How to Peel Almost Anything

The great English cook Prue Leith once famously remarked "life's too short to stuff a mushroom". I feel pretty much the same way about peeling a grape.

However there may come a time when you want to do such a thing and it's handy to have a simple method standing by. Not that peeling a grape is all that difficult, just tedious. You simply do it.

The same cannot be said of such things as peaches, apricots and even small pickling onions. The trick in each case is to use hot water.

With just about all thin skinned fruit, including tomatoes, you simply make a cross shaped nick in the skin, put them in a bowl and cover them with a very hot water for about 30 seconds. This cooks the skin and makes it very easy to remove.

You can do the same thing with baby onions, but you may need to leave them in the water a bit longer. That's not a problem because there is no real danger of cooking the onion owing to the toughness of the skin. That's not the case with most soft fruit so be careful not to leave them in the water for too long.

Melons, pineapples, grapefruit etc

These require a different technique and one that involves using a knife. It follows, therefore, that the knife needs to be very sharp.

The technique in itself is very simple but does require a little practice.

Start by cutting the top and bottom off the fruit. Then the place it on a flat surface so that it is standing upright and using your favorite knife cut vertical slices of skin away, keeping the blade as close to the contour of the fruit as possible.

Using this method you will find it very easy, for example, to remove the segments from peeled fruit such as oranges and grapefruit. You simply slip a small bladed knife between the pieces of flesh and the membranes that separate them.

In this way you can quickly and easily prepare a fruit salad for example, a salsa or your favorite tomato sauce. In fact the possibilities are endless.

Speaking of tomatoes, once you have peeled them, you might as well go the whole hog and remove the seeds as well.

Why would you do this? Because the seeds are inedible anyway and the pulp they are in introduces a lot of water into anything they are added to. Anyway, who wants to get a tomato seed stuck in their teeth?

Did you know, by the way that tomato seeds are not only inedible, they are virtually indestructible? So much so that a number of coastal currents have been traced by tracking the progress of these little wonders once they escaped from the water treatment plant.

So why bother to eat something that neither you, the sewage plant, nor the sea can digest?

Vegetables in general

Why bother to peel them at all?

The main reason, I suppose, is for the sake of appearance. There is a tendency to believe that vegetables without their skins look better than those with their clothes on.

In the case of carrots, I would have to agree. The skin, especially in older carrots, tends to go a gray color when cooked. It also shrinks and distorts the shape of the vegetable.

But in most cases I can see no really good reason for going to all that trouble. Simply wash the vegetables thoroughly, using a small nail brush you keep for that purpose, and then cook them in any way you wish.

One added bonus for doing this is that you retain more of the nutrients of the vegetable, a large proportion of which are in the skin. Of course, if you prefer to add the vegetable skins to your compost heap, you will get nice fat, juicy, healthy worms instead!

No doubt the magpies (or whatever carnivorous birds you have in your area) will be very grateful.


If you intend to eat the cloves either whole or as a paste, there is no need to peel them at all until after they are cooked, when the pulp will easily squeeze out of the skins like toothpaste from a tube.

Peeling a raw clove is just as easy, once you know how. I learnt this trick from a kitchen hand, by the way, whose main job was to clean cooking pots, scrub mussels and peel garlic!

Simply put the clove of garlic on to a flat surface and press down on it with your thumb. It will 'give' slightly and the paper-like skin will fall away in your hand.


If you are an American (or Paul Hogan) you call these mighty wonders 'shrimp'. If you are British, 'shrimp' will mean a tiny crustacean of the same species. There is no greater bond than the language which divides us.

Have you ever wondered how a restaurant manages to serve peeled prawns with the head still on? Like this, of course:

Hold the head in one hand and the tail in the other. Straighten the prawn out as much as you are able, push the head and tail firmly towards each other so that you are compressing the fish a bit like a concertina.

Pull apart and the shell should separate from the rest. Learn to laugh at your failures :)

Wash your fruit and vegetables

This is so important that I'm going to say it again: wash your fruit and vegetables.

Do this, even if you intend to peel them. If there is any contamination, either through chemicals or soil dwelling bacteria, now is the time to get rid of it. You really do not want to get it either on your hands or your chopping board.

And while I am on this subject, a favorite hobby horse of mine, be careful not to chop up your peeled fruit or vegetables on a surface where unwashed items have been kept. You risk cross contamination if you do and I promise you that your family and guests will not thank you for it.

You will find a lot more details about cross contamination and how to avoid it in my free ebook, "Hygiene In The Kitchen".

Remember that chemical contamination has a cumulative effect which may take some time to reveal itself as the toxins build up. Why take the chance? Wash your fruit and vegetables before use.

And at least rinse your hands between handling unwashed veggies and any other kind of food. You'll make a lot of enemies that way, but they'll all be bacteria who never really thought that much of you in the first place!

Copyright © Tingira Publishing 2004 All Rights Reserved

Michael Sheridan is an acknowledged authority and published writer on cooking matters. His website at contains a wealth of information, hints, tips and recipes for busy home cooks.

