Help me get a better peeler for citrus!
November 19, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

I need a peeler that turns out long beautiful strips of pithless citrus skin! Mine right not gives me short 3 inch pieces entirely covered with pith. Not ideal

Particularly as I've been making wondrous punches from this punch book, I've noticed that no matter how hard I try or how much I practice I can't get long pithless strips.

I can get longer strips if I don't care at all about pith, but that's also non-ideal.

Part of my issue is that I have an older peeler that is meant to swivel from vertical to horizontal, but ends up not really sticking in either position. That's fine for carrots, but not for this.

Help me metafilter! I crave your recommendations to fix this pithy situation!

(Bonus points: technique for how to turn out great wheels of lemon/orange rind with my new peeler!)
posted by Carillon to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like perhaps you need a zester, rather than a peeler?

Zesters are designed to take off the skin of citrus without the pulp.
posted by jb at 9:00 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The issue as I understand it is that zesters are great for turning out a pile of peel but can't turn out a whole wheel of citrus, which is what I am looking for. If I'm wrong, I'm open to zesters as well, but what I do want is one large pithless piece of peel. Similar to a twist that goes with a drink.
posted by Carillon at 9:03 AM on November 19, 2012

Just to add - a grater style zester will give you a fine powder of zest, which is great for including in a batter or icing. But if you want decorative strips of zest, you should use one of these traditional zesters.

More on zesting.
posted by jb at 9:05 AM on November 19, 2012

I wonder if an apple peeler would work on an orange (the kind that you set the apple into and turn a crank to get one, continuous peel from)–? Otherwise, I've had luck using a recently sharpened paring knife instead of a veggie peeler.
posted by marimeko at 9:06 AM on November 19, 2012

The only way is to hone the blade of any apple/potato peeler that is known for creating thin peels (or a newly bought one of that variety) to absolute lethalness, and to proceed very carefully from there. I am using Japanese water stones of varying gradation for this work.
posted by Namlit at 9:08 AM on November 19, 2012

The traditional zesters will give you a very thin curl of peel - how long that curl is depends on your skill. My mother-in-law regularly can make 2-3" curls with her zester; I'm not as good, and would only get 1".

Looking up "twists" in drinks: those are much larger than anything I've seen for zests, and they say that they are usually done with knives. You probably could do one with a peeler, but to do so with no pulp is more a matter of practice (given a good, sharp peeler) than a particular tool.
posted by jb at 9:09 AM on November 19, 2012

Peelers tend to go dull on one side thanks to people being right-handed/left-handed. Try it with your other hand and see if the performance has improved -or- buy a new peeler.
posted by unixrat at 9:10 AM on November 19, 2012

Best answer: You're looking for what's called a channel knife (google it for a ton of options). It's not actually a knife, it's a peeler specifically made for making strips of citrus peel. Respectfully, people recommending a peeler for this tool are wrong, as that will result in short, thick peels no matter your technique.
posted by thesocietyfor at 9:17 AM on November 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

And, you can get a combo channel knife with zester!
posted by amanda at 9:24 AM on November 19, 2012

You want a zester with a built in channel knife, such as this one:
posted by myselfasme at 9:28 AM on November 19, 2012

I use a channel knife for drink twists, but I always end up with a long, thick, narrow bit of zest+peel. If I understand correctly that you're looking for something that is long, thin and also narrow, I'm not sure what to suggest, but long and thin and wide I can usually get with this peeler and some patience. As others have said, a sharp blade matters, so you might also try this with a sharp paring knife. Here's a cocktail blog post with photos.

I also recently brought home this julienne peeler and though I haven't tried it on citrus, it makes some very pretty carrot "noodles"
posted by hungrybruno at 9:44 AM on November 19, 2012

Best answer: If I understand correctly, you're trying to make oleo-saccharum? This is what the process looks like.

I use a Y shaped vegetable peeler that is fairly new and sharp. The pieces of peel are not super long, just nice and wide, but it doesn't bother me.

Wondrich himself recommends using a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler in the book; I'd trust him. You may just need a new one. I've been told the Rösle 12735 Crosswise Swivel Peeler is amazing.

You could also ping him on Twitter to see which one he uses.
posted by kathryn at 9:48 AM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes! That's the word I was looking for and couldn't remember, oleo-saccharum. Sorry about the confusion regarding swivel as well, I mean the whole head rotates not the blade itself which I figured as part of my problem.

In the book he talks about turning out entire lemons worth of zest in one long peel, which is what I've been trying to do. I made the oleo-saccharum a few times now and it looks similar to the photos you've linked, with short, squat pieces. Plus for things like the horses neck I was looking for a similar effect anyways.

Thanks for the suggestions all, it seems that I need a new peeler. Seems that dullness is what's causing it to have so much pith. Also I will check out that channel knife as it also looks like it could be a good tool to have.
posted by Carillon at 9:57 AM on November 19, 2012

Best answer: Off-topic--thank you for giving me a new tongue-twister for acting exercises. "Pithless citrus skin" is a winner.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:16 PM on November 19, 2012

Best answer: If you use a channel knife, be sure you are using fresh fruit. Stale fruit will get ripped by said knife, IME.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:24 PM on November 19, 2012

Response by poster: dlugoczaj you're welcome!
posted by Carillon at 1:38 PM on November 19, 2012

I have this and it's awesome. You could also do it with a very sharp utility or paring knife. The ribbon is wider than with the tool and it takes some practice but I actually prefer to use a knife.
posted by tealcake at 3:30 PM on November 19, 2012

Sharp knife and a steady hand.
posted by anaelith at 5:21 PM on November 19, 2012

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