A low-quality peeler makes preparing vegetables a chore. The handle digs into the palm, and dull blades make peeling difficult and dangerous. Using the right vegetable peeler makes the work of preparing vegetables quicker, easier and safer. When choosing a vegetable peeler, it is important to look closely at the design, the handle, the blade and, of course, the cost.
Most likely, the shape and design of a vegetable peeler will be the first thing to stand out. Peelers generally fall into one of two categories: vertical swivel-bladed peelers and harp- or yoke-shape peelers. Each style has its advantages, and both have their advocates. Your choice might be a matter of which design is most comfortable and most familiar.
Vertical swivel-bladed vegetable peelers are perhaps the more familiar design, with the blade extending from the handle like a knife. It differs from a knife in that the blade is mounted on a rod that allows it to swivel and follow the contour of the vegetable being peeled. This vegetable peeler is most effective on longer vegetables such as carrots and asparagus, so if you will be preparing those types of vegetables the most frequently, this design might be your best choice.
Yoke-shape peelers have a blade mounted between the two arms of a Y-shape handle, and like the vertical design, the blade is able to swivel to match the vegetable’s contours. Professional chefs tend to prefer this design of vegetable peeler. It is best suited for large, round shapes, such as that of potatoes, so you might choose this type of peeler if you frequently must peel potatoes or similar vegetables.
Regardless of which design you prefer, a good blade is essential. Cheap, dull blades will require more pressure when peeling and will make slipping more likely. A serrated edge is especially useful when peeling thin-skinned vegetables such as tomatoes, taking the skin without digging too deep. Specialized, interchangeable blades are available on some peelers, but for most cooks, these are unnecessary extras. A single, quality all-purpose blade will suffice in most kitchens.
Handles also deserve special attention. Metal handles often are uncomfortable, and wooden handles provide a haven for bacteria. Plastic grips specially shaped to fit the hand comfortably often are preferred. Plastic has the added advantage of being available in colors to match any kitchen. In the store, it can be helpful to hold the peelers that you are considering buying, because this will give you an idea of how they will feel in your hand.
When you are buying a vegetable peeler, price is likely to be a deciding factor as well. The cheapest peelers might indeed be dull or uncomfortable, but inexpensive, simple peelers are readily available. For most cooks, elaborate multi-bladed peelers with interchangeable parts are not worth the money, and quite often, extra parts lie forgotten in the back of a drawer, with only the basic peeler remaining in use. If you are unlikely to use the extra parts and features, you can save money buy purchasing a more simple peeler.