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“This is a frequent topic brought up with my peers for years in my cocktail bar days, and nothing has changed,” says Amy Hartranft, the general manager and beverage director of Prohibition Taproom in Philadelphia. “For all the things bartenders argue about, I know everyone has always agreed on this one thing: the best peeler is affordable and effective. Folks new to bartending, especially to high volume or high-end spots, frequently assume that fancy and expensive are equatable with being good.” But in the case of peelers, the perfect one hits the sweet spot of being affordable and super-sharp. Here are our tried-and-true favorite citrus peelers to get right now.
Best Overall: Kuhn Rikon Piranha Y Peeler
“When it comes to peelers, the very inexpensive Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Y-peelers are the best thing you can have behind your bar,” says Hartranft. “There are so many reasons to like them: they are inexpensive and there’s minimal pith left when peeling citrus due to the shape and angle of the blade. Not to mention the fact that they're small, lightweight, and easily fit in any size hand and thus lessen the likelihood that you knick your knuckle when moving quickly.”
She continues, “at a few dollars per one, they’re easily replaceable—remember the blade will eventually get rusty, especially if it’s left sitting in water. I buy a couple of these bad boys every year and they last a long time and stay sharp (if they're not left in water)—it’s even worth it even if you did have to replace them annually (or more).”
All in all, she notes “Kuhn Rikon’s Y peelers provide perfectly straight, thin pithless citrus peels and offer lightweight maneuverability, for a fraction of what bigger, clunkier, high-end peelers cost.”
Best for Pros: Chef Harvey Classic Swiss Peeler
“All right, bar nerds!” says Alex Negranza, bar manager at the tasting menu-focused MARCH in Houston. “This is the first wide peeler I fell in love with. It’s so remarkably smooth and great to work with!”
With a carbon steel blade and a stainless steel handle, Chef Harvey’s peeler is built to last. It quickly slices through vegetable and fruit skins, removing citrus rinds or pulling thin strands from cucumbers.
“The best part about it, besides everything, is that you can order replacement peeler parts! ... Inevitably with citrus peelers they become dull or rusted—and I hate throwing things away! If you need a half dozen or so for your staff or a group of people, the classic metal ones are easy to clean and maintain, and cheap enough to replace in case they break or someone borrows it and forgets to return it.”
Best Y Peeler: OXO Good Grips Y Peeler
“I really can’t overstate the importance of a reliable peeler behind the bar and the OXO Good Grips Y peeler is my workhorse peeler,” describes Joan Percival, a bartender at Proof Whiskey Bar and Craft Cocktails. “Of the multitudes of peelers I’ve tried and discarded or broken, I keep coming back to these little budget miracles!” Percival notes that she once had a higher-end chrome peeler. “It was beautiful and costly, but they have a tendency to disappear from busy bar tops, and it was impossible to sharpen without being a smith!”
She relies on OXO’s all-purpose blade and soft, cushioned handles to peel her oranges and lemons. “With the citrus twist being such a ubiquitous and critical addition to so many cocktails, I really can’t overstate the importance of a reliable Y peeler behind the bar, but it’s more your familiarity with it than the peeler itself. My advice is: find one you like and stick with it.”
Best Set: Kuhn Rikon 3-Set
“Y style peelers have always worked for me,” describes Gregory Diamond, a bartender at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale. “They’re sharp out of the box and very inexpensive, making them easy to replace as time passes. They will get a lot of use so I’ve found it’s better to think of them like disposable razors. Don’t buy a nice one that you have to maintain unless you plan to keep it for in-home use only. Buy a five-pack and be set for the year!”
Kuhn Rikon is universally loved by bartenders for the sharpness and affordability of their peelers. These low-cost options are made with carbon steel blades and an ergonomic design built for both left and right hands. The set of three comes with red, green, and yellow options.
Scott Baird, the owner of Zeppelin Nashville, swears by this set of Kuhn Rikon blades. “They are the best citrus peelers, without question. You can choose your own adventure with color and they're also cheap to replace, ergonomic and very effective.” Note you do have to wash these by hand.
Related: The Best Paring Knives
Best Straight Peeler: Microplane Pro Straight Peeler
If safety is your priority, Microplane’s peeler has a small arch that protects your hand from the ultra-sharp blade. The serrated blade is designed to peel a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, from standard bar citrus to tomatoes, kiwis, potatoes, and parsnips. A soft-touch, ergonomically designed handle sits comfortably in your hand. The handle is crafted with both right- and left-handed use in mind. With quality, comfort, and the ability to last for years, this straight peeler will stay sharp for months.
