The Mandoline is not only a topic of a decent Bruce Hornsby song, it is also a French tool that can make life much easier in the kitchen. The professional version as I will go into here is very flexible, and well worth the investment. The Mandoline is designed to do the many things I describe below, quickly and easily. In a way it did for cooking in the early 1900’s what the Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid have done in the past 30 years. Anytime you can free up time to be creative is time well spent.
A Mandoline has basically four main functions, and from there it is just variations on a theme. It is very easy to switch between the different jobs it has to do.
- Cut Julienne cuts at various thicknesses.
- Cut Baton cuts at various thicknesses
- Cut “Crinkle” cuts at varying thickness, and this also includes a Waffle style
- Basic slices at various thicknesses
Do be careful, these blades are very sharp, no matter which model you get! Handle with care.
Basic operations are pretty straight-forward and model-specific, but I will give you an overview. Refer to the manual for the set ups you may need. The French model I use has a brace that can be folded flat. The one side I am showing in the picture is used for the Slices, Julienne and Baton, while the next blade down is used for the crinkle cuts.
I roll the blade lock lever on the side to engage the set of blades and lock them in. This controls the Baton and Julienne specifically. