Appealing peelers: Our food expert tests a kitchen staple
I have a fixation with finding the perfect peeler, one that glides without reservation over the varied topography of vegetables. Potatoes, for instance, demand...
Seattle Times Food staff
I have a fixation with finding the perfect peeler, one that glides without reservation over the varied topography of vegetables.
Potatoes, for instance, demand some serious attention when peeled. They slip out of the hand easily and ricochet around the sink, taking out every glass and mug in their path. Catching up to one is a little like trying to snag a foul ball with a sharp object in hand instead of a mitt.
Peeling potatoes always has been my least favorite kitchen task. My goal is to get the chore finished as quickly as possible, and a good peeler is essential.
If the peeler becomes part of the problem, it's quickly consigned to the back of a kitchen drawer.
A peeler worth its metal must be comfortable to hold, with a blade that's flexible and that doesn't easily clog. And though it has nothing to do with a tool's efficiency, a little color is a nice touch.
I've experimented with all kinds of peelers. At one time, Chef'n, the local company known for its innovative designs of kitchen tools, had a peeler with a retractable blade. With a slight push on a button, the blade would zip out of its plastic sheath, giving me, for just a moment, the delicious fantasy of being a bad girl sporting a switch blade, like one of the dolls that hung out with the Jets in "West Side Story."
Then reality would return, and I'd have to get back to the task at hand. After a couple of months the blade stuck in its casing, and the fantasy ended like so many others. Perhaps that's the reason the product is no longer on the market.
The soft-skin peeler from Zyliss has also been given a tryout, and it's still in the field of play. It has a two-edged serrated blade that was developed for tomatoes, but easily peels firmer vegetables like carrots and potatoes. The long-handled design borrows its shape from its classic metal predecessors, but this peeler has a smoother, rounded surface that's more comfortable in the hand. One drawback is that the serrated blade creates tiny ridges over the surface of the vegetable, which is an odd look but certainly acceptable. This bright red peeler costs around $6.99.
Kyocera, the Japanese company that's on the leading edge of the development of ceramic blades, is marketing a tool it has dubbed The Perfect Peeler. It's taking a risky gamble with such a name, like anointing a chocolate-chip cookie "the best ever." It had better be. Although this is a good peeler, it's far from perfect.
The swivel head moves from side-to-side, although the adjustment isn't done easily with less-than-nimble fingers. I didn't find the feature to be very useful; it's much easier to move the direction of the hand rather than the blade itself. And the handle feels cumbersome and awkward when compared with the rounded form of the Zyliss model.
But the peeler does have strengths, too. The ceramic blade won't rust like metal and stays sharper longer. And just the thinnest, most transparent outer layer of peel is removed, so there's less waste. Still, at $19.95, I was hoping for a better-designed product.
Sometimes you really do get what you pay for.
Most marketers of kitchen tools produce relatively low-priced peelers with the classic Y design. OXO Good Grips offers an efficient model with a comfortable rubber grip for $7.99, while Kyocera's version with the ceramic blade is $11.99 and feels less clunky than its more expensive model. One peeler from Swiss manufacturer Kuhn Rikon was only $3.95, but the blades seemed dull with the first use. Into the drawer it went.
The Palm Peeler, also from Chef 'n, is just plain fun to use. The square peeler slides onto a finger like a ring and fits comfortably into the palm. It's most efficient when worked in just one direction, with a tendency to clog otherwise. The peeler is sold in bright colors such as sunflower, tangerine and avocado and costs $5.50.
I've bought all of the peelers at kitchen shops throughout Seattle, where I found myself wishing for a few potatoes to work on.
Still, as fixations go, this one is not too hard on the wallet. I'm just thankful I'm not searching for the perfect espresso machine.
CeCe Sullivan: email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.