Kids can use a lot of standard kitchen equipment safely and comfortably, but for certain tasks, they need their own tools to stay safe. Recently, we noticed several peelers designed for children, with special features such as rubber pads and finger grips meant to make the handles easier to grasp and plastic blades intended to prevent accidental nicks. Could we find a peeler that was effective but also safe and easy for kids to use?
We purchased five models, priced from $3.49 to $17.00. Our lineup included three peelers geared toward children plus our favorite regular peeler from Kuhn Rikon. We also included a “palm peeler” that slides onto the user’s middle finger like a ring. Though we weren’t very fond of the palm peeler when we tested it for adults, we thought the grip might be easier and safer for kids. The rest of the lineup was a mix of Y-shaped peelers (the blade is perpendicular to the handle) and straight peelers (the blade is an extension of the handle). One had a plastic blade; the rest were metal.
Adult testers used each peeler with a variety of fruits and vegetables, evaluating sharpness, efficiency, and safety. All the models were successful on carrots, which are fairly uniform, with thin skin. Peeling rough, bumpy potatoes and removing thick, waxy skin from apples were harder. A few peelers dug jaggedly into the food, leaving behind divots and damage. Sometimes we had to press so hard that the produce slipped from our grip. And the process occasionally felt inefficient and choppy, as we were able to slice off only small pieces of peel at a time and often had to go over the same spot twice. The worst offender, a kids’ peeler with a plastic blade, was unable to break through the skin of an apple. We pressed hard when trying to do so and bruised the fruit underneath. The blade was just too dull.
The best peelers had sharp metal blades, which slid along the produce with little friction and gave us good control. These models were also more efficient, removing long swaths of peel—and little of the fruit—with each swipe. Adult testers liked both Y-shaped and straight designs, so the sharper it felt, the higher it rated.
Before we invited the kids into the kitchen, we eliminated two models: the kids’ peeler with the plastic blade, which was uncomfortable to grasp and failed our basic peeling tests, and the palm peeler because of safety concerns. Though the opaque plastic shield on the palm peeler kept the blade far from the hand holding the food, it blocked our view, so we couldn’t always see where the blade was going. Plus, peels constantly clogged up the blade, which slowed us down. We were left with three promising contenders, and we were ready to bring in the kids.
We asked a panel of six children, ages 9 to 12, to test the top three models, one straight and two Y-shaped. They used them to peel potatoes, carrots, and apples, giving us feedback throughout. Like us adults, the kids preferred the sharpest blades because they made the job of peeling easy and smooth, even on tough, bumpy potatoes and slippery round apples. The straight peeler wasn’t quite as sharp as the other models. Children complained that it felt duller and removed only tiny bits of peel with each swipe, which made it inefficient and a pain to use. Ultimately, the sharper blades on the other models pushed them into the lead.
In addition to sharpness, the comfort and design of the handles were important to our kid testers. Both of the Y-shaped models had thinner handles with rounded edges that made them comfortable for the kids to grasp. Between these two models, individual preferences came down to the child’s age and cooking experience. Most of the older children gave the highest scores to our winning regular peeler, the Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler ($6.24), which they said was “easy” to use. Our younger testers preferred the Le Petit Chef Peeler by Opinel ($17.00), thanks in part to the ring that sits between the blade and handle, where they can rest their index fingers. One kid tester said that it provided “a better grip, which meant more control.” Depending on age and experience, we think either of these vegetable peelers are great options for young cooks.