Shopping List: Peeler Perfection

images/peeler

In a June 4 New York Times article identifying the three most innovative kitchen tools introduced in the 1990s, (“The 3 That Make a Kitchen Complete”), Amanda Hesser heralded the OXO vegetable peeler (above, left) as essential not only for all-purpose peeling, but also for finely shaving hard vegetables, fruits, chocolate, and cheeses.

What makes the peeler stand apart, notes Ms. Hesser, is its thick plastic and rubber handle (a thermoplastic elastomer called Santoprene), a design solution developed for people with arthritis in the hands:

The resulting peeler is dopey-looking: it has a thick black handle and an arched black plastic head, which holds a swiveling blade. But it works splendidly, making it as easy to peel potatoes as to slice butter.
The reason it works so well is counterintuitive. Its hidden asset is not so much the blade, which is very sharp, but the soft handle. The user is able to apply great pressure to the handle without causing discomfort to the hand.

In just a few short months since Ms. Hesser's article extolling the OXO peeler, it may already be upstaged by a new peeler on the market from Messermeister. According to Leslie Brenner, writing in an August 6 article in the Los Angeles Times, the fit and finish of the new Messermeister 800-59 peeler (above, right) bears a strong resemblance to the OXO peeler: “The swivel peeler, with a cushy black rubber grip and the swivel blade held in place by a sickle-shaped housing, looks much like one made by Oxo.”

However, this peeler houses a very sharp, serrated blade, rather than a regular blade. Ms. Brenner finds the blade to be particularly effective at catching the slippery skins of tomatoes:

The best thing about using the tool on tomatoes is that it eliminates the necessity of boiling water, submerging tomatoes in it, fishing them out and plunging them in cold water to remove the peel. . . . With a normal swivel peeler you use an away-from-the-body flicking motion. But with the Messermeister version you place the swivel blade on the tomato or peach and pull the peeler toward you, letting the peel fall away in a long strip. . . The strips of peel come off so nicely you might be moved to twirl them into rose shapes for a garnish.

Both peelers retail for $5.95 and can be purchased online. The Messermeister peeler is available at cutleryandmore.com. The OXO peeler can be found at cooking.com. Photos: OXO, Messermeister.