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Kitchen Tools Breakdown: Garlic Peeler or Garlic Press?

Bring out the best in your garlic with garlic tools that crush, smash and squish.

| June/July 2005

  • Garlic Peels
    Garlic is typically touted as a miracle medicine in the kitchen. Learn which garlic tool works the best for crushing, smashing, mashing and mincing garlic cloves.
  • The KitchenAid Garlic Press
  • The Zyliss Susi Deluxe Garlic Press
  • Stainless Steel Garlic Press by Rosle

  • Garlic Peels

Being a known alliophile, I often receive garlic-related gifts—from aprons, linens, dishes and jewelry to unusual garlic tools. Many of these gizmos look a bit like implements of torture, designed to crush, smash, mash, screw and press. Some work great, while others seem frivolous because a plain old kitchen knife does the job just as well. With some gadgets, it is worth the extra money spent on top brands and models, while others work the same regardless of price. Here are some of my observations from years of experimenting with an array of garlic-specific kitchen tools.

Benefits of a Garlic Peeler

I have received two different types of tools called, inventively, GARLIC PEELERS ($4 to $7). One is a pliable plastic tube that resembles an empty cannoli shell. You place a clove or two of garlic inside the tube, press down on the peeler with the heel of your hand and roll back and forth, thus loosening the skin from the garlic clove. This technique peels the garlic, but the papery skin gets stuck inside the tube and has to be rinsed out.

The other rather dangerous-looking peeler is made from hard plastic and looks like a hand-held cherry pitter with a claw and a basket. You place the garlic clove in the basket and squeeze the handles so that the open claw presses down and forces the clove through the closed claw, which more or less skins it. The first peeler is easier to use and does a better job, and it also doesn’t cut into the cloves as the latter does. Personally, I find that a firm whack with the flat side of a chef’s knife is the best way to loosen the skin from a clove of garlic, and I don’t have to wash anything.

Benefits of a Garlic Press

I grew up in a house without garlic, let alone a GARLIC PRESS. My favorite book when I was a kid was Suzuki Beane by Sandra Scoppettone (Doubleday, 1961). Suzuki is a kid from a beatnik family who runs away from home and takes the garlic press with her. This totally fascinated me—why a child running away from home would choose to take a garlic press with her. I wasn’t sure what a garlic press was, but I knew it must have been pretty important.

Now, I realize that the garlic press is just as important to me as it was to Suzuki. Granted, one can live without a garlic press, but why would you? Pressing garlic yields the strongest garlic flavor possible because the press so thoroughly crushes the bulb that it breaks down the herb’s structure, thereby releasing the sulfur compounds all at once. And, happily, the tools are convenient, inexpensive and getting better all the time.

For the past 20 years or so I have had, and recommended, the Susi made by Zyliss in Switzerland, which is a sturdy, virtually indestructible tool. It has the little swivel plate that fits down into the circular chamber, where the garlic clove is placed and pressed through a series of small holes. The swiveling plate ensures a better fit, more even pressure and better contact than a stationary pressure plate. It does a wonderful job of crushing a clove of garlic.

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