Unless you buy all of your food prepared, frozen or in microwaveable form, peeling vegetables is one of the really basic kitchen chores. And if you have a dull or badly designed vegetable peeler, it really will feel like a chore. A good one will glide through even tough or thick-skinned vegetables with relative ease, while a dull one will make you work for every strip of peel (and may leave your vegetables looking pretty rough when you're done).
There's no reason to make this any harder than it has to be. There are lots of really good vegetable peelers out there, and even the very best are very affordable. Here are a handful of the top choices, and our reasons for choosing them over their competitors.
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What to Consider When Purchasing a Vegetable Peeler
There are a couple of main styles of vegetable peeler, usually described as "Y" and "straight" or "swivel" peelers. A straight peeler's blade runs the same direction as the handle, so it's long and straight like a screwdriver. A Y peeler's blade, on the other hand, is set at right angles to the handle. They both do the job, so it's mostly a matter of what you're used to and which motion feels more comfortable to you. There are a number of niche designs (palm peelers and various ergonomic offerings) but they're seldom any easier to use than the basic models.
Aside from that fundamental question of the basic design, there are a few other things you should consider. These include:
Handle Design: If you peel a lot of vegetables, or have physical challenges you'll need to work around, handle design can be what makes the difference between a peeler you love and one you can barely tolerate. For Y peelers, this comes down largely to size and materials (it shouldn't be too large or small, and not be slippery if your hands are wet). Straight peelers require more of a whole-hand grip and benefit from a textured, contoured or soft-grip handle. If you can, it's always helpful to physically hold a peeler in-store before you buy it.
Blade: This is the actual "business end" of the peeler, so getting it right is crucial. First, there's the material: Most are stainless, carbon steel or ceramic. Ceramic and stainless won't rust in your dishwasher, but carbon steel can and should usually be hand-washed. On the other hand, carbon steel keeps a better edge by far. Some use a serrated blade, which can be handy on delicate items like tomatoes. Other peelers have a dual-blade design so they can be used left- or right-handed, or so you can have two different types of blades on the same peeler. There's no right or wrong, it comes down to whichever design works for you.
Depth of Cut: One thing you'll notice if you try peelers one after the other is that some delicately peel away just a thin strip from the vegetable, while others take a deeper dig into the flesh underneath. There are arguments for both: A shallow cut means less food waste, especially on relatively thin-skinned vegetables like potatoes and carrots; while a deeper cut is more practical for thick-skinned produce like squashes or melons. Remember, peelers are pretty inexpensive. It's not a bad idea to have both kinds if you prep a lot of produce.
Bridge: You can't know for sure how sharp a peeler is, or how comfortable its handle, without actually trying it. One thing you can usually tell at a glance is how likely it is to be clogged up with peels while you work. That key visual indicator is the size of the gap between the blade and the "bridge," the portion of the handle that frames the blade. A generous gap between blade and bridge provides lots of room for peels to fall away freely, while a narrow one means they're likelier to get jammed together and require intervention. It's annoying and easily avoided.
The Best Overall Vegetable Peeler
Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Y-Peeler 3-Pack
If you favor the wrist-friendly motion of a Y-peeler, Kuhn Rikon's "Original Swiss" peeler is the most perfect expression of the design. The handle is a simple and functional piece of flat plastic, with a generous bridge to minimize clogging and a small rounded potato-eye remover located at the side of the blade. It's the blade that's the real star of this peeler, though: A razor-sharp band of carbon steel that glides through delicate peach skins and tough squash rinds alike, and holds its wickedly sharp edge for years. The only downside to these peelers is that the carbon steel is rust-prone, so they should be hand-washed and dried immediately if you want them to last (it takes only seconds!). You can buy these individually if you want, but the 3-pack is a better value and you'll probably want more than one anyway.
The Most Durable Vegetable Peeler
OXO Good Grips "Pro" Y-Peeler
The Kuhn Rikon peelers are intended to be disposable, and their appearance reflects that. If you lean more to durable, long-lasting tools, or if "cheap and cheerful" doesn't fit with your kitchen decor, you might want to look at this OXO peeler instead. The sleek design matches a durable metal bridge with the kind of soft, ergonomic grip that OXO does so well, and the hardened stainless steel blades are sharp and less rust-prone than the Kuhn Rikon's carbon steel. Better yet, they're designed to be replaceable when they get dull. The OXO is a bit heavier than cheap plastic peelers, because of its metal construction, but it's a durable, good-looking piece of equipment that will serve you well for years.
The Best Swivel Vegetable Peeler
OXO Good Grips Pro Swivel Peeler
This is the swivel peeler equivalent of OXO's "Pro" model Y-peeler, and it shares the same sleek, durable design aesthetic. You get a similarly comfortable, ergonomically designed handle, durable metal bridge, and rust-resistant hardened-steel replaceable blades. The bridge creates enough space under the blade for peels to drop away neatly, and the burnished, rounded metal encourages them to do just that. Again, the only downside here is that it's relatively heavy. The good news is that if you need similar quality and an ergonomic grip in a lighter model, the base-model swivel peeler from OXO is an excellent choice (and sells for a few dollars less).
The Best Serrated Vegetable Peeler
Kuhn Rikon Piranha Peeler
There's a parallel between knives and peelers: Most of the time you use one with a straight edge, but sometimes a serrated edge is handy to have. They're especially good at coping with soft, tender produce like ripe peaches and tomatoes, so if you do a lot of baking or canning, a serrated peeler makes a definite case for a place in your cutlery drawer.
If you're in that position, look no further than Kuhn Rikon's Piranha peeler, available in a swivel or Y-peeler version for approximately the same price. Both have curved, well-rounded handles that fit the hand well, and razor-sharp blades. They're just as adept at heavy-duty vegetables like rutabagas and squash, though you may find they take a few more strokes to get all of the peel off. A serrated blade will leave small grooves on your vegetables, but if you can live with that the Piranha is an excellent all-round peeler.
The Best Compact Vegetable Peeler
Victorinox 2 1/4 Inch Double Edge Peeler
Victorinox is one of the world's leading knife manufacturers (they created the original Swiss Army Knife), and they make a full range of peelers as well. Their Y and swivel peelers are all of high quality—if not quite adequate to nudge our top picks aside—but this handy little peeler is different. Unlike the others in this roundup, the blade doesn't swivel but is fixed in place: The entire blade, including the cutting edges, is stamped from a single piece of surgical-grade stainless steel. The peel passes across the blade and out, dropping neatly to your work surface below.
To be clear, this shouldn't be your first choice for an all-purpose peeler. It's best suited for small vegetables, and it won't give you a clean strip of lemon zest or a pretty flake of Parmesan. Its compact size makes it an excellent peeler for packing with you to a rental, though, and the small size and lack of exposed razor edges makes it a good choice when the kids are helping cook. It's also a great spare, taking up minimal space in your cutlery drawer.