Want to know the secret prep tool that will help you churn out restaurant-quality dishes in the comfort of your home kitchen?It’s a mandolin, my friends. Not only will it help you create more impressive meals, but it might also shave (pun intended) down some of your ingredient prep time. Whether you’re down about your knife skills or just looking for a tool that will switch up how you prepare your ingredients, this snazzy (and underrated, if I do say so myself) device is exactly what you need in your life.
Mandolins have a reputation for being a tool that is only used by professional chefs. I get it, I get it. That sharp blade is no joke and can definitely be intimidating, especially for somebody who may not feel completely confident with their own knife skills. If you are concerned about losing a limb, I’ll offer you the same advice that Hilary Duff offered me in the 2004 classic, “A Cinderella Story.” Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game! Wear the protective glove (so you don’t have to worry about any potential crime scene scenarios on your cutting board) and go slowly to start. You’ll get the hang of it in no time, and you will end up with just as many limbs as you started with.
The most common use for a mandolin is thinly, and consistently, slicing produce. Ever wonder how to get a potato gratin with completely uniform cuts on all the ‘taters? Or how to create a beautiful raw salad or slaw with dainty, thin slices of fennel, radishes, celery, and apples? You’re going to spend a lot of time and elbow grease trying to achieve those thin slices with your chef’s knife. Plus, if your knife blade isn’t its sharpest, then you might as well not even bother. In other words, get a mandolin—you’re worth it.
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What you may not realize about a mandolin is that it’s also great for so many other types of cuts besides thin slices. The day that we broke out the crinkle-cut blade in culinary school and made waffle fries was one of the best of my life. Mandolins also have a julienne blade that’s great for creating thin and uniform matchsticks out of carrots, cucumbers, beets, zucchini, and so much more. I am a huge believer in short cuts (how do you think I ran under a 10-minute mile as a plump 5th grader?), and whipping out the mandolin to help me with ingredient prep is one of my favorite time savers.
Okay, now that my convincing sales tactics have persuaded you that you need a mandolin slicer ASAP, you’re probably wondering which one to buy. Not all mandolins are created equal, so this is a valid inquiry. My go-to mandolin is this Benriner slicer because the Japanese blade is super sharp, and there are four interchangeable blades, depending on the cut that I’m going for. The double blade allows for slicing in both directions (#efficiency), which means it’s perfect for a chef like me who’s on a tight schedule (JK, I do nothing all day). It also comes with a built-in safety guard. I’m not going to make a suggestive joke here about using protection, but it’s always a good idea. Plus, aesthetic matters in my kitchen and this color is to die for.
A lot of mandolins on the market offer a kickstand feature, but I think you have more control over what you’re slicing when you hold the slicer at an angle with your non-dominant hand rather than relying on the propped up kickstand. Ultimately, that comes down to your personal preference, so if you want a kickstand, I’d suggest this one. Either way, you’re going to be whipping up some fancy dishes with your sparkly new tool in no time. Hilary Duff would be so proud.