Kitchen utensil question, USA edition
April 28, 2014 1:21 AM   Subscribe

Need recommendations for a solid garlic press and some meat tenderizing tools

First off, the "easy" one:

I want a really nice garlic press. Completely stainless steel is ideal, no plastic of any kind allowed, and I'd prefer it to be made in the USA (I know that last option is highly unlikely.). I want to buy a super nice quality press that will still work wonderfully 100 years from now.

Secondly, I need recommendations for meat tenderizing tools. I was thinking of one of those typical mallets, but I see that they also make these kooky "bed of nails" type of things. I have no idea which I would like better, so I'm prepared to buy both. Again, stainless steel is ideal (aluminum would be a sorry second, but I'll take it if it's all I can get), plastic is not allowed. As per above, the 100 year rule applies here as well.

What I'm envisioning is making my own garlic-smothered beef poor boys using 12 inch buns of Italian bread with tenderized flank steak and swiss or provolone cheese in the middle. If there is a better cut of meat or method, I would love to hear any and all suggestions.

I'm not a wealthy person, but I prefer to save up and buy top quality tools that I won't have to worry about failing on me in the middle of my food prep rather than buy the latest piece of plastic crap from a Walmart-like store (I refuse to shop at Walmart, so I know I'm not buying anything from them.).

Also, an aside, I know about the sweet trick of squishing the garlic clove with the side of a wide knife. I still prefer to squish it through a press, though.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think this garlic crusher thing is really cool because you don't waste 20% of the garlic that gets stuck in a normal crusher and it's easy to clean. My other half doesn't like it though because it kind of cuts the garlic up into tiny cubes rather than properly "squashing" it. But it's stainless steel and has no moving parts so I would it expect it to last the required century.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:59 AM on April 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I wouldn't use the kooky bed of nails thing for your beef. I have one and use it to pierce the skin of a piece of pork belly, before I roast in the oven. I use the side of the same wide knife used for garlic crushing to smack a piece of pork/chicken/beef around. It isn't the sharpest knife in my drawer, but I can maintain it myself by grinding it once in a while. Cost me about $10 in a Chinese Store and it has been around for 20+ years in my kitchen where it's used almost daily. I have one or two dedicated meat knocking devices in my cupboard. Never used them.
posted by ouke at 2:40 AM on April 28, 2014

Ikea's Koncis garlic press for under $10 is solid stainless steel and the best I have used. I expect mine to last till I die.
Ikea 3.99
Amazon $8.58
posted by Kerasia at 3:07 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love my RoyalVKB garlic crusher (SLYT). Hinged crushers just don't do it for me — I always manage to snap them. This one is weighty, satisfying to use and easy to clean... but not American-made.
posted by ZipRibbons at 4:01 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The bed of nails (it's called a jaccard) and mallets are for different applications, really. The mallet's better for pounding out stuff when you want to make it even for fillings or to make cutlets with, the bed of nails things are more for "tenderizing" in the sense of say, taking a tough cut of london broil and making it suitable for swiss steak. America's Test Kitchen did a test on the mallet things and recommended this one.
posted by Diablevert at 4:37 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Michael Ruhlman's Meat Mallet.

Can't help on garlic presses; I prefer to shave it with one of these.
posted by supercres at 4:46 AM on April 28, 2014

That Joseph garlic crusher as mentioned above by EndsOfInvention is amazing. Also stops your hands stinking of garlic.
posted by stevedawg at 4:54 AM on April 28, 2014

If I were buying a new garlic press, I would pick the Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press. It is Swiss made, but meets your other requirements (no plastic, stainless steel). Cook's Illustrated picked it as their best garlic press a couple of years ago. It is also pretty expensive, retailing at about $35.
posted by kovacs at 5:37 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Got the Kuhn Rikon a few months back as a gift for my husband... He loves it.
posted by wyzewoman at 6:11 AM on April 28, 2014

I have had a Zyliss Susi garlic press (Swiss, sorry) which has seen active kitchen use for 25 years, although quite honestly, if I need a clove or two, I just smash it with the side of a chef's knife and mince.
posted by plinth at 6:32 AM on April 28, 2014

