When I was a kid, I peeled carrots by gripping the whole thing in my hand, peeling one half, then flipping it over and peeling the other. And if you just thought to yourself “what’s wrong with that?”, you’re in the right place.
Sure, that technique will get the job done, but after peeling countless carrots in professional kitchens, I’m here to tell you that there’s a better way.
Read on to learn the best way to peel carrots that will save you time, and help you steer clear of nicked knuckles and fingertips.
First, Choose The Right Carrot
Everyone is familiar with the ubiquitous orange carrot, but they also come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors.
Think about what you’ll be using them for before choosing which one to buy or use.
Color doesn’t matter too much, just know that if you’re using purple carrots, their color can bleed into the dish and have a major impact on its appearance.
Look for carrots that are very firm and crunchy. And avoid ones that look dry, limp, or have a lot of cracks.
Long, straight, slender carrots are easier to peel and will often be more tender and sweet. Use these raw or for cooking applications.
The very large carrots that are often sold in bulk are called “horse carrots”.
Horse carrots are generally less expensive, less sweet, and often have a very tough core. Use these for feeding your horse, flavoring stocks, or in long-cooking soups and braises
Use the carrot’s top to determine its freshness.
Carrot tops are quick to wilt after harvest. So, picking carrots that have vibrant and firm tops still attached is a sure sign that the carrots are in good condition. But once you get home, be sure to remove the greens, leaving about an inch of stem intact. The tops will steal moisture from the carrot, but leaving a bit of stem can work like a handle when you peel them later on.
Do You Need To Peel Carrots In The First Place?
We peel carrots to get rid of their skin and remove any discoloration. But, it’s definitely not required. Just remember that if you’re not peeling them first, it’s important to give your carrots a more thorough cleaning.
In several of the restaurants where I’ve worked, whenever carrots were served whole, they were left unpeeled. This gives a more natural and pleasing look. But in order to do that, they had to be cleaned with the infamous green scrubby.
The scrubby will remove any dirt and a very thin layer of the skin while maintaining a natural and whole appearance with all the bumps and grooves intact. But, peeling is often faster than going through such an in-depth scrub.
You can also skip the peeler any time you’re using carrots for stock, juice, or if they will be heavily roasted or charred.
Pro Tip: Skip peeling if your carrots are bound for a stock, juice, heavy roasting or charring.
How To Peel Carrots In 4 Simple Steps
Even though we’re about to remove the outer layer of the carrot, cleaning is still essential.
If you skip cleaning and there happens to be any bacteria on the exterior of the carrot (I’m looking at you E. coli), you would be introducing the bacteria to the interior of the carrot as we peeled.
Clean your carrots by scrubbing them under cool running water. Pay special attention to the place where the carrot tops and the carrot meet, as dirt tends to collect and hide there.
Don’t Top-And-Tale: Leave the top and tail of your carrot intact until you’re done peeling. This gives you a natural “handle” to hold so you don’t end up peeling the tips of your fingers.
Peeling Carrots With A Peeler
Hold the very top of your cleaned carrot with your non-dominant hand so that it is angled towards your other hand and the bottom of the carrot is resting on your cutting board.
Now, hold the peeler in your dominant hand. Start as close to the top of the carrot as possible and make one long pass down the entire length of the carrot.
Rotate the carrot slightly and repeat until you’ve removed a single layer of skin from the entire carrot.
As for your carrot peels, tops, and tails. Save those to add to your next batch of stock. Or, turn your peels into chips by baking them with a bit of oil or tossing them in a deep fryer for a little bonus snack.
Peeling Carrots With A Knife
While I would always recommend using a vegetable peeler for both efficiency and safety, you can peel carrots with a knife if you’re in a pinch.
To do this, hold the carrot in the same way that you would when using a peeler. Then, use the spine of a kitchen knife to scrape away the skin of the carrot. Rotate the carrot until you’ve removed the skin from all sides.
Once peeled, and especially once cut, carrots will dry out faster than when they have their protective outer layer intact.
Store prepared carrots in an airtight container to help keep them from drying out. Professional kitchens have turned me into a deli container enthusiast. It’s just about the only Tupperware you’ll find in my house, and it’s a perfect choice here.
And if you’re feeling like a real overachiever, place a piece of damp (not drenched) paper towel at the top and bottom of the container to keep any prepared carrots from drying out.
If you’re storing whole, peeled carrots, wrap them in a damp towel and place them in a zip top bag.
Tools For The Job
Which one you choose largely comes down to personal preference, and my guess is that most people will go with what they grew up using. But, if you want my professional opinion, a Y-peeler is the better choice.
I find they offer more hand positions, which make it easier to use with any shape fruit or vegetable. And, being able to change hand positions makes them more comfortable if you have to use them for long periods of time.
I doubt many home cooks will be peeling cases of carrots at a time, but after doing just that, I would choose the Y-peeler every time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do You Peel Carrots Before Cooking?
You peel carrots before cooking to remove the skin which can be discolored, and slightly tougher than the interior of the carrot. Removing the skin can provide a more uniform look and texture to the carrots once they are cooked.
What Can You Do With Carrot Skins?
Carrot skins can be used in homemade stock, run through an electric juicer, baked or fried into chips, or added to a puree. And if all else fails, they make a great addition to the compost pile.
Should You Top And Tail Carrots Before Peeling?
Wait until after you peel carrots to top and tail them. Leaving the ends intact gives you an easy place to hold while you peel. This keeps your fingers safe and allows you to peel more of the carrot in one go.