No Skin Off

On the first day of my first kitchen apprenticeship (known as a stage), under Grant Achatz, now chef-owner of Alinea, I sliced off the tip of my left index finger. The embarrassing, bloody but superficial wound came not from my knife, or something exotic like a mandoline or meat slicer, but from peeling carrots with my brand-new OXO peeler. Even as I discreetly tried to stop the bleeding and wipe off my cutting board, I marveled at the sharpness of the peeler. It had cleanly taken off the tip of my nail and finger, painlessly, as any good, well-sharpened knife would’ve done.

With proper handling, peelers should quickly, easily, and safely remove the peel from fruits and vegetables. (They can also be handy for slicing long, paper-thin ribbons from things like carrots, apples, chocolate, and cheese.) A good peeler is an essential tool in any chef’s tool kit.

The single most important quality of a peeler is the blade. While much has been made of ergonomic handles, a dull blade can turn even the most comfy grip into a painful one. A sharp, properly offset blade smoothly removes just enough of the top layer; otherwise you might as well be working with a paring knife or the edge of a teaspoon.

Peelers cannot be sharpened, because there’s no way to access both sides of the blades, so start with sharp ones that will last long or can easily be replaced.

We tested three popular peelers—the OXO i-Series Peeler, the Kyocera Perfect Peeler, and the Chef’n Palm Peeler. All are dishwasher safe and leftie friendly, and have a nonslip grip. We put them up against potatoes—and their eyes—as well as apples, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Celery and tomatoes each present different challenges to peelers, the former with their long, catchy fibers and the latter with their notoriously smooth skin and soft, juicy flesh.

All three performed similarly well, but their differences in ease of use, versatility, and durability set these strikingly different-looking peelers apart.

OXO Good Grips i-Series Swivel Peeler
By OXO, $9.99

Of all the peelers that OXO offers, the i-Series Swivel peeler is the best. Not only is the blade extraordinarily sharp, but it’s replaceable, which means you actually can pass it down to your grandkids if you want to. The blades are sold separately in a handy triangular cartridge that lets you easily pop off an old blade and stick in a new one.

The chubby black rubbery contoured grip feels smooth and comfortable in the hand. The peeler removed potato skins easily, and the tiny, spoon-shaped “eyer” on the tip just above the blade took out a pea-sized ball with its blunt edge. It worked around apples effortlessly, pulling off peels in one continuous spiral. It clogged a bit with celery, in the space between the blade and the zinc housing, but was cleaned out quickly with a light pull on the peels. The peeler needed a slight rocking motion to grab tomato skin but then peeled well.

The Perfect Peeler (CP-20-RD)
By Kyocera, $19.95

With a name like the Perfect Peeler, this Kyocera model had a reputation to live up to. What makes it unique is its rotating blade head. It can be vertical, like that of a standard peeler; horizontal, like that of a razor; and at a jaunty 45-degree angle.

The adjustability makes it versatile. The horizontal position is great for peeling things like asparagus flat against a cutting board (asparagus spears have relatively tough peels, but they are prone to break if you attempt to peel them while holding them in the air). The 45-degree angle can be more comfortable at times.

The ceramic blade is extremely hard—it will stay sharp longer than a stainless steel blade. It won’t shatter if you drop it, but like any blade, it will break with enough force.

The peeler is left- and right-handed friendly, with a knob on the back of the head that adjusts the direction of the blade. Because I like to peel rounded things like potatoes toward me for stability, and long, slender things like carrots away from me for extra safety, I had to adjust the blade accordingly. Another downside is that there’s no eyer. But the blade is noticeably harder, taking tissue-thin peels with the lightest of pressure.

Palm Peeler
By Chef’n, $4.95–$6.99

At first glance, the Palm Peeler looks like a chunky mod-style ring, worn backward, and even comes in four colors. But instead of a plastic jewel, it’s adorned with a blade on a rubbery square. People with thicker fingers may have a tough time slipping it on, much less wearing it comfortably for a long time. However, it’s great for anyone who can’t grip a handle well.

It was awkward and hard to maneuver around the rounded shapes of potatoes and apples, taking out uneven chunky peels. I found that it worked better when slipped up the finger away from the palm. Surprisingly, given its poor initial performance, it worked well on carrots and celery, even when slipped down into the palm, as it was designed to fit. Above the blade there is a plastic eyer, which worked better than the OXO’s, as it’s smaller and more pointed. The Palm Peeler also did a good job on tomatoes, with a little side-to-side coaxing against the skin.

Of the three peelers, the Palm Peeler is the only one whose blade is made of standard, irreplaceable stainless steel, which inevitably will dull. But at only five bucks a pop for the colorful versions (a stainless steel one costs $2 more), it doesn’t need to last forever.

For now, I’ll stick with my OXO i-Series peeler. Even though we had a rough start, our relationship has proved itself over time. I will keep the Perfect Peeler for delicate jobs, but wouldn’t hesitate to hand it or the adorable Palm Peeler to anyone who wants to help peel 20 pounds of carrots.