Seconding the Ikea one -- it's more effective than ones I've seen at many times the price, easy to clean, and crushes the entire clove.
posted by ostro at 6:38 AM on April 28, 2014

I have this Oxo garlic press and I love it. It doesn't waste much garlic because you can swing it backwards and push out whatever has gotten stuck in the holes in the opposite direction. Then I just scrape that into whatever I'm cooking as well, even though it might not be as finely pressed as the rest of it and it's just fine!
posted by peacheater at 6:43 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for the Kuhn Rikon. Best thing ever. Just make sure that you rinse/scrape the little perforated area before throwing it in the dishwasher.
posted by dancinglamb at 6:57 AM on April 28, 2014

Best answer: The needle tenderizer is a unitasker - it's only good for tenderizing meat by piercing it. More, it's attempting to bring the function of an industrial-grade needle tenderizer to the home kitchen. It's not going to work very well, and will be impossible to keep adequately clean. It can also make you sick.

A mallet tenderizer can be used to tenderize - and flatten meat for roulades or carpaccio, and smash garlic and crack peppercorns and... well, you get the picture. Avoid wood mallets, as they require a lot of maintenance and aren't as heavy as steel... and aluminum mallets, because what's the point? You want something heavy and hard to whack things with. Alton Brown swears by the "stamp-style" mallet, where the handle is on top of the weight, like an old-fashioned ink stamp, but I like my generic stainless-steel one in a more traditional "hammer-like" shape.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:53 AM on April 28, 2014

Thirding the Ikea one. We have two of the suckers and they're basically perfection.
posted by nerdfish at 7:58 AM on April 28, 2014

as for the bed of nails thing, I have found using a fork (like a dinner fork) produces as good of a result, without any additional expense and no fussy unitasker to clean or take up space(I totally follow Alton Browns maxim of NO UNITASKER in my kitchen). You take the fork (one in each hand even to speed things up) and just repeatedly stab the thing over and over till it is 'stippled' fairly evenly. However this way of preparing meat lets out all the yummy juices as you cook, leading to a drier piece of meat. Better to cut the meat across the grain or marinate for long enough than try to short circuit the process. It is rarely needed in any event, as using the proper cut for the proper dish is a better way to prepare things than trying to 'tenderize' an inferior cut through mechanical means.
posted by bartonlong at 10:01 AM on April 28, 2014

I use the Kuhn-Rikon press that kovacs linked to -- I've had it many years, and I'm happy with it. What I"m not crazy about is the fact that I have to put it in the dishwasher in the fully open position if there are any fragments of garlic to be washed away.

I was recently given the rocker press that EndsOfInvention showed. It does a great job and is super easy to clean, but you need to do the actual crushing on a cutting board. I'm kind of used to holding the K-R press over the pot and scraping the garlic mush right into whatever I'm cooking.
posted by wryly at 10:13 AM on April 28, 2014

I vote for the Zyliss, if you have to use a press.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:55 AM on April 28, 2014

I found this Prepara garlic press for cheap at a Marshalls, but I like it enough that I think I'd recommend it retail.
posted by spbmp at 5:05 PM on April 28, 2014

Response by poster: Wow! So many options. You folks are great! I'm going to have to ponder this for a while because I am kind of overwhelmed. I would really love to be able to try all of these out before buying, but that is asking far too much, I realize.

Any more suggestions on meat mallet options?

The Michael Ruhlman meat mallet looks really good, but I'm not sure if the wooden handle is an asset or a detriment. The flattener recommended by ATK and mentioned by Diablevert just doesn't look heavy enough for me. I think I'd prefer a mallet type of tool rather than the "ink stamp" type.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:36 PM on April 28, 2014

I have this reversible meat tenderizer. It is pleasingly heavy, works well, and feels more controlled to me than a mallet.
posted by pheide at 9:04 PM on April 28, 2014

