Whenever I watch master chefs at work, whether on TV or in our Test Kitchen, I always notice their supreme confidence and fluidity in the kitchen-even when they’re doing a simple task. You might think someone so advanced would shrug off the basics, but if anything, their handling of rudimentary kitchen tasks is what most reveals their skill.
Watch a really good cook chop an onion, for example, and you see the happy confluence of perfect technique backed up by muscle memory.
We’re here to help you master the simple techniques. Learning the proper method will allow you to move quickly and confidently, slicing down your prep time and reducing the risk of nicking a finger while you work.
Today’s lesson: how to peel carrots (or most vegetables, for that matter).
A vegetable peeler
Let’s take a closer look at that peeler. It’s one of the simplest gadgets in your kitchen. You can buy one for a couple bucks at the grocery store, and their bright plastic handles and loose, rattling blades make them seem supremely simple, even chintzy. But take a closer look at the blades. There are two of them, and each cuts in a different direction. This means that you’re able to peel a vegetable in a few simple motions, without switching hand positions or rearranging your vegetable.
Pretty cool! Let’s see how it’s done.
Step 1: Set up your stance
Hold carrot at a 45° angle on a cutting board. Take the peeler in your other hand.
You’re going to peel the bottom half of the carrot first. Your carrot-holding hand stays totally safe. (As someone who has peeled my thumbnail more times than I’d care to admit, this was a revelation.)
Step 2: Peel the bottom half of the carrot
Start the vegetable peeler at the middle of the carrot and press downward toward the cutting board.
But immediately switch directions and peel back upward. Stop at the center of the carrot. You should have one stripe of peeled carrot.
The entire top half of the carrot will remain unpeeled as you peel the base. Keep on peeling in a down-and-up fashion until it’s done.
Rotate the carrot a bit, and peel another stripe. (Start at the middle; peel down. At the bottom, peel back up to the middle.)
Repeat until the bottom is peeled.
Step 3: Peel the top
Flip the carrot so you’re holding onto the peeled end of the carrot. The unpeeled end should rest against the cutting board at a 45° angle.
Repeat the exact steps as above. Cut down, then up, and around the carrot until it’s completely peeled.
Step 4: Practice makes perfect
Peeling carrots this way should be quick and efficient, with little risk of slicing your fingers. Of course, you’ll get faster as you become more familiar with the motions; they’ll feel more natural. Once you’ve peeled a huge quantity of carrots for a soup, for instance, you’ll feel more like a pro.
This peeling method works well for many vegetables, particularly those with a long, thin shape. Think parsnips, cucumbers and zucchini.