Are you comfortable peeling with the knife blade aimed toward you? I can't bring myself to even try that, but it does seem a more exact technique.
There are many cooking schools that offer courses in knife use. Perhaps find one in order to increase you knife confidence and learn new skills too.Remember, a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one.
I'm gonna agree with Bigpan's reply. You didn't mention what you are peeling!Some items work better peeling away from some, some towards you, and some, pineapple, for example, neither!The quick answer, and in agreement with Bigpan, is getting comfortable with the knives/peelers. If you comfortable with you knife (it's really only an extension of your arm) there shouldn't be any issue. Don't use a 10" Chef's knife to peel an apple.
Invest in a vegetable peeler! They are safe to use & are fabulous for peeling hard vegetables like raw potaoes & carrots, & also for soft vegetables like tomatoes, to peel the skin. I also use my vegetable peeler to thinly slice zucchini (courgette), & cheese such as parmesam (parmigiano) for recipes that ask for shaved cheese. It's a great versatile tool, that is inexpensive to buy at your local supermarket, or you can spend a little bit more at a department store or kitchenware shop for one that will last you longer. I bought mine at a department store for about $10 (australian) and have had it for almost 10 years. Definitely a worthwhile buy!
A peeler is an inexpensive but incredible addition to your kitchen arsenal! Not only can I zip through a bunch of carrots in a breeze (saving my fingers while I'm at it- I've peeled winter squash with my peeler too!) I can make ribbons of cucumbers (which I then slice length wise to make "noodles" to go with a peanut based sauce in the summer), I can shave bits of hard cheese for my pastas, take the rind off a Meyer Lemon etc etc etc... all with my fingers safely intact!!
Unless you are a "knife whiz," peeling in any direction with a knife can be dangerous. There are many choices of peelers available, and I recommend getting a couple of different models and deciding which works best for what.
Thank you, June, for noting that my question was really about the direction to go. Whether using a peeler or a sharp paring knife, do you face the blade toward you and peel up, or do you face the blade away from you and peel down? Are you confident when peeling a tomato, that your thumb is the ultimate stopper? BTW, I asked the original question while watching Pepin go to town hulling strawberries.
I am comfortable with the blade coming towards me when my thumb is not placed in its path and when I am not peeling something extremely hard that might cause a sudden, swift misdirected stroke. I just peeled raw carrots for lunch using a swivel-blade peeler, scraping AWAY from my supporting hand because the method speeds up a task that would prove more time-consuming otherwise. See the type with red handle pictured above for swivel-blade; my model from Progressive is shaped more like a knife with a thick, comfortable handle, but I highly recommend Kelly's, too. Peelers with fixed, immobile blades won't give you the same versatility or speed--I find--but let your personal preference guide you. Couple more things: 1) I don't advise peeling ripe, raw tomatoes when they are in season locally. I seem to recall that someone at Food52 offered a step-by-step guide to hastening the process by cutting a shallow X into the skin opposite the stem, plunging the X-ed fruit into boiling water briefly and then slipping off the skins with your fingers after retrieving them from an ice bath. (Go crazy with a blade on hard, green tomatoes by all means.) 2) Hulling is different. You are working in a circular fashion, ideally, with a very delicate, soft fruit. You could perform the task with a butter knife if necessary and what you want to do is tuck the digits of the supporting hand away from the blade's trajectory. Same when you peel. 3) Gods are different from mere mortals even though we are made in their image. Pepin is a god and he's been hulling and peeling for years.
Thanks, Eliz. (good code name) for you keen reply. Going right to your point 3, I've seen the man denude a tomato with an inappropriate knife into roses. I want to do that too. His autobio is a great read!
hi bug, other 52ers have made great suggestions re peelers etc.
I also have some different angles to consider.(I was a professional chef for 30 yrs and taught alot of staff in those years!) Knives: When I am peeling an onion,I score it top to bottom, as i turn it with my left hand, into about 5 'sections' of the papery skin.Then i grasp the skin of a section and peel it back towards myself. The knife that is fantastic for this is a very inexpensive 8" serrated knife w/ a plastic handle(red or black), often sold in cooking stores as a 'steak knife' or a 'tomato knife'. What is great about the serrated edge is that it grasps the skin. It also works for scraping skin off celery or carrots.While it certainly is sharp, it is not as demanding as a knife that must be continually honed and sharpened. Also can't hurt you as badly as a sharp paring knife.)
The iconoclastic thing i'd also like to propose is that a lot of veggies and fruit- don't NEED peeling. In fact, their skin is where their nutrients are concentrated! I never peel tomatoes , potatoes, carrots, summer squash, eggplant,apples, asparagus...... Now the 'peel or not peel' debate will prob go on forever, but i urge you to try not peeling some things, and see what you think!
Hi right back, fine palate. I'll give your onion dissection a go, but I agree immediately about the don't peel thing, even if it takes twice as long scrubbing the skins clean. I'm all with that.
Hey you didn't say--did you teach paring toward or away from yourself?
I find there's much better control peeling towards. I've cut myself more often in the other direction.
As for peelers, I have a strong preference for the y-shape over the straight one, but I think that's because it's what I grew up on.