Yesterday we talked about shredding, a simple prep step that can add a lot of variety and texture to your dish. For those of you ready to get your shred on at home, this run-down of tools will help you get started.
While there are some great gadgets out there that make shredding quick and easy, you can also get it done with a few basic tools you’ve probably already got on hand.
Simplest and least fancy is the chef’s knife—a super(duper)-fine julienne is like a coarse shred, and while it’ll take you a while and provide a nice little wrist workout, it works just fine when you don’t have any other options.
This is how my girl Jessica and her aunt shredded the carrot and daikon for their Goi Ngo Sen—very patiently. When she taught me how make it last week, she recommended setting aside two days to account for all the prep we’d have to do. But then I pulled out my Cuisinart.
Jess had never worked with a food processor, and she was really wowed by how much time we saved. “My aunt has one of these things, she just doesn’t know how to use it!” she said. We had all of our veggies shredded super-fine in just a few minutes (though, with a food processor, this is usually referred to as “grating”). We were able to get the pieces so thin, in fact, that the salad didn’t need to marinate overnight as it usually does.
If you’ve got a food processor and haven’t busted out the shredding/grating and slicing blades, you’re in for a treat. If it’s a Cuisinart, just connect the funny-shaped beige piece to the bottom of one of the circular blades (it slides in and locks) and attach the whole thing to your machine. If it’s another make, you’ll have to look up the specifics—just don’t let these miracle attachments go unused! They’re a huge boost when it’s prep time.
You can also buy a standalone electric slicer/shredder or a manual push-down chopper each for around $30, and while that could very well be a good option for your needs, my personal take would be that putting that $30 aside and saving up for more durable, multi-use tool like a food processor would be the wiser move.
If you don’t have any of these contraptions and are weary of all that meticulous slicing, here are another couple of shredding tools you might find useful, depending on the density of your ingredient(s):
- A cheese grater works great for shredding soft and hard foodstuffs, and usually offers a few different levels of coarseness to choose from. You’ll have to apply a good deal of pressure and work those arm muscles to shred stuff like coconut or pumpkin, but it’ll do the trick. Something like lettuce or cabbage might be harder to pull off.
- Zesters also work on a range of stuff, but, tailored as they are, only work for fine grating. They’ll work great for small shreds of cheese or chocolate, but aren’t your best bet for a shredded salad or coleslaw.
- No other options? Reach for your mandolin or veggie peeler. You’ll need to augment with some chopping to really get down to a nice shred, but these little guys will give you a great head start.