Kitchen Hacks

How to Peel an Apple in 3 Seconds

Our method uses one very unexpected tool...a power drill.

August 11, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Apple peeling isn't the most difficult kitchen task, but why not make it faster and easier if you can? When Thanksgiving is around the corner and you’re trying to peel apples for stuffing, pies, and even a beautiful roast turkey, it can become a monotonous, time-consuming task and frankly, who has the time? A few years ago, Food52 co-founder Merrill Stubbs and Creative Director of Genius Kristen Miglore shared their favorite way to peel an apple and I haven’t gotten over it. Now you can peel pounds and pounds of apples (and put them to good use in apple pie, cobblers, crisps, and sauces) in no time. 

In the romantic-comedy Sleepless in Seattle by the late, great Nora Ephron, Sam Baldwin (played by the great Tom Hanks) chats with Dr. Marcia Fieldstone about how his wife used to be able to peel an apple in one long strip. From the first time I watched the movie, I felt that being able to peel an apple was the ultimate way to be the perfect partner. I have failed to ever successfully do so, but this has stuck in mind as the ultimate food prep challenge. And when dependable y-shaped vegetable peelers and paring knives have failed, there’s always a power drill.

Wait, what? A power drill? Trust me, dear reader. After watching this video from our founding editors—and some trial and error—we've found that a power drill moonlights beautifully as a quick and easy, albeit messy, way to peel a bushel of apples after you’ve gone apple picking (though we were less successful with other produce). Here's how to use a power drill to peel an apple in just a few seconds:

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Tools You Need to Peel an Apple

  1. Any fully-charged electric drill
  2. A flat drill bit, glass bit, or any bit that has a flat end (We used a Phillips-head, but a flat-head will offer more torque and apple peeling success.)
  3. A very sharp vegetable peeler
  4. A peck—or bushel—of apples (go ahead—go crazy)
  5. Safety goggles (Not really, but we wouldn't have turned down a pair if they were available.)

How to Peel an Apple With a Drill

To peel an apple using a power drill, start by assembling the drill just as you would use it for building a bookcase or hanging a picture. Secure the drill bit in the drill. Next, keeping your fingers out of the way, skewer the apple onto the flat drill bit. Point the drill into the sink or a compost bin—the apple peels are going to fly unless you're a professional at this, in which case you probably don't need this article. Lean the vegetable peeler onto the apple at the base closest to the drill, just hard enough to make an indent in the fruit but not quite cut into it, then increase the speed of the drill so that the apple moves away from the peeler. This may be a little rough the first time, but after the first few apples, you'll get the hang of things. With the drill bit going, move the peeler down the apple until the skin is completely off. Repeat to your heart's content (or until all of the apples that you picked at the orchard are peeled).

Our Favorite Vegetable Peeler

Oh, so you’re not into power tools? We get it. If you want to use a regular vegetable peeler to peel an apple, might we suggest these Y-shaped silicone peelers from our shop? They peel produce so much faster than vertical-shaped peelers and will help you peel your stash in a breeze.

Once you remove the peels, you can cook with the apples whole or place them on a cutting board and use a paring knife to cut the apples into wedges or a small dice. Use an apple corer (another nifty tool that you most likely won’t find in the hardware store) to remove the core from the top of the apple. 

Can You Use a Power Drill to Peel Other Produce?

When we tried this with other vegetables, we didn't have nearly as much luck: This tip doesn't work with stone fruits because the drill bit can't go through the pit. Potatoes were too heavy and made a run for it as soon as we pressed "on," and while the cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes all had great starting potential, the nightshades weren't dense enough to stay on the bit. But apples, on the other hand, worked like a dream. We've also heard this works well for lemon zest with the proper machinery. Stay tuned for that test. 

 

Do you have any tricks for peeling apples? Share them with us in the comments!

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I eat everything.

33 Comments

Drozeira September 26, 2021
Firstly, I believe Tom Hank’s character in the film is telling his son about how his late mom could peel an apple into one long strand without the peel breaking… any way, a power drill for this activity seems stupid, messy and dangerous. A paring knife works great!
 
Scott V. September 23, 2021
I have been searching for a peeler that actually works and “holds an edge” or can be sharpened. They all are cheap and quickly lose their ability to function as peelers. Do you have a peeler you can recommend? Scott
 
MacGuffin September 24, 2021
Look for a Zena Star peeler. You want the tungsten blade, not the stainless (both are available). Check out "peeler guy" and "Swiss star peeler" on YouTube (I bought my first one from Joe Ades's (Peeler Guy) daughter. And you read right--they're made in Switzerland. I've had mine for years and it has never dulled.
There's also a "trio" but it includes the stainless Star. Buy the components separately if you want the other two peelers; there's not a significant difference in price.
 
sinfromgin September 24, 2021
Peeler Guy! How interesting, thanks for posting that info!
 
Angela September 23, 2021
This made me chuckle. Looks dangerous!! I use my KitchenAid peeler attachment. It’s not perfect but bit safer than a drill.
 
rob September 23, 2021
Somehow this looks dangerous. I peel about 9 to 10 large apples for each apple pie. Takes about four or five minutes with a nice sharp paring knife. By the time I would go out to the garage, get my drill and bit, get back to the kitchen and get set, then clean up the peels that have gone all over the back splash, as per your video, clean the drill, and walk it back to the garage, put it and the drill bit away, and come back into the kitchen, I would have used more time, I think, than just peelin' them. Just sayin'. But watching the video was fun.
 
