When using a knife, slicing vegetables thinly and evenly can be a challenge as well as time consuming. A mandoline, however, makes the process easier and quicker, offering uniformity and speed when slicing, as well as shredding and grating, fruits and vegetables. Mandolines have a flat surface with a razor-sharp blade that can be adjusted to cut thicker and thinner slices and range from simple models to those with a selection of attachments. It is this very sharp blade, though, that means you need to follow some safety measures.
Types of Mandolines
Depending on your needs and how much you want to spend, there are many fine mandolines on the market, from heavy metal adjustable French constructions to smaller, lighter, and much cheaper single-slice plastic options. The simplest models don't adjust for slicing size; they have one setting that slices very thinly. High-end mandolines will have adjustable settings to create paper-thin to slightly thicker slices, and come with attachments to make julienne cuts or shreds, wavy cuts, and even waffle cuts.
When to Use a Mandoline
A mandoline is typically used when making dishes that require uniformly sliced vegetables, such as a potato gratin or homemade potato chips. But it is also used to make french fries, vegetable slaws, and shredded or shaved vegetable dishes, like a Brussels sprout salad. This tool also comes in handy when you're short on time and need a generous amount of fruit or vegetable cut quickly.
Mandolines are so good at slicing because they have such a sharp surface, and extreme caution should always be observed when using any mandoline. Most models come with some type of holder to keep your hand away from the blade. Instead of having your hand directly on the vegetable while pushing it back and forth, the vegetable sits underneath a finger guard to keep hands away from the very sharp blade. The safest models will also have a nonslip base and will sit securely over a bowl.
When using mandolines without a handguard, many professional cooks choose to wear metal mesh gloves to protect their fingers and hands.
There are several brands of mandolines and what is best for you will be based on your preferences and price range. Before making a decision, you might want to consider the features of the OXO mandoline slicer. It's as strong and durable as the old-school metal French mandolines. The thickness of the cut is easily and safely adjustable with a knob to move the super-sharp blade up and down, and that same knob simply flips up the different julienne blades (unlike more traditional models that require you to actually lift out and change the blades, risking fingers every time). Plus, the stand folds down for easy storage, the handle to hold food for safe slicing works with pretty much anything you'd want to slice, and the mandoline cleans up with ease.