The Overrated Kitchen Tool You Won't Find In Ina Garten's Kitchen

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

If you're a garlic lover, then you probably like to use it in nearly everything you cook. Whether it's sliced, diced, minced, mashed, or made into a paste, the more the merrier. You also likely have your preferred way of preparing it, and for many of us, that's by using a garlic press. Just one quick and easy squeeze is all it takes to extrude a clove's pulp, and one big bonus is that it keeps your fingers from getting sticky. There is a vocal camp of celebrity chefs out there, however, who are decidedly against the use of garlic presses, and Ina Garten is one of them.

In her website's questions and answer section called "Ask Ina," she made her position on the matter loud and clear. When a reader inquired if Garten thinks any particular kitchen tools are overrated, her response singled out the garlic press, which she says that she never uses, claiming that she always has "a knife handy and it does the same thing perfectly well." She went on to explain that the fewer single-use tools and "fancy gadgets" you keep in your kitchen, the more you'll be able to keep everything organized.

And that's putting it mildly. Another well-known chef not known for mincing words, Anthony Bourdain wrote in his book, "Kitchen Confidential" that "Garlic is divine. Misuse of garlic is a crime," and he specifically referred to smashing garlic through a press, along with using old or burnt garlic as "abominations."

Skip the garlic press and mince it with a knife

According to Ina Garten, a chef's knife will get the job of chopping or mincing garlic done better and faster than a press. One method for getting a good mince is to first smush the garlic with the flat side of your knife's blade, which breaks up its bulk for a flatter piece to work with. Next, cut the cloves into thin slices. Place your knife on top of these with your other hand on top to balance it and chop the slices moving from side to side and back again a few times until you reach your desired fineness. If you need a paste, you can follow this by mashing the mince and spreading it against your cutting board with the side of the knife.

While this is all well and good for chefs with years worth of knife skills and training, this method may not be quite so quick for those of us with less experience. So why ditch the garlic press even though it may be easier and faster than using a knife? One big reason is the flavor.

Allicin is the naturally occurring chemical in garlic that gives it its pungent flavor and powerful aroma. The more garlic is processed, the more allicin gets released, resulting in a stronger taste. Bruising garlic's cell walls, which is essentially what happens the more it's pressed or pulverized, can lead to an almost overpowering amount of garlicky flavor.

Grate garlic instead of chopping

Another reason pro-chefs like Ina Garten look down on garlic presses is that much of the clove gets wasted. While the innards squeeze through the device's holes, most of the outer portion remains behind. Pressed garlic burns quickly too, so it's not the best choice for recipes that call for sauteing garlic in oil to release flavor. Others hate garlic presses simply because they're tricky to clean.

For those unconvinced that a knife is preferable to a garlic press, one compromise Garten does approve of is the use of a zester. Instead of all that chopping, she simply scrapes the cloves against the rough surface — this results in a consistent, grated texture that can be used wherever minced garlic is called for. The irony of this still being another tool that takes up space in her kitchen has not escaped us — although, a zester can be used for more than just this one purpose, which is apparently why the Barefoot Contessa gives it a pass.

Of course, before you cook garlic, you'll need to peel it (unless you're roasting it whole). For just a few cloves, Jacques Pépin peels garlic with no tools by snipping off the tip and crushing it, which easily releases the outer skin. But if you have a lot more to get through, Garten's quick method to peel bulk garlic utilizes a blanch in boiling water followed by an ice bath, making the peels very easy to remove.