While many bartenders prefer a Y-shaped peeler if you’re comfortable using a paring knife you may prefer the European-style straight peeler. There’s no better or worse style, it just comes down to what movement you’re more comfortable with.
Microplane’s option is also one of the only dishwasher-safe citrus peelers on this list. Once you’re done peeling and garnishing, pop the peeler in the wash for a no-effort clean-up.
Related: The Best Bar Sets
Best Design: GIR Silicone Peeler
“I'm bitter about my answer,” says Fogo de Chao’s Benjamin Pozar, “but the best peeler I've ever used has been a basic budget Y-peeler! There was minimal pith and it cut like a knife through butter—the blade bent to the form and gave a thin swath.”
If you wanted a slight upgrade in terms of design, Gir’s silicone peeler is designed to be incredibly durable. Each is made with a fiberglass core and a silicone exterior that doubles as a comfy, ergonomic handle. For both right- and left-handed bartenders, the brand added an eye remover on both sides of the peeler. The swivel blade has two different versions: one flat blade for smooth strips and another julienne blade for more intricate peeling.
Related: The Best Citrus Juicers
Best Zester: Orblue Citrus Zester
While a peeler is a bar essential, a zester goes hand-in-hand: the handy, multi-functional tool offers a range of uses behind the bar. The zester helps you bring out the flavors of the rind in citrus. Sprinkle lemon zest to add brightness to cocktails, grate ginger onto a Moscow Mule, or shave chocolate over an Espresso Martini. Outside of the bar, the versatile grater will build out pillows of parmesan or lemon over pasta.
This zester is made with 18/8 stainless steel to ensure the peeler won’t rust over time. The blade has a square end to make the blade less likely to clog up over time. The tough, drop-proof body and silicon handle is comfy to hold and effortless to grip while a razor-sharp teeth provide an equal zest every time.
Best Versatile: Opinel Knife
While a traditional peeler will certainly get the job done with ease, many chefs prefer peeling old school, opting for a super-sharp blade to remove rinds and skins.
“If you want the best swath of citrus peel for a garnish, you need a knife that you know how to work,” describes Pozar. “A good bartender with a butterfly knife will give you a better orange twist than any specialized peeler could ever carve out on its own.”
Opinel’s knives are essentials for outdoorsmen and farmers. The classic French brand has been crafting knives since 1890. This folding knife features a base made of durable, elegant beechwood and a blade crafted from stainless steel. A safety ring slides shut to keep the blade secure.
Related: The Best Bar Tools
For bartenders, Kuhn Rikon’s Y (view at Amazon) peeler checks off a lot of boxes with an incredibly sharp blade and an affordable price tag. For the home bartender, OXO Good Grips’s Y Peeler (view at Amazon) boasts a comfy handle and durable blade that makes it a workhorse peeler.
What to Look For In a Peeler
The majority of peelers on this list are not dishwasher safe. Meaning, you have to carefully pull out the bits of rind and skin that build up in the peeler by hand. If that’s going to bug you, opt for a peeler that can be tossed in the dishwasher after use.
One common thing with peelers is that they will all rust eventually. Buying for a peeler made from higher-quality stainless steel will ensure you get years of use out of your peeler before the rust starts to show—citrus will corrode metal over time, so choosing a citrus peeler made with higher-end steel will ensure the blade is more resistant to citric acid.
Lower-budget ones will rust quicker than higher-end ones. With that in mind, many bartenders prefer to just buy inexpensive citrus peelers and throw them out when they start to rust. Or, spend the extra money on a peeler with an ergonomic handle and a sharp stainless steel blade—with a little care, it will last years.
How do you clean/care for a peeler?
Wash your peeler immediately after use—don’t leave it sitting in the sink until your drinks are done. Be careful to never let the peeler sit in water as it will cause the blade to dull and corrode. Dry thoroughly using a soft cloth.
Can you peel other things besides citrus?
Yes! A citrus peeler is great for ginger, potatoes, carrots, and all other manners of fruits and vegetables. Just be sure to clean the peeler well after use.
How sharp is a peeler? Do you need to sharpen a peeler?
Think of a citrus peeler like a mini knife, designed specifically to cut through citrus. That said, just like a knife a citrus peeler will dull over time. There are a few ways you can sharpen your peeler. Use a metal nail file to carefully sharpen the blades. Alternatively, run a paring knife along the blade and it will give it a bit of a sharp edge.
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Kate Dingwall is a seasoned sommelier and spirits writer. She has spent six years writing about the field, and ten years working as a bartender slash sommelier.