|Part of a Continuing Series on My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets|
I find it interesting that one pungent little ingredient can inspire so many gadgets to serve it. There are gadgets for peeling, slicing, grating, keeping, pressing, roasting and storing garlic. Most of these gadgets are pretty inexpensive, but before you fill up your kitchen drawers with them, I think it's important to examine how you use garlic, including how much you use at one time.
For example, if you only use a clove here and there when a recipe insists it be included, I suggest you save the kitchen space and get none of these gadgets. Even if you're tempted to purchase a garlic peeler to keep the smell from your fingers, I still recommend you save the drawer space and follow this simple tip for removing the odor. On the other hand, if you love garlic like my family does and you are in the habit of doubling the required garlic called for in recipes, then some of these tools might prove very handy for you.
The niftiest garlic peeling tool I've seen is the Garlic Peeler. It's a small rubber tube into which you place the clove, press down with the palm of your hand and roll it on the counter. The garlic peel sticks to the inside and comes off the clove. In my experience this gadget works well most of the time, although not 100% of the time. Still, with large volume peeling it can save time. The only annoying thing is cleaning out the peels when they stick, which you'll have to do frequently with large volume peeling. There are also flat rubber peelers that you wrap around the garlic and follow the same press and roll technique.
Garlic roasters are cute gadgets to have if you enjoy roasted garlic. Roasted garlic can be added to soups, potatoes, and spread on bread slices to name just a few things. Garlic roasters usually take the form of small terracotta pots with lids that you place the garlic in with a little bit of oil and roast in the oven. They are nice to have if you roast garlic often, but if you don't, save the space. A roaster won't fit into a normal size kitchen drawer, so it will have to find a home on your counters or in a cabinet. Wrapping your garlic in a piece of aluminum foil with a little oil and putting it into a baking pan is a reasonable substitute for a garlic roaster.
Garlic slicers and graters are both nice to have when you're handling high volumes and you don't want to spend a lot of time prepping garlic. A garlic slicer is also important if you need to make consistently thin slices. But a simple, sharp paring knife slices garlic just fine if you only have to slice two or three cloves and they don't have to be very thin. A basic four-sided grater works just as well for grating garlic as it does cheese, as long as you don't mind using a disproportionately large piece of equipment.
In my opinion, garlic keepers are merely for style. The important thing about storing garlic is to keep it at a cool temperature, out of direct sunlight and not in the refrigerator. I store my garlic in an attractive small, wire basket and it keeps just fine. But if you prefer to keep your garlic out of sight, garlic keepers will keep your cloves under wraps while the little holes at the bottom of the container keep the air circulating around the garlic.
The one garlic gadget that doesn't have a reasonable substitute already in your kitchen is a garlic press. A garlic press crushes the garlic into small bits and releases the juices from the cloves. There are many models on the market with a range of prices. I would look for a sturdy construction that easily presses cloves without much muscle power. I have owned poorly constructed models that took brute strength to use, and became unhinged after a few presses. Some models are strong enough to press the cloves unpeeled, as the highly regarded Zyliss press claims. I have the Tupperware garlic press, and it can press most cloves with the peels intact as well. My only complaint with the Tupperware model is that the cleaning attachment holds the two pressing arms together. So each time I need to clean it out, I have to pull it apart, which becomes annoying if I have to press a lot of cloves. Which brings me to my final point. Ease of cleaning is an important feature. The Zyliss comes with a handy little cleaning tool. Some presses are self-cleaning when you swing the handles in the opposite direction. Then a set of prongs on the back side of the crushing handle pushes through the holes that the garlic just exited, cleaning the residual peel or fiber.
In conclusion, all of these garlic gadgets are helpful, most are inexpensive, but some are not worth the space unless you are a high volume garlic user.