The Single Most Versatile Kitchen Tool Is Already in Your Drawer
How to make magic with a $3 vegetable peeler.
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A cooking tool that does only one thing is best re-gifted to a hoarder with a big house. Goodbye, stray melon ballers, garlic pressers, and hard-boiled egg slicers: all these gizmos promise to make cooking effortless, but are actually pretty time-consuming to use, clean, and store. Instead, allow me to sing the praises of a small, inexpensive, easy-to-clean, and deceptively versatile tool, one that you probably already have: the modest vegetable peeler.
It’s nice to have a tool that easily removes tough, flavorless skins from root vegetables. But in my kitchen, it’s used for so much more. A vegetable peeler contains a unique blade that improves any home cook’s daily workflow, unlocking new textures and formats from ingredients in ways that would otherwise only be possible with excellent knife skills, cumbersome machines, or a fancy mandoline.
Now it’s earned a permanent spot on my kitchen counter—and it should be on yours, too. Here's why a vegetable peeler is every host’s secret weapon.
The one you need costs about $3
Believe me: the very best vegetable peeler is plastic, brightly colored, and about $3. The timeless Kuhn Rikon peeler is Swiss-designed and one of the cheapest options available. It's the preferred peeler of countless professional chefs, and in a tight home kitchen, where cabinet real-estate counts, it’s even more valuable.
For years, mine has tirelessly cut through sinewy ginger, tender tomatoes, rock-hard cheeses, and everything in between. Because it’s virtually impossible to resharpen the blade on a vegetable peeler, some dulling is inevitable. I love that this one is easy to recycle and repurchase.
Serve hard cheeses the right way
Forget flavorless and powdery pre-ground parmesan—hard cheeses are especially succulent when sliced into thin shards that dissolve on the tongue. A vegetable peeler does this effortlessly, but if you attempt these super-thin slices with a knife, any hard cheese is likely to crumble.
A bowl full of large flakes of nutty mimolette or aged pecorino is a totally respectable appetizer on its own. But when I’m hosting, I love to garnish pastas, salads, grains, and roasted vegetables with thin strips of any hard cheese. Don’t forget to save the rind for a delicious broth or stock.
Use it to upgrade simple vegetable dishes
Armed with a quality peeler, I’m able to quickly upgrade practically any vegetable in ways that would otherwise require complicated knife techniques. I love to shave squash, cucumbers, big radishes, or zucchini into long, fat strips, then dress them simply with a zingy vinaigrette for a beautiful salad or side dish. A Caesar salad can be made particularly crispy by substituting lettuce for long strips of celery.
Other times, I’ll use my peeler to shred big carrots into long strands. Tangled together with raisins, pine nuts, and harissa or spicy tomato paste, it becomes a delicious slaw that’s as good with grilled meats as it is stuffed into a sandwich with hummus.
Fruits can undergo the same treatment: big wedges of melon or apple can be sliced thin using the peeler and seasoned with fresh mint, lemon juice, salt, and a hit of chili powder for a delicious savory side or refreshing dessert.
And way, way more…
At the beginning of a meal, I’ll use my peeler to quickly carve long strips of citrus peels to garnish cocktails. And for dessert, I’ll shave delicate curls off a block of chocolate. These chocolatey wisps look beautiful sprinkled over a frosted cake, and taste great over a bowl of yogurt or ice cream.
Descaling a whole fish? A vegetable peeler can handle it with ease. The point is, give the same level of respect and attention to every little gadget taking up space in your cabinets, and you’ll quickly realize that expensive, single use gadgets are not worth it.
A quality peeler is an indispensable blade that any home cook can confidently whip out to improve daily workflow and to transform humble ingredients into more interesting formats for impressive sides, salads and garnishes.
Buy the Kuhn Rikon vegetable peeler, 3 for $11 on Amazon, or even cheaper in stores.