It’s almost as if pearl onions don’t want to be peeled. Their tiny size and tightly wrapped skin makes handling them awkward. And if you sacrifice the more easily peeled first fleshy layer, it doesn’t leave you with much onion.
The easiest way to peel just the pearl onion’s outer skin is by blanching in boiling water. To do this, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and fill a medium bowl with ice water. Trim both ends of each onion and put them in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then transfer the onions to the ice water to stop the cooking. Once they’re cool, use a paring knife to slip off the skins.