JLH September 23, 2021

Great but also kind of silly. No one is going to grab a power drill to peel a few apples. As someone else pointed out the drill would have to be dedicated to that use, you wouldn't want to drill in drywall and then grab your apples. That means having a dedicated power drill for the times when you want to peel apples.

(I get that it's primarily for comedic effect)
 
marcel September 23, 2021
Perhaps the bit would be reserved for food, certainly not the drill. That said, I have several peer screw drivers around the house - kitchen being one of them.
 
marcel September 23, 2021
I love it. I few suggestions to reduce the problems shown on the video: I'm a 'tool nut' both in the kitchen and with Hand power tools....

1. Set the drill at a low speed! Reason your having troubles was that that Milwaukie drill was set to its highest speed (highest RPM, probably set on "2" rather than "1"). At a lower speed you'll not have as much centrifugal force (that's the force throwing your peeler off the apple's edge and throwing the apple off the drill bit.
2. Use the widest "FLAT" blade bit you can - this will maximize the 'grip' the bit has on the apple. the symmetric profile of a Philips bit will quickly 'strip' the apple if it faces any resistance. A flat blade would require much higher resistance before it would core the apple and lose traction.
3. Get the bit as precisely down the center of the apple core (potato, cucumber, etc) you can. If the item is 'off center' it will cause an elliptical rotation making it very hard to hold the peel against the item - especially so if the drill is set on HIGH speed.
4. Angle the drill bit straight up. If you aim the drill down, the apple falls off. If you point it to a side it may not rotate evenly.
Just go slower with the above and you'll have an excellent 5-sec apple rather than a 3-sec problematic one! Good Luck...m
 
marilyn September 23, 2021
Personally, I like keeping the peel on when I make my apple pies.
 
Stephanie September 23, 2021
I have come up with an apple peeling method that I'm rather proud of. Using a traditional peeler, I first peel one circle or section off the very top of the apple and off the bottom as well. Then I peel in quick, vertical strokes going around the apple, from top bottom. Having peeled a top and bottom ring first means you're not having to "puncture" the tough apple skin with each stroke and I find the vertical peeling less cumbersome. Try it!
 
chefrockyrd September 23, 2021
I learned that technique from Jacque Pepin while taking a class he gave in NY many years ago. His way seems so smart when you think about it. And its quick.
The video with the drill reminds me of an old Canadian comedy show called "Red Green" he always used his drill for unusual things like cranking the windows on his truck when they broke. I bet he would peel fruit if given the chance. Look up the old videos on youtube.
 
Julie August 30, 2021
You're not doing it right. Watch the video within your video. He's got the apple resting on the table. It looks like he's also got his peeling hand resting on the table. These both give you more stability than peeling into midair.
 
Marybl August 21, 2021
My husband and I just watched the video and laughed throughout. Comedians couldn’t have done a better job with the facial expressions. Well done! I’m beating my husband will be itching to try it. 🤩
 
SallyHuebscher August 20, 2021
The Electric "Rotato" does apples, pears, potatoes in seconds with less mess. But it's not as exciting!
 
caramelqueen August 20, 2021
Well this certainly intrigues me. It would be very useful for an apple that you want to keep in one piece. Maybe I can take it out to the horse barn and peel on site, though it may frighten the horses at first. If you don't mind thin spiral slices, the apple peeler/corer/slicers that you see in catalogs (and sometimes at Cracker Barrel) actually work--but it takes me at least 5 seconds.
 
Elaine S. October 9, 2015
My husband has rigged up a salad drier to use with his electric drill. It spins incredibly fast, and every lettuce leaf is bone dry!
 
Vincent V. October 4, 2015
I wonder if you used a small spade bit, if it would be safer with less risk of apple slippage
 
patricia G. October 3, 2015
cucumbers and zucchini are members of the family Cucurbitaceae. Potatoes and tomatoes are nightshades (solanaceae family.)
 
Author Comment
Leslie S. October 3, 2015
That is correct!
 
Dot D. September 28, 2015
I love her faces as she tries different fruits and veggies! Not sure it's worth cleaning a drill adequately enough to use for this, though...I'll stick with my peeler and my spiralizer for fun in the kitchen! :)
 
Erma September 25, 2015
How is the sliced, peeled apple preserved in the jar in the cover photo?
 
Carmen L. September 25, 2015
https://food52.com/blog/8428-quick-pickled-apples
 
Erma September 25, 2015
Thank you very kindly.
 
Author Comment
Leslie S. September 25, 2015
And if you're ever wondering what the recipe to a photo is, click on the photo and it'll bring you straight there!
 
RobR September 23, 2015
I keep a drill in my kitchen just to grind my coffee. See
https://youtu.be/rWCT9OZioCY
 
Cynthia C. September 23, 2015
Omg this just made my day.
 
KB September 22, 2015
Well, it does seem easier than usual. I WILL NOT use any non-food tool for food that I actually eat. The drill is not FOOD-SAFE - if you care.
 
Nacho J. October 6, 2015
HAHAHAHA.