Why a Y-Peeler Is the Best Vegetable Peeler

An ode to the Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler.

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A Y-peeler
The Y-peeler is what belongs in your kitchen tools drawer.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Straight to the Point

We love a good Y-peeler, and our favorite is the Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler. It's light, easy to hold, and has a sharp carbon steel blade that cleanly peels root vegetables, citrus, hard cheese, and more.

When Kenji López-Alt published a list of his most essential cooking equipment, he included a Y-Head Vegetable Peeler made by Kuhn Rikon. It seemed like a pretty obvious item to me; then again, I've been working with food for years and I can't remember the last time I saw any other peeler in a pro setting.

But in the comments, some readers weren't convinced the y-peeler was as good as the straight swivel peelers most home cooks use.

I have two things to say to this. The first is that if you truly love your straight swivel peeler and it's doing everything you've ever wanted, more power to you—I can't argue with that. The second is: WHAT!? A Y-PEELER IS CATEGORICALLY SUPERIOR.

Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler, 3-Piece Set

What Makes Kuhn Rikon's Y-Peeler Great

It's hard to show in photos why I like these so much, but I'll try. Before getting to the pictures though, I'll start with some key points:

  • Kuhn Rikon's y-peeler has a carbon steel blade. In my experience its blade starts out—and stays—way sharper than the stainless steel ones I've used. The carbon steel is prone to rusting, so you have to wash and dry it soon after each use, but we should take care of all of our cooking tools anyway (especially blades), so I don't really consider that a negative.
  • They're cheap! A 3-pack, at the time of writing, is selling on Amazon for ten bucks. That's just a few dollars per peeler. I always buy a few at a time, and when the blade finally does start to fail, I just switch to a new one.
  • Unlike a lot of swivel peelers, which often have the blade on only one side, the shape of a y-peeler makes it work in either hand. As a lefty, it's invaluable to have a peeler that works for me—and anyone else in my kitchen.
  • The wider handle, as compared to most narrow-handled straight peelers, means you can hold and use the peeler with a lighter grip, which is more comfortable.

My guess is that, because of the y-peeler's different form, many people who are used to straight swivel peelers have trouble adjusting. The technique is slightly different and it takes a little getting used to before you start to feel its power.

Here are some examples of how I use it.

Using the Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler to peel a carrot

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Let's start with these carrots. It's a still photo, but just look at how clean the peeled shaving is. That's the carbon steel blade's sharpness at work. Plus, as you see here and in the subsequent photos, the y-peeler cuts thinner swaths than most straight peelers, leaving more of the vegetable behind.

For something like a carrot, sometimes I'll hold the stem end in my hand and rest the carrot's tip on the cutting board. Then I'll make quick lengthwise pulls with the peeler from stem to tip, spinning the carrot in my fingers as I go. It's peeled in no time.

A carrot being peeled with a y-peeler

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Other times, I'll hold the carrot in the air, usually right over the garbage, and just shave those strips right into the trash. With a y-peeler, you end up pulling down along the length of it with your hand, as opposed to laterally scraping the vegetable the way straight peelers tend to work.

A y-peeler peeling a sweet potato

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Multiple grips are possible, depending on what you're peeling. Above, I'm palming the sweet potato, allowing me to get full-length passes with each stroke.

A y-peeler being used on a sweet potato

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Whereas, here, I'm holding the potato more firmly in my hand. I can peel faster this way, but I won't be able to get full-length passes, so I'll flip the potato to finish the end that's currently in my hand.

A y-peeler peeling the top of an apple

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

For more precision peeling, such as taking off an apple peel in one continuous strip, it's possible to palm the peeler, freeing the peeling hand's thumb to brace against the thing you're peeling. It'll slow you down, but you'll have more control.

A y-peeler peeling an apple

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

A hand holding a peeled apple

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Like a samurai, one deft stroke against the apple's base takes the peel there right off. Kashwing!

A y-peeler peeling an orange

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Taking some zest off citrus, like an orange? No problem, the y-peeler gets it off with minimal pith—just look how you can see the blade through the zest.

Use one of these for a couple months straight, then see if you still want to go back to the straight ones. If I were a betting man, I'd say it's unlikely.

FAQs

How do you use a vegetable peeler?

Whether you’re using a y-peeler or a straight swivel peeler, the principle is the same: Hold the vegetable or fruit in one hand, and run the blade of the peeler across the surface of your carrot, potato, apple (or whatever else) with the other. When switching styles of peelers, you may have to change up your technique—so watch your fingers while getting acquainted with a new tool!

How do you sharpen a vegetable peeler?

If you’re working with a y-peeler with a carbon steel blade (and you’re caring for it properly by washing and drying after use), you probably won’t need to worry about sharpening your vegetable peeler for quite some time. We don't recommend trying to sharpen them when they grow dull, though—since they're pretty cheap, simply replacing your peeler is the best option.

How do you clean a vegetable peeler?

Cleaning a vegetable peeler is pretty simple: rinse it shortly after use and thoroughly dry the blade with a soft cloth. If you’ve peeled something fibrous and a quick rinse isn’t doing the trick, use a bristle brush to dislodge stubborn bits. It's worth noting our favorite Kuhn Rikon peeler is dishwasher-safe, but hand washing is recommended.