Mandolines aren’t typically part of the basic home kitchen. And by that I don’t mean that you won’t find small string instruments next to the stove. I’m talking about that fantastic little contraption that shaves off paper-thin slices of whatever you push across its surface: the mandoline slicer.
Once you’ve used a mandoline, it’s hard to imagine thin slicing any other way. It just produces such a beautiful, uniform, and incredibly thin cut so easily that even the most steady-handed, skilled knife-wielder would have a hell of a time matching it.
That makes the mandoline perfect for slicing potato, yucca, or other roots for making chips. It’s also a great way to prepare salad veggies and very handy in raw cuisine, which often layers and rolls thin-shaved strips of zucchini or beet like colorful noodles.
A higher-end mandoline will run you around $65, although this one only comes with one blade (and adjustable heights or thicknesses). The one I’ve seen and used most often, and that I’ve often heard praised by home cooks, is the Benriner Japanese model. Simple, lightweight and plastic, it’s a good deal cheaper at $20 and comes with four blades of various shapes for julienning and coarser slicing.
I’d recommend sticking to countertop, but there are several cheap, handheld models available, as well.
To get a nice, even cut, you’ve really got to get your ingredients pressed right up close to the blade, so it’s important to use the finger guard when slicing with a mandoline. They vary a bit in size and shape, but every model will come with this little safeguard, which you use to hold your veggie in place as you slice—and keep your fingers from kissing the sharp edge.
There’s a great post on Fancy Toast with more mandoline tips and tidbits. Read up before you get to slicing!