The Best Vegetable Peelers
Williams-SonomaOpen your kitchen's gadget drawer and rummage around for the vegetable peeler. Odds are, you've had the same metal swivel-bladed little number ever since - well, it's been so long, you can't remember. It's flimsy and dull, and every time you tackle a mountain of spuds for mashed potatoes or potato salad, you end up nursing a sore finger and a grudge.
Time for an upgrade.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A VEGETABLE PEELERYou'll be stunned at the assortment peelers you'll find in a kitchenware shop or online. Don't panic or over-think. The first choice - are you a vertical swivel-bladed peeler sort of person or a Y-shaped "harp-style" sort of person - really isn't that big a deal. It all depends on what you are used to! In general, if you are going to use a peeler mainly for big round things like potatoes or apples, then you will find a Y-blade, the hands-down favorite of professional chefs, more efficient. If you peel lots of carrots or asparagus, then a narrower, swivel-bladed peeler might make more sense. What the heck, get both. In terms of expense, a peeler is one of a cook's most inexpensive indispensables.
SWIVEL PEELERSThe OXO Good Grips i-Series Swivel Peeler ($11.99 at amazon.com) is big and clunky-looking, but, like its less-expensive older cousin, the Good Grips Swivel Peeler (around $8 at amazon.com), its sharp-but-not-scary blade hits a vegetable at the perfect angle, removing just the skin without taking any flesh with it. No matter which model you choose, OXO's reliably comfy, grippy handle is a boon to paws large and small. The Rosle Swivel Peeler (about $25 from amazon.com) is the Rolls Royce of this category. Beautifully crafted from satin-finish stainless steel, it comes in universal, left-handed, or right-handed versions. Be aware that the European style is to peel toward yourself, which makes flicking out potato eyes fast and fluid. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but if you peel away from yourself, righties will want a left-handed peeler and southpaws will want the opposite.
Y-SHAPED PEELERSAs far as Y-shaped peelers go, there are a number of smart choices out there. You could buy OXO's i-Series model (available from amazon.com) , but at about $11it's expensive when compared to the Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler (about $3.50 from amazon.com; available in various colors). Made of cheery colored plastic, the Kuhn Ricon is small, weighs about as much as it costs (which is next to nothing), and it enables you to peel anything, even a butternut squash, with dexterity and speed. Built along the same lines is the Swissmar Swiss Trio ($15 at Williams-Sonoma), a non-gimmicky three-pack of peelers that includes a basic one for hard fruits and vegetables (it also makes thin, delicate curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano); another comes with a julienne blade that creates very thin matchsticks when used on carrots, cucumbers, and zucchini; and the third has a serrated blade for softer items like tomatoes and mangoes. If you find a mandoline or other handheld slicer too lethal, too pricey, or too bulky for a miniscule workspace, then the Swissmar Trio is just the thing for you: Less volume, but more control. And last but not least in the lotsa-bang-for-the-buck division is the ergonomic red-and-black FirmGrip "Y" Peeler by Tablecraft ($3.98 at cooking.com).
One last note: All of the models discussed above have a cunning little tip to dig out the potato eyes. They all have stainless-steel, rather than ceramic, blades. Ceramic-bladed peelers have their fans, but the blade seems to easily get stuck in the flesh of hard vegetables. Stainless is way more more painless.
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- Like the Kuhn Rikon peelers pictured here? See Slashfood's Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies and Cooks for a cookie pen by Kuhn Rikon.