This is a cautionary tale of assumptions, stigma, and honesty that centers around an often-reviled kitchen tool: the garlic press. I spent the last 10 years working as part of Alton Brown's culinary team in his test kitchens and studios around Atlanta. For most of those 10 years, I hid a garlic press from him in those kitchens. You see, I thought that the garlic press was a "unitasker" (if you know Alton, he bemoans unitaskers) not suited for professional chefs.
But I needn't have been so furtive. A garlic press can be a handy tool to keep around.
Garlic Presses Get a Bad Rap
Garlic presses are a shortcut to minced garlic that's probably more smashed than minced. They also get a bad rap for being hard to clean and wasteful, but both of these cons become less of an issue with better-quality presses. You should learn how to mince garlic properly, but in the event that you need to mince 20 cloves of garlic while preparing lunch for a television show crew, a garlic press can do it in half the time. Yes, you can also put a bunch of cloves into a food processor and mince them, but if you've ever worked in a professional kitchen, you know that hunting down that equipment and hoping it's clean isn't much of a time saver.
The Age-Old Question: Should You Buy a Garlic Press?
Why I Love a Garlic Press
My garlic press became my favorite secret tool in the test kitchen. I kept it stowed away in a drawer in my desk knowing that this single-tasking piece of equipment would have been frowned upon by Mr. Brown. I didn't use it every day in the test kitchens, but I found myself using one at home often. Pressing makes a sharper, spicier garlic in less time, and it gives my daughter something to do while I cook pasta. I love throwing a pressed clove into a quick pan of salted green beans.
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Over the years I experimented with other uses for the garlic press. It does an okay job of ricing a few egg yolks, and it does a great job of mincing ginger. Sometimes my love of the press wavered and I'd skip using it all together. Despite my love for it, the stigma of being a professional chef who used a garlic press was too much.
One day, when pulling it out of the drawer, I had a personal epiphany: I only use my can opener once or twice a week and it has one job: to open cans. Do I love or use my can opener less because it only has one job? No.
I decided then and there to own my love of the garlic press.
Last year, I showed Alton that you could smash egg yolks for deviled eggs with the garlic press. I waited anxiously for him to be upset at the sight of such a unitasker in his kitchen. "Huh, I didn't even know we had one of those things," was all he said.
I doubt Alton would ever actually use a garlic press, but I think he'd agree that if a tool helps you get dinner on the table and you love it, it doesn't really matter what he thinks about it.
Do you secretly love a garlic press too? Or any other stigmatized tools in your home kitchen?