Ask any bartender how to cut a citrus twist and most will probably tell you to use a Y-peeler. The simple, inexpensive tool is ubiquitous behind busy bars because it makes it easy to get a thin layer of lemon, lime, or orange peel for a cocktail garnish. Unfortunately, it’s just as good at taking off a layer of skin.
“I’ve watched so many bartenders cut off part of their finger with those peelers,” award-winning Portland mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler told me. “One got such a bad cut that she started putting a cut-resistant glove on her hand every time she made a citrus peel for a drink—and it takes a lot of time to get that glove on!”
Morgenthaler is a seasoned pro; he’s written two cocktailbooks, developed world-renowned bar programs, and is often hired to lead service staff trainings. But even with all of that knowledge and experience, he’s had his own fair share of Y-peeler injuries, including one that sent him to the hospital. “I’ve lost half of my fingertips, for sure,” he says.
Still, when a bartender recommended that Morgenthaler try a Boska cheese slicer in place of a Y-peeler, he was skeptical. “I thought, Well, you can’t do that. You can’t peel citrus with a cheese slicer. That’s ridiculous,” he says. Once he tried it for himself—“I had to!”—he quickly changed his tune. “It’s so much safer and actually makes a better twist. It’s just kind of a better tool, honestly.”
He explained that the top of the slicer, which is meant to be used like a spatula when serving cheese, works like a guard and protects the hand holding the fruit. “It feels so much safer and the chances of it cutting you are so much lower,” Morgenthaler says. “But you still need to have decent technique.”
“Decent” is exactly how I’d describe my own technique, and after talking with him, I had to try this method for myself. I ordered the Boska Cheese Slicer along with a brand-new Oxo Good Grips Y-Peeler to ensure I was working with sharp blades on both (but also because I’m so afraid of losing a finger or knuckle to the Y-peeler that I’ve always used a paring knife to peel citrus).
I started with the cheese slicer, which moved smoothly over an orange and produced a beautiful twist with nicely rounded ends and just enough thickness to hold a little curl after I twisted it. The twist I made with the Y-peeler was too thin and floppy to hold a curl. I considered applying more pressure in hopes of getting a thicker peel with the Y-peeler but decided against it because I’m low on Band-Aids.
I’m now completely sold on using a cheese slicer to peel citrus, and I’m far from the only one. Since Morgenthaler posted about his new favorite citrus peeler late last year, he’s learned of countless bartenders who’ve made the switch.
“I’ve heard from so many people that it’s become the standard issue peeler in bars around the world,” Morgenthaler says. “It’s a great thing and in such a bartender style, it was born out of necessity. This guy was working in a wine bar and probably couldn’t find his citrus peeler one day and just tried the cheese slicer.”