The Art of the Marinade

It's a sad fact that these days it has become almost essential to marinade most... Read More

Keeping and Wasps and Flies Away from your Barbecue

It is one of life's oddities that we take a lot of trouble refrigerating meat,... Read More

Troubleshooting Cookies

If your cookies are too tough . . . You may have used too much... Read More

How to Peel Almost Anything

The great English cook Prue Leith once famously remarked "life's too short to stuff a... Read More

50% Less Cooking

50% Less Cookingwithout hitting the fast food button! Don't you just cringe when some clever... Read More

Peppercorns & Ways To Use Them

New and exciting varieties of peppercorns are becoming available to chefs everywhere. Pre-ground pepper out... Read More

Compact Refrigerators Are Great When Small Is Needed

The small refrigerator can be used in many places that a regular size fridge would... Read More

Foods That Freeze Well

"Can I freeze it?" is a question often asked in our homes, and for good... Read More

Fruit Cake

Are you the fruit cake in your family? Before you raise your eyebrow, I would... Read More

Substitutions for Commonly Called for Ingredients

What should you do if you are in the middle of a recipe and realize... Read More

What is a Serving Size?

Have you ever wondered how much a serving really is. Well, pull out your box... Read More

All About Baking: Quick Breads

The Versatile Quick BreadIt's no wonder quick breads are so popular. They are easy, fast-as... Read More

Low-Budget Meals In a Minute

Ever go home and look in the fridge only to find it sadly, echoingly empty?... Read More

How to Cook Rice Right

The easiest way to make rice well every time is to use a rice cooker.... Read More

Must Haves for Any At-Home Chef

With the holidays on their way soon, many people will be beefing up kitchens to... Read More

Pyrex Mixing Bowls ? A Kitchen Favorite

Pyrex mixing bowls typically come in sets of 3 with a small, medium and large... Read More

Bread in the Woods

We really like fresh bread while we're camping. There is something about bread products that... Read More

Grilling Vs. Barbecue

Grilling and Barbecuing, two of the most popular cooking methods in the U.S., especially in... Read More

Cookware ? Whats In It?

Have you ever wanted to buy new cookware but didn't know what kind to buy?... Read More

Cooking With Kids--Safely!

School's out! And summer is a good time to introduce your child to chores in... Read More

Storing Fats and Oils

The human body requires the intake of six types of substances for survival: Fats, carbohydrates,... Read More

Rice Cookers - Perfect Rice Every Time

Love fluffy cooked rice but dislike the preparation time and clean up? Then rice cookers... Read More

Alone In the Kitchen: Stirring Up Mindfulness

Put on your apron! It's time to stir up a batch of mindfulness.Julia Child, the... Read More

Caring For Your Wooden Cutting Board

Researchers have found that bacteria have a tougher time surviving on wood cutting boards. However,... Read More

Christmas Cookie Decorating 101

Many bakers ask for tips and instructions on decorating cookies. Well that's a tall order... Read More

Microwave Ovens and the Healthfulness of Microwaved Food

Microwave ovens do have benefits. They are certainly convenient. They are more energy-efficient than other... Read More

Old-Fashioned Taffy Pull Party--How to Host Your Own

Want a unique party idea for your child's birthday-or even her next weekend sleepover with... Read More

Why do We Need to Knead?

Bread dough needs to be elastic in order to capture the gases created by the... Read More

Digital Kitchen Timers ? Never Burn Another Dish

Digital kitchen timers come in many shapes and sizes. Timers are an indispensable tool in... Read More

Barbecue Success With The Rule Of Thirds

Ever been to a barbecue party where the 'chef' placed as much food as he... Read More

What You Need in a Gourmet Kitchen

The best way to decide what you need in your kitchen is to first decide... Read More

The Best-Kept Secrets of Beef Revealed! Get Ready to Become the Meat Expert in Your Family!

Do you helplessly stand at the meat counter looking from package to package, not knowing... Read More

Troubleshooting Machine Bread

Bread machines-wonderful inventions that they are-don't think very well. You and I, when we have... Read More

Baking Bread in a Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens were made for baking. In the hands of a practiced baker, a Dutch... Read More

Fine Tuning Bread Machine Mixes

Sometimes bread machines can be tricky. We were trying to help a customer whose bread... Read More

Whisk Your Way To a Perfect Meal Every Time!

The whisk. A true versatile cooking utensil. Whisks come in all shapes and sizes and... Read More

10 Simple Kitchen Organizing Tips

A lot of the times we mean to get in there and finally organize the... Read More

Unique Cake Decorating With Flowers

Flowers as a Cake Decoration, unique and easy to place on every one of your... Read More

Understanding Baking: How Yeast Works

Did you ever wonder why flour tastes like sawdust but a French or Italian bread... Read More

Two for One Dinners: Ham

If you find leftovers boring, uninviting or downright "yuck," then here are some ideas to... Read More

6 Steps to Grill the Perfect Steak

There's nothing better than a nicely grilled juicy steak.But how come I can't duplicate that... Read More

Buying, Storing, and Preparing Apples

When buying apples, look for those that are firm and brightly colored. Shiny red for... Read More

Cake Pans

Cake pans?.the secret behind every successful cake. My husband tells me that if I am... Read More

Picture Perfect Bread

The secret-at least most of it-is in the rise. The most common mistake that we... Read More

Do you own an AGA or RAYBURN cooker ?

The Cooker-rail....This is a novel way of increasing the drying area for people who like... Read More

Emergency Bread: Can you Bake Bread Without an Oven?

What would you eat if you were stranded without power? It could happen; it does... Read More

Perfect Picnics - Frugal Food Safety Tips

Summer is finally here and for a lot of us that means heading out to... Read More

How to Make a Cajun Roux

The process of preparing Cajun food is in no way hurried and involves a layering... Read More

Digital Thermometers

Types of digital thermometers & their culinary uses.Thermocouple:Of all food thermometers, thermocouple thermometers reach and... Read More

Baking Bread and Your Freezer

There's a lot of bread in our freezer. In our exuberance, we often bake more... Read More