The garlic press is an inexpensive kitchen tool that not only makes life easier for you, it helps add a bit of depth and subtlety to your cooking.
Essentially, the garlic press takes a garlic clove and extrudes it through a bunch of tiny holes. It takes just a few seconds, and it gives you garlic rendered in a form unlike any other. It’s sort of a garlic goo--and don't worry, I mean that in a good way.
But best of all, it saves you valuable prep time. You can blast through several cloves of garlic in a fraction of the time it takes to chop up just one lousy clove with a knife.
The next time you're cooking something that calls for garlic, try using pressed garlic instead of regular, painstakingly chopped (or extra-painstakingly minced) garlic. It will infuse your recipe with a delicious garlic essence, yet you won't really find any discrete pieces of garlic in the dish.
In today's post, I'll give examples of when to use a press and when to stick to minced or chopped garlic, and I'll talk about the texture and extra-strength flavor you can get out of the humble garlic clove when it's forcibly extruded through a press.
Also, at the bottom of this post is an Amazon link to the exact garlic press we use in our kitchen. It's sturdy, easy to clean and I highly recommend it.*
I’ve talked before about how using pre-minced garlic from a jar is, in my opinion, the second-worst form of cheating. Once you have a garlic press in your kitchen, you'll find that using it is easier than scooping the pre-minced crap out of the jar in the first place!
A great example of a recipe that lends itself to pressed garlic is my pasta puttanesca. You can clearly see in the photos from that post that (for some fool reason) I didn’t use the press at all when I made the dish. Nevertheless, this is a textbook example where you could save 3-5 minutes at the very least by using a press and blasting though the six cloves of garlic rather than painstakingly chopping each one. That's significant in a recipe that takes only 20-25 minutes in all to make!
Also, be aware that you will get a lot more flavor mileage out of a pressed garlic clove than a chopped garlic clove, so you could use perhaps 4 pressed garlic cloves for the pasta puttanesca recipe instead of using 6 chopped garlic cloves. But of course this is a personal judgment call.
In the fattoush recipe, I used the garlic press, but I kept the clove count the same. It gave the dish an extra-strong garlic infusion factor. Fortunately for each of us, Laura and I both like garlic. :)
But note that while certain recipes benefit from using a press, certain ones won’t. In a recipe like farfalle with mushrooms and gorgonzola cheese, I would NOT use a garlic press. In this dish you’ll be sautéing the garlic in oil for a few minutes, so you’ll want to have noticeable chunks of garlic in the dish. Furthermore, the garlic should be a subtle and secondary part of the recipe. If there's anything that should be allowed to overwhelm, it's the gorgonzola cheese. After all, that's the centerpiece ingredient. You shouldn't let a less important component like the garlic overpower this recipe in my opinion.
Let's do a quick pictoral how-to on using the press:
First off, separate the garlic into individual cloves. You can leave the paper on.
Then, using your open palm on the flat of a knife, give a clove a quick wap (whap?) with the bottom of your hand. Not too hard, we don’t want garlic roadkill. You’ll get a feel for how hard to hit it after a few smashes.
You can see in the picture below that I gave this poor guy a bit too hard of a hit. But keep in mind we're about to extrude him through a bunch of tiny little holes, so maybe it was for the best that I put him out of his misery ahead of time.
In any event, this makes it much easier to remove the paper peelings around the garlic.
Place the clove into the press. Adjust the metal presser/plunger thingy....
...give it a good squeeze...
And voila--here are some delicious green beans with a real kick! No salt or butter needed here.
Use a knife or your finger to scrape the extra garlic trailings from the outside of the press:
There will be a thin garlic “skin” left inside the press, but if you’re pressing multiple garlic cloves, you can just ignore that until you’re done. No need to clean the thing out each time before placing in a new clove. You can blast through several cloves in just seconds, and then you'll only have to clean up once.
When you're all finished, you can use the plastic attachment to clean out the holes (easiest if you do it under a running faucet). It's a snap to clean!
Finally, let me also also admit that this is yet another example of how I was wrong in a cooking debate. Laura wanted one of these, and of course being the habit-laden stick-in-the-mud I always am, I laughed at the idea. Of course not only am I now using this garlic press all the time, I'm even writing blog posts about its merits!
Who's laughing now, garlic boy?
* Note: if you purchase any item via links to Amazon, I will receive a pathetically small affiliate fee.