Test Kitchen tips: The mandoline
Basically nothing more than a flat tool fitted with an angled adjustable blade, the mandoline is one of the few gadgets and gizmos that is actually worth making space for in the kitchen. Mandolines save time. The compact slicer makes fast work of often time-consuming cuts, slicing through firm vegetables and fruits quickly and easily. Fit it with special attachments for fancy work like a julienne or waffle cut.
A mandoline is easy to operate -- simply slide the food along the flat surface and past the blade to make clean, uniform cuts. The non-electric tool works on elbow grease -- the faster you slide, the faster it slices. But be careful when using it -- one careless move and you may slice your fingers or hand on the amazingly sharp blade. Mandolines usually come with some sort of guide or carriage to hold the food -- while these guides may be a bit awkward to operate, they'll help to shield your hands from the blade as the food is sliced.
Mandolines can vary widely in price -- a traditional stainless steel mandoline can set you back hundreds of dollars. Cheaper versions, like the Benriner one above, will cost you around $25. It may not have all the bells and whistles of one of the more expensive models, but it can still save you a lot of time in the kitchen.
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-- Noelle Carter
Photo: Benriner mandoline. Credit: Los Angeles Times