TRIED & TESTED: PRESSING A HEAD

There's more than one way to skin a clove - or crush it, or slice it, or shred it. Our panel puts garlic technology to the test
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The Independent Culture
WITH all the fiddliness and smelliness that preparing garlic entails, it's no surprise that manufacturers have devised some fairly ingenious gadgets to make life easier. All that peeling, slicing, chopping and crushing is essential, though, because the chemical that makes garlic pungent - allicin - is produced only when the inside of the clove is exposed to air.

The method used by professional chefs is simple: crush the clove with the flat of a knife on a chopping board with some salt. We've tried out some more sophisticated devices that peel, slice, shred and crush. A panel of professional and amateur cooks assessed how effective and easy the appliances were to use, and - very important, as anyone who has tried to do so will know - how easy they were to clean. Recommended methods for unblocking the little holes included using a bristle brush, the blade of a knife, or a matchstick.

THE PANEL

Pierre Chevillard, head chef at Chewton Glen Hotel, Hampshire; Geraldene Holt, food writer; Matthew Shaps, housing research manager; and Rosie Morris, teacher.

THE TEST

The panel gave the gadgets marks for how easy they were to use and clean, how effective they were, value for money, and aesthetic looks.

**CULINARE PRESS'N'STORE

pounds 5.99

Crushing garlic with this complicated plastic gadget entails unscrewing a plunger from a tube, popping the clove into the tube, then screwing the plunger back in to crush it. A cap fits over each end, one to store crushed garlic for up to 48 hours, the other for unpeeled cloves.

Matthew Shaps thought this device was "great if you're using mountains of garlic for something like a huge garlicky pate for a party, as you can load more than one clove at a time. For small quantities, though, it's slower than a conventional garlic press. You also have to poke the bits of garlic out to clean the grid." Geraldene Holt commented: "As for storing pressed garlic - who wants stale garlic? It should be pressed just before use." The panellists observed that this machine crushes the garlic quite coarsely, producing bigger bits of garlic than the other, finer presses.

**SELF-CLEANING GARLIC PRESS

pounds 3.65

Matthew Shaps and Geraldene Holt were not very impressed with the device's self-cleaning mechanism - a set of prongs on one handle, which can be flipped over to push out the bits of garlic lurking in the little holes. "Though excellent in theory," said Matthew Shaps, "in practice it was hopeless. I still had to poke all the little bits out by hand." Rosie Morris pointed out that quite a lot of pressure was needed to crush the garlic. "It could be unsuitable for old people," she warned. But Pierre Chevillard liked it: "A good and heavy instrument. I'd like to buy one of these myself."

**TESCO GARLIC PRESS

pounds 1.99

Despite its bargain-basement price, this press was considered disappointing by the panel. "Unfortunately," said Geraldene Holt, "it doesn't do the job very well. Mine would't deliver the pressure properly, so only about a quarter or a third of the clove got squashed." Matthew Shaps commented: "Garlic oozed up the side of the press and spurted in the wrong place; most of it was wasted fibre, and very little usable garlic was extracted. This was terribly aggravating, as I was rushing to make spinach, ricotta and garlic pasta sauce for a hungry crowd. But cleaning wasn't as difficult as I expected, and I liked its classic looks."

**CHEF'N'QUALITY GARLIC PEELER

pounds 9.95 from Innovations Report Catalogue

This plastic contraption must be seen in action to be fully appreciated. The clove is placed in a slotted cup attached to one handle; at the end of the other handle is a set of lethal-looking spikes. When the handles are pressed shut, the spikes slide into the slots with a dramatic snap, ripping the skin from the clove. Our testers found that the cloves, while emerging minus their peel, sustained some damage in the process.

Matthew Shaps said: "A most bizarre-looking gadget; it miraculously peels the garlic, shooting it out the end like a battered bullet - not exactly what you would need if you wanted elegant, smooth, roasted cloves on the plate. Nevertheless, it was effective and entertaining. There are lots of nooks and crannies to clean, though, and it is expensive for what is does." Rosie Morris and Geraldene Holt thought it was worthwhile for a cook preparing lots of garlic. Pierre Chevillard dismissed it as "not very effective - a wasted gadget."

