It's a combination garlic press and slicer. Pretty sweet idea.

    http://www.crateandbarrel.com/
    "Garlic Press/Slicer"
    $19.95
  • Post #26 - January 21st, 2006, 11:09 am
    Post #26 - January 21st, 2006, 11:09 am Post #26 - January 21st, 2006, 11:09 am
    Actually JoelF's invocation of microplane and cheese recalled to me how I first encountered the device. When the future TODG and I first encountered one another, her kitchen contained this long, narrow raspy-looking thing. "Whatzis?" asked I. "Grater for parmesan" said she, promptly inserting the raspy-thingy into a handle, and beginning to rasp away on a big ol' chunk of parmesan. "Dang" said I. And that was my first introduction to the device.

    A couple months later I walked into Ambrosi Bros* knife shoppe in KC and saw that they had Microplanes in three sizes, so I bought the medium one and it's been downhill since then.

    For whatever reason, there's not any danger of digital grating whilst doing garlic cloves. I don't know why. But let me tell you, I am SUCH a klutz that, *were* there any danger, I'd be missing fleshy parts off my finger pads. But I ain't. So I can certify that it's safe to grate garlic cloves with one of these things.

    Geo

    *BTW, this is one most excellent knife shoppe--worth a visit next time you're out stalking bbq.

    Ambrosi Bros:
    http://www.kellysearch.com/us-company-900582512.html
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #27 - January 21st, 2006, 5:26 pm
    Post #27 - January 21st, 2006, 5:26 pm Post #27 - January 21st, 2006, 5:26 pm
    Looks like the "Safety Slider" is available as an accessory

    Can't tell if there's a 'presser' in there or not, but it would be easy to mock something up.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #28 - January 21st, 2006, 8:48 pm
    Post #28 - January 21st, 2006, 8:48 pm Post #28 - January 21st, 2006, 8:48 pm
    So, inspired by the idea of using garlic on a microplane, I peeled a clove before I knew what to do with it. Thinking "salad" to go with Swad-brand frozen "Aloo Parantha" from Shop-n-Save in Des Plaines, I thought first of just tossing it with the greens... but then I remembered the ur-dressing:

    Creamy Garlic from Dave's Italian Kitchen: strong garlic to the point of spiciness, white, thick and creamy. I've tried to duplicate it before, using white pepper and lemon juice to try to replicate its hot, bright notes. Nope, just handling the garlic wrong.

    Got it right this time:

    1 good-sized clove Sliverred garlic (you won't use the whole clove unless you like the taste of finger too)
    Salt and white pepper to taste
    1/4 cup sour cream
    1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
    Stir, let sit to blend flavors.
    Makes enough for two side salads

    Salad should have shredded carrot, shredded mozzarella cheese and cucumbers in it. I don't remember what tomatoes if any, but I'm thinking cherry (didn't have any tonight).
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #29 - January 22nd, 2006, 9:43 pm
    Post #29 - January 22nd, 2006, 9:43 pm Post #29 - January 22nd, 2006, 9:43 pm
    Ok, the saga continues. Last night I was going to sweat half a bag of Costco spinach (yes, the Montreal Costco has the spinach too!), so I decided to take my new-found garlic experimental spirit to a new place: I sliced the absolutely thinnest garlic ellipses I could, and browned them in the bit of olive oil before putting in the spinach leaves. Simply amazing: roasted nut-brown taste, that's the best way to describe it. What a difference from the mooshed or even microplaned version.

    Whole new thing.

    This aft, as TODG and I were walking down Saint-Denis toward Marché Jean-Talon, I espied high up in the side window of the Marché Thai Hour, a hidious-green-colored Benriner mandoline for 22$. Done deal.

    I'll report back if I can make it work on garlic cloves w/o producing the aforementioned thin thin thin slices of my fingerprint pads.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #30 - January 23rd, 2006, 10:02 am
    Post #30 - January 23rd, 2006, 10:02 am Post #30 - January 23rd, 2006, 10:02 am
    I hadn't used a garlic press for about seven years. I chopped and smashed and minced with a knife, and I was perfectly happy, though sticky and a little messy. But a few months ago I was killing time before a Steppenwolf play at Sur La Table and I got all creamy for a press that not only presses, but slices. The very same as mentioned above from Crate & Barrel. I use the press and a knife alternately, depending on use of the garlic. It cleans up pretty nicely, but I still have to get in there with a toothpick sometimes, despite the built-in cleaner.

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