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Apple Processors (Peelers)

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2005

How we tested

The task of peeling 5 pounds of apples—let alone coring and cutting them into 1/4-inch slices—is daunting. And if there was ever a place for an apple-processing gadget (most of which are designed to handle all three tasks), our Deep-Dish Apple Pie was it. So we rounded up six models—and a bushel of apples—and headed into the test kitchen.

One by one, the peelers faltered, as testers found most to be more trouble than they were worth. The clamp-style models—too narrow for all but one of our countertops—lost out to those with a suction base, which also had the benefit of keeping the mess at the center (rather than the edge) of the work area. Once we'd managed to stabilize the models, performance of core tasks was hit-or-miss. When peeling, the gadgets either skimmed the apple's surface or removed the peel along with a deep gouge of flesh. Slicing and coring proved even rougher—literally: Crisp apples had a tendency to crack or break, while mushy apples were processed to, well, mush.

One model, however, surprised testers by peeling, coring, and slicing every apple we could throw at it. Sleek and efficient, this model seemed like it would rival even the handiest test cook. But there was only one way to find out. We pitted the test kitchen's best peeler (armed with a peeler, knife, and cutting board) against a test cook wielding our favorite peeling machine. The knife-brandishing test cook finished five pounds of apples in just 12 minutes. Not too shabby. The mechanized gadget? Just under four minutes.

Naysayers suspected wastefulness, but the two finished piles of apples weighed in within a few ounces of each other. We're sold.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*