***ZYLISS NON-STICK GARLIC PRESS

pounds 7.75

This Swiss-made press was in a better class than the cheaper ones. "There's no need to peel the clove first," commented Rosie Morris, "which is a real boon. It pressed the garlic very finely, too." However, she did not think the benefits justified this gadget's higher price. Geraldene Holt found the plunger a bit wobbly; it needed to be aligned properly. "My 80-year-old mother would have a problem with it," she said, "and I would not buy it." It was Matthew Shaps's favourite, however: "This was the one I reached for when I needed to crush some garlic in a rush. It crushes extremely well, and all you have to do to re-use it is remove the skin from the non-stick surface. The holes stayed clear, unlike most of the others. Ideal."

****LEIFHEIT GARLIC PRESS

pounds 9.99

Of all the devices designed for crushing garlic, this was the panel's firm favourite. It was solidly built, simple to use and very effective. It comes with a separate plastic-pronged device for poking bits of garlic out of holes. "It felt nice to hold and comfortable to use," said Rosie Morris, "and didn't need too much pressure. The cleaning accessory is useful." Pierre Chevillard pronounced it "very strong". Geraldene Holt said: "The best-looking of all. It worked well, though not as efficiently as the Monopol Jet. The cleaning device did the job well, but could easily be mislaid after use unless attached to the handle straight after washing."

***MONOPOL JET GARLIC PRESS

pounds 11

A high-quality utensil, made, like the Leifheit, in Germany. lt performed well and has two removable sieves, one with small holes, the other with big holes, for finer or coarser pieces. Most panellists thought this was too much to spend on a garlic press. Pierre Chevillard said: "You get a good end product, but it is too expensive." Rosie Morris found the black plastic handles comfortable to hold - a bonus if you will be using it a lot. This was Geraldene Holt's favourite. "The best by far," she said. "Both sizes of sieve worked well with garlic and shallots. The most comfortable to use, and the most easy to clean. A first-rate addition to any kitchen. Should be on every wedding list."

*ACEA SLICER AND SHREDDER

pounds 5.95 from Divertimenti

This gadget slices garlic cloves into thin rounds. In theory, it can also be used to shred them. The slicer worked well, though it was fiddly to use; you hold a metal blade upright with one hand, sliding a plastic attachment up and down with the other.

Geraldene Holt liked the slicing mechanism: "I immediately made myself a garlic sandwich," she said. Matthew Shaps found the device a pain to use; he thought a knife would work better. According to the instructions, you simply reverse the action to shred the garlic - but our testers got poor results, so this gadget could not be used as a substitute for a press. It can be used to slice ginger.

****WILLIAM LEVENE HOMEMASTER FRESH-HANDS

pounds 7.99

Though not a garlic crusher or peeler, this was the surprise hit of the test. Of all the devices, it was the one that impressed the panel most. This strange French invention really does banish lingering garlicky smells from the fingers. Matthew Shaps said: "Just rub the pumice-shaped piece of metal under cold water and the garlic odour vanishes like magic. You couldn't get anything simpler or more effective." Geraldene Holt added: "As far as I can judge, it is amazingly effective." The smooth "stone" is made from a steel alloy that reacts on the odour-carrying oils in sweat. It also gets rid of other smells such as fish, onions and paint.

STOCKISTS: Culinare Press'n'Store, and Homemaster Fresh-Hands: 0181- 868 4355. Self-cleaning garlic press: 0181-722 7646. Zyliss: 01428 658888. Leifheit: 0181-749 7211. Monopol Jet: 01603 488019. Acea: from Divertimenti, 45-47 Wigmore Street, London WlH 9LE, or mail order 0171-386 9911. Chef'n'Quality: from Innovations Report Catalogue on 01793-514666.

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