Best answer: The thing with stamp-type tenderizers/flatteners is that it really doesn't take a lot of weight or force to pound out a piece of meat unless it's ice-cold and fatty. The trick is not to make the weight do the work, but to pound with a slight lateral motion, spreading the meat rather than smashing it. I find the stamp-type form factor gives me much more control. (When I don't have a tenderizer, I use the bottom of a sturdy glass the same way.)
posted by WasabiFlux at 9:22 PM on April 28, 2014

Best answer: Do not buy a garlic press. They are useless tools that are hard to clean and do one task only; Saint Alton Brown warns us against the sinful use of unitaskers. Skip 'em, and I know you know this trick, but it delivers superior results without added cost or more things to wash. I recognize that garlic crushers are simpler, but this really only does take two more seconds to do, and saves you money and dishwashing time.

Sprinkle some kosher salt on your cutting board. Place a garlic clove on top, smash with the side of your standard chef's knife, discard skin. Using the back of the knife to scrape, with the salt acting basically as sandpaper, crush your garlic. (here is the basic method, though she doesn't seem to use salt. I don't either when I'm in a hurry or processing a lot of garlic).

(NB: the method in which you prepare garlic will affect the amount of garlic flavour in your final dish. Most of the flavour in garlic comes from the liquid contained within the cells. The more you rupture those cells, the more intense the garlic flavour will be. Italian recipes are replete with examples of sauteeing whole cloves in olive oil to perfume the oil, then discarding the garlic and continuing with the dish, in order to have only a subtle flavour. Or using slices instead of crushed, so people can pick out the slices if they want.)

As to your meat mallet question:

The 'bed of nails' type of mallets are for tenderizing tough cuts of meat, as they actually basically break through the proteins.

The flat mallets are for, well, flattening. The 'ink stamp' type are far superior to the hammer type, again because they naturally regulate how hard you are hitting your protein. And as mentioned above, you don't just want to pound down, you want to go down and lateral.

Even easier? Use a wine bottle for flattening. The nature of the object (glass) means you're not going to pound out too hard or too thin. And, again, you're avoiding extra cost and an extra tool that's really just going to take up space in your kitchen.

I would really love to be able to try all of these out before buying, but that is asking far too much, I realize.

All of my methods you can try without spending a penny anywhere.

Use what you've got, don't buy kitchen gadgets for a single purpose.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:52 AM on May 1, 2014

Best answer: (and, in a pinch, a heavy-bottomed pan, stainless or cast iron, works more than perfectly for pounding out paillards)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:54 AM on May 1, 2014

Response by poster: feckless fecal fear mongering: "here is the basic method"

*bows repeatedly in a deferential way*

I'm not worthy!!! x 3.

Holy shit, that method is far better than anything I've ever done. That garlic really got smooshed. I imagine that stuff would mix with butter quite nicely. I'll be sure to try it with the kosher salt as well.

Many thanks for your other numerous valuable pointers. I still have to ponder this since I've been offered so many options. I promise to report back once I've decided on the tools I'll select going forward. And I will also be sure to report back after I've tried them out.

Once again, I wish to thank all who responded. Your comments are GREATLY appreciated!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:22 AM on May 2, 2014

Response by poster: feckless fecal fear mongering: "(and, in a pinch, a heavy-bottomed pan, stainless or cast iron)"

I've got some cast iron pans, but they're rusty (flooded basement). I understand that they are still salvageable, so I plan on cleaning them up and putting them back in rotation. Hooray for iron in your diet!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:27 AM on May 2, 2014

Best answer: INNH, that method of crushing garlic literally takes about three seconds once you're practiced. If you're really into saving time, use the side of a meat cleaver and just whack as hard as you can. Smooshed.

I (biasedly) suggest trying the free options before spending money on tools.

For your cast iron pans, scrub with salt to remove the rust. Coat with vegetable oil (Canola or grapeseed, not olive--you want a high smoke point) and roast in the oven at 400F to season (more complete directions can be found everywhere online). Do that once a year, and NEVER use soap, and your cast iron will basically be Teflon.

For now if you want to pound out paillards, just throw a sheet of saran so you don't get rusty meat.

(I actually do this stuff for a living so if you have any other questions feel free to MeMail).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:44 AM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

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