Every day I bring you an item on Amazon that I personally use or has been purchased by many members of the audience and I have researched enough to recommend.
Today’s TSP Amazon Item of the day is the Aluminum Steak Weight/Bacon Press by New Star. This is a rare thing for item of the day but I really don’t care if you buy this brand or any other brand of this item. In the end this is a block of aluminum with a wooden handle. The design is old (you are about to see how old) and you really can’t screw this up.
I picked the one by New Star because if you include shipping free on prime it is the best price. There are other ones like this one by Winco that are cheaper but they are add on items so there is a minimum total order to buy it. In the end pick what works best for you but beware, some that look like good deals have very high shipping.
How This Item of the Day Came to Be
These two pictures are of my personal aluminum press.
As you can see it is the same but different, as in a lot older. How old, over 100 years old at this point. It is made by Harold Leonard (now Harold Imports) and is circa roughly 1915. I got lucky on this, I found it at an antique mall for 10 bucks. They are hard to find online and sell quickly for 20-50 dollars depending on condition if you do find one.
Over the years this old hunk of metal has shown up in many of my cooking videos and has prompted two questions…
- Where can I get one?
- Why are you pressing that burger/steak/etc.?
Let’s start with question two, “pressing” meat. I don’t press meat, doing is dumb in my view. It forces juices out of the meat, not what I am looking for. This is why I go with Aluminum. People say, but it is so light. I say EXACTLY! All I am looking for are two things. One help make sure the meat stays strait and maintains a good surface contact for a good sear. Two hold in some extra heat and speed up cooking time. And well three, sometimes keep bacon or a thin meat flat and free of curling. Trust me it is heavy enough to hold down bacon, it doesn’t take much to hold down bacon guys.
In the heyday of diners in America these things were all the rage for the above reasons, they finished up that 25 cent cheese burger on a flat top griddle fast, gave it a nice sear but didn’t press the dang juice out of it. This is why I don’t own or recommend a heavy cast iron press, but if you must I’d go with Lodge for that.
So my answer to question two is that I am not pressing, the “press” is very light, all I am doing is holding in heat and insuring a good contact for searing.
Now question one, where can you get one, I never really answered other then you probably can’t and try antique malls or set up eBay/Craigslist alerts, etc and hope. I never even considered anyone still made them. Then the other day we posted some cooking stuff on instagram on @itsajacklife and the where can I get one question came up again. So I checked, turns out the aluminum press is still alive and well!
Again I found the best one off deal I could for you including shipping, if you can find a better deal buy it instead. The Winco one is great if you are buying other stuff and meet the minimum purchase requirement for an “add on item“. Again it is just a block of aluminum you can’t screw it up. I have zero brand loyalty on a product this simple.
But What About Aluminum It’s Toxic – We Are All Gonna Die
Okay step a bit back from foil hat town (those things are aluminum too you know) and think about it. First on the foil, I can’t tell you how many people have told me aluminum cook ware is bad then I watch them toss a pouch of potatoes in foil on the grill and just shake my head. Let us come and reason together.
First is aluminum toxic in the body? – Yes in sufficient quantities especially so, but it takes quite a bit.
Second is it possible for aluminum cookware to shed enough bio available aluminum into the body to be of concern? – Answer is, it depends. In theory it is possible if you were to say stew high acid food like tomatoes in a aluminum pot and eat them 5 times a week for years, yea it is possible.
Key thing is though is anyone who uses aluminum for long knows it develops a patina, that much like cast iron in time it becomes a polymer. Unless you used an abrasive cleaner to remove said polymer once formed it is almost impossible for any aluminum to end up in food.
However when cooking anything that isn’t high acid it isn’t relevant, because there is virtually no exchange anyway. You get more form drinking a Coors light from a can, then your cookware will ever shed making a steak or sauteing veggies. Now when we are talking about a press, it becomes totally irrelevant. In the end it is safe, relax and understand what is great about one of these presses.
So What Makes them So Awesome?
Well we already covered the weight. The light weight allows you to make sure food gets good contact or thin meats stay strait without pressing out juices. The other thing is heat conductivity. Aluminum rapidly conducts heat, very rapidly, faster then cast iron. Yes it sheds it faster but this is for fast cooking so that doesn’t matter.
They way I use this thing is I pre heat it by putting it in the skillet as the skillet heats. I will keep a second skillet or griddle on warm. Once the pan is ready I set the press on the warm skillet to keep it hot. Start my cooking and use it as needed.
Cleaning and Maintenance
If you read one of the negative reviews it will act as an indictment on the public education system. It says that the press comes with instructions that say it is NOT dishwasher safe but dumb dumb did it anyway and then gives a one star review and bitches about the results. In the words of Ron White, you can’t fix stupid, stupid is forever. (Don’t click that link if you are easily offended and it is NSFW)
Look it is something you use with heat, a lot of heat, you don’t need to scrub it like a surgical instrument. When done I rinse it off to cool it down. I use a simple scrubby type sponge to knock off any thing stuck to it. Set it back in one of the cleaned pans that I warm up to drive off the moisture. Done. The wood handle on mine has seen better days but oil it once in a while and rock on with life.
The Bottom Line
I find an aluminum press to do things for cooking that nothing else I am aware of does well. You get a good sear, you reduce cooking time and do not drive out juice with excess weight. They last for damn near ever because they are just a hunk of metal. They are not a kitchen essential but improve results with many types of cooking. Again I recommend the Aluminum Steak Weight/Bacon Press by New Star but a block of aluminum is a block of aluminum, get the one that is the best value for you.
Remember you can always find all of our reviews at TspAz.com