Blade brigade


The produce stands hold great appeal this time of year. Also a great amount of peel and skin. Vegetable peelers typically don't cost much, but they can make a big difference in how hard you have to work to get to that fresh asparagus, juicy peach or crisp apple.

Which peeler is best? That question was harder to answer than we thought. With so many on the market - stationary blades versus swiveling ones, serrated edges and straight, Y-shaped versus vertical designs - each of the nine we tested had its pluses and minuses, depending on what it was being used for.

Two of our purchases were "julienne" peelers only, meant not for removing skin but for creating matchstick cuts of fruit and vegetables.We tried the peelers on asparagus, carrots, oranges, peaches, apples, tomatoes and sweet potatoes, evaluating how comfortable the peelers were to work with and how efficiently they did their jobs without gouging our fresh finds.

The good news: Despite all the specialty peelers out there, you really need only one for most tasks. Though serrated blades are being marketed as great tomato peelers, we liked them better for everything else. When we really need to peel our tomatoes, we'll dip them briefly in boiling water.

Peelers: a closer look

Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler

Price: $3.50

Comments: This small peeler looks like a disposable razor and appears about as flimsy, until you use it to shave potatoes, carrots and asparagus. The very sharp carbon-steel blade peels quickly and comfortably. The design works especially well for anything you can lay flat. It was not as spectacular - but still serviceable - when used on round fruit like apples and peaches.

Available at: Williams-Sonoma stores and

Zyliss Soft Skin Peeler

Price: $7.95

Comments: Another of the new serrated-blade peelers, this one had a curved handle, which seemed to increase its range of motion with round fruit but was awkward when we tackled a large potato. It was good at harvesting orange peel and shaving vegetables, but took too much of the good stuff from our ripe tomato.

Available at: Crate & Barrel

Williams-Sonoma peeler

Price: $16

Comments: This was our most expensive and least favorite purchase, with little to recommend it besides an attractive handle. The stationary blade didn't travel well around curves or over bumps, and it was harder to clean than most. It did produce nice, long strips of orange peel.

Available at: Williams-Sonoma stores

Cuisinart Vegetable Peeler

Price: $7.95

Comments:This spiffy red model worked well on everything except tomatoes, requiring little pressure and yielding long strips of skin. It's got a longer handle than most, which may make it a good choice for those with larger hands.

Available at: Bed Bath & Beyond stores, and

OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler

Price: $5.99

Comments: This popular model is a good all-around choice, with a wide handle and easily swiveling blade. It took a bit too much off our asparagus, though, and seemed to require a bit more pressure than the Cuisinart model on oranges and sweet potatoes.

Available at: Target stores

Progressive Dual Vegetable Peeler

Price: $9.99

Comments: This peeler tries to cover the waterfront, with both a serrated and a straight-edged blade sprouting from its OXO-like sturdy handle. Both blades were sharp and competent at most jobs. An attached safety cover (a real bonus) rotates to cover the blade that's not in use. The two blades did make the peeler slightly more cumbersome.

Available at: Bed Bath & Beyond stores and

Chefmate peeler

Price: 2 for $1.99

Comments: This version of the once-standard, flimsy blade with a steel handle may be behind the times but, for the price, it wasn't so bad. It worked best on firm skin. In the case of the asparagus, it peeled off a bit too much. Worth having on hand for those times you want help with a big peeling job.

Available at: Target stores

Kuhn Rikon Juli Peeler

Price: $5.95

Comments: This bright-green julienne peeler made lovely, slightly curly strips of carrot, asparagus and apple. While the company's description of the peeler suggests using it to garnish desserts with strips of orange peel, we wouldn't recommend that. The "Juli" wouldn't sink its sharp teeth into our orange without lots of pressure, then drew blood when it slipped. There's no safety cover, so be careful.

Available at: Crate & Barrel stores

OXO Julienne Peeler

Price: $6.99

Comments: We liked the sturdy handle and attached blade cover on this julienne peeler, which produced nice little strips of orange peel, apple and asparagus. When it came to carrots, though, the strips were strangely short and uneven. For this task, we preferred the Kuhn Rikon model.

Available at: Bed Bath & Beyond stores

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