A peeler is a dedicated implement used to remove the outer skin of produce.
The design, cost and functionality of a peeler will depend on whether it is made for home, commercial or industrial use.
Peelers can be handheld and manually powered, or battery-powered, or automated by crank or electricity.
Industrial ones usually work through abrasion, tumbling the produce against an abrasive surface. The skin on some produce may be loosened with steam or lye first.
- 1 Household peelers
- 2 Peeler handles
- 3 Left-handed peelers
- 4 Blades
- 5 Ceramic peeler blades
- 6 Personal preferences
- 7 Substitute
- 8 Sources
- 9 Types of peelers
There are many different designs, but for home use, almost all designs are handheld, and they can be broken down into two main categories: straight, and Y-shaped.
“Most models can be classified in one of two categories based on the orientation of the blade to the handle. On “straight” peelers, the blade extends directly out from the handle; “Y” peelers look like wishbones, with a blade running perpendicular to the handle. In practice, they function similarly: You can both whittle away from yourself and pare toward yourself.” America’s Test Kitchen. Fruit/Vegetable Peelers. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.americastestkitchen.com/equipment_reviews/1372-fruit-slash-vegetable-peelers
Some if not most designs will have an ‘eye gouger’ attached to them, used to dig blemishes out of produce, and in particular eyes out of a potato.
Manufacturers of peelers like to point out that the devices can be used for purposes other than peeling, such as making cheese shavings or chocolate curls, or zesting citrus fruits. Some people counter, though, that peelers are better at making chunks of citrus skin than they are a fine zest. Some models are advertised as being good for julienne, but some cooks who have tried them say they’ll stick with a mandoline.
Most household peelers are essentially disposable items with a limited lifespan because the blade will eventually grow dull and make the peeler less-effective, or more work to use than it’s worth. Expect to replace a peeler every so often depending on the quality of the blade to start with, and how often you use it.
For safety reasons, it’s a good idea to always wash produce first before taking a peeler to it: the act of peeling can drive any surface contamination into the flesh of the produce.
Household peelers are usually a metal (or ceramic) blade attached to a handle. The handle can be metal, plastic or wood.
Some handles can be uncomfortable to hold for long periods. Rubber-coated peeler handles can provide extra comfort.
Some people look for ribbed surfaces for extra good grip, so that if your hands are wet, they won’t slip on it. One older model, the Lancashire peeler, attempts to address the issue with string wound around the handle.
There are three issues with left-handed people using peelers designed for right-handed people: comfort, efficiency, and safety.
The handles of some peelers may be optimized really just for right-handed comfort. Others offer the same user experience whether held in the left or right hand.
As for the blades, the issue seems to be largely with fixed blades, as swivelling blades can pivet to suit your angle. Some fixed blades may have dual blades so they can be used from the left or right. Others will only work from the right. “The people we spoke to from Kuhn Rikon, OXO, and DKB all told us they sharpen both sides of their blades, creating ambidextrous peelers. Yee says the main reason a manufacturer wouldn’t do this is to avoid extra costs: If a company uses grinding equipment that requires the blades to be taken out and flipped to hit both sides, it will just make a peeler one-sided to save time and money.” Webber, Roxanne. How Do Lefties Peel Vegetables? 5 February 2010. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/55446/how-do-lefties-peel-vegetables/
For left-handed people, the potato eye-gouger (if there is one) may not be on a convenient side — they may have to be constantly flipping the peeler around to use it.
Some left-handed people say they have worked with right-handed peelers for so long now that they wouldn’t know how to work with a left-handed one even when presented with one.
The blade on a peeler needs to be sharp, especially when you are facing a large quantity of produce.
Better ones will remain sharp for years. Some people say for maximum sharpness retention, look for carbon steel or stainless steel blades. Of the two, some prefer carbon steel. Note that carbon steel blade peelers are likely not dishwasher safe, and will need to be hand washed and then dried thoroughly immediately to prevent rust build-up. Carbon steel blades can also rust or react if exposed to acidic food. Kuhn Rikon is a brand recommended by many reviewers, even though it is not dishwasher safe because of the carbon blade, and you will have to put up with some rust build-up on the blade because of that.
Some blades may be replaceable when the old one gets dull. Oxo used to offer such replacements, though it appears they discontinued the service around 2018. Otherwise, when your blade starts to get dull, it’s time to start looking for a whole new peeler, however much your current beloved one feels like an extension of your hand.
A peeler blade should be designed in a way to deter penetration too deeply into the flesh of the produce, to avoid waste. For this reason, a peeler blade will typically have two parts, a sharp edge and a dull edge. The purpose of the dull one is to guide the blade as a whole, and to prevent it from sinking too deeply into the produce, causing wastage.
“The reason peelers have two parallel blades is that the leading half of the blade—the one that travels first as you pull or push the peeler over the food—acts as a guide for the cutting edge that follows. This “guide” blade doesn’t cut: It just holds the cutting blade at a fixed angle and depth, so it skims along taking off the peel, rather than bouncing off the top of the food or digging too deeply and sticking. The entire peeler blade rotates to follow the curves of the food, so the guide and blade stay in the same relationship to the surface of the food, peeling consistently.” America’s Test Kitchen. Fruit/Vegetable Peelers.
Any peeler blade can glide smoothly on smooth surfaces, but some will do better than others with more challenging surfaces, such as a gnarly knob of fresh ginger root, or the tough skin of a butternut squash. “We consulted Dr. Daniel Braunstein, a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He explained that a good guide should reduce friction and, in turn, surface drag. But the most important distinction he pointed out was that two of our top three peelers sported a raised ridge running along the front of the guide. This ridge has two purposes: It reinforces the guide’s stiffness, and because it protrudes, it means that less of the guide’s surface will be in contact with the food, allowing the peeler to glide like butter.” America’s Test Kitchen. Fruit/Vegetable Peelers.
The piece that connects the blade to the top of the handle is called the “bridge”. The space between the blade and its “bridge” is critical in determining if food will stick to the blade: “According to America’s Test Kitchen, who did the most thorough review of peelers we could find, this happens when there’s not enough space between the peeler’s blade and bridge (the piece that connects the handle to the top of the blade). They found that the optimal distance between the blade and the bridge of the peeler at its highest point should be about 1 inch. Any less, and reviewers found that peels piled up. Peelers with a wider aperture didn’t clog but suffered in leverage and control.” Clisset, Christine Cyr et al. The Best Vegetable Peeler. New York Times. 7 December 2018. Accessed August 2018 at https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-vegetable-peeler
Some pros say a good quality peeler blade should be able to take a clean unbroken strand of cheese off a piece of chocolate, or a block of hard cheese such as cheddar, or the skin off a carrot or potato in one smooth unbroken motion.
Ceramic peeler blades
Ceramic blades are supposed to retain their sharpness for a very long time, and will never rust.
Epicurious magazine reviewers did not like ceramic blades on peelers as they felt they did not stay as sharp as other blades. “We also found that ceramic blades go dull faster than their stainless steel counter parts.” Johnson, Emily, et al. The Best Vegetable Peelers of 2020. Epicurious Magazine. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/epi-tested-best-vegetable-peeler-review-article America’s Test Kitchen reported the same dulling: “The lone ceramic blade had dulled and discolored by the end of testing…” America’s Test Kitchen. Fruit/Vegetable Peelers.
If you drop a ceramic blade peeler, or if something else falls on it, the blade might chip or break. “Ceramic blades can be very sharp (and stay that way) but they’re not as durable. (If you drop the peeler, or something drops on it, the blade might break.) Carbon steel makes very sharp blades, but these can rust if exposed to acidic foods or not dried after use.” Clisset, Christine Cyr et al. The Best Vegetable Peeler.
Different models and makes can require slightly different hand and wrist movements, so it can depend on what the end user is able to get used to.
“Several reviews suggest that Y peelers work better for large, round fruits and vegetables (such as potatoes and apples) while swivel peelers handle thinner carrots and asparagus best. However, in our testing of both styles of peelers, we didn’t find this held true. If you’re vacillating over which style to buy, it really comes down to which movement you’re more comfortable with.” Clisset, Christine Cyr et al. The Best Vegetable Peeler.
Often a cook may have a favourite peeler, and woe betide anyone who misplaces it. A common tragedy is a beloved peeler getting tossed out with a pile of peelings.
Some cooks prefer classic peeler models such as the Econome, the Jonas, or the Rex, because they know that when it is time for a new peeler, they can get one exactly like the old one and not have to get used to a new type of peeler.
If a peeler doesn’t have enough heft to it, and is too light, it can be hard to get the right momentum to gain a good purchase in the skin to start a peeling stroke. But if it’s too heavy, your hands can get tired faster during long peeling sessions.
Paring knife. Luffa sponges can also be used to scrub away the peel of delicate vegetables, though it takes longer.
America’s Test Kitchen. Fruit/Vegetable Peelers. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.americastestkitchen.com/equipment_reviews/1372-fruit-slash-vegetable-peelers
Clisset, Christine Cyr et al. The Best Vegetable Peeler. New York Times. 7 December 2018. Accessed August 2018 at https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-vegetable-peeler/
Hire, Caroline. The 10 best peelers. BBC Good Food. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/content/test-five-best-peelers
Johnson, Emily, et al. The Best Vegetable Peelers of 2020. Epicurious Magazine. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/epi-tested-best-vegetable-peeler-review-article
Mayer, Erin. The best vegetable peelers. Business Insider. 6 August 2020. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.businessinsider.com/best-vegetable-peeler
Ngo, Irene. 6 More Ways To Start Using Your Vegetable Peeler. Chatelaine Magazine. 23 April 2018. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.chatelaine.com/food/kitchen-tips/use-your-vegetable-peeler/
Porcelli, Lesley. The Best Way to Use a Serrated Peeler. 26 July 2019. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.oxo.com/blog/cooking-and-baking/serrated-peeler-uses/
Types of peelers
Rex and Star Peelers
|↑1||America’s Test Kitchen. Fruit/Vegetable Peelers. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.americastestkitchen.com/equipment_reviews/1372-fruit-slash-vegetable-peelers|
|↑2||Webber, Roxanne. How Do Lefties Peel Vegetables? 5 February 2010. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/55446/how-do-lefties-peel-vegetables/|
|↑3||America’s Test Kitchen. Fruit/Vegetable Peelers.|
|↑4||America’s Test Kitchen. Fruit/Vegetable Peelers.|
|↑5||Clisset, Christine Cyr et al. The Best Vegetable Peeler. New York Times. 7 December 2018. Accessed August 2018 at https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-vegetable-peeler|
|↑6||Johnson, Emily, et al. The Best Vegetable Peelers of 2020. Epicurious Magazine. Accessed August 2020 at https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/epi-tested-best-vegetable-peeler-review-article|
|↑7||America’s Test Kitchen. Fruit/Vegetable Peelers.|
|↑8||Clisset, Christine Cyr et al. The Best Vegetable Peeler.|
|↑9||Clisset, Christine Cyr et al. The Best Vegetable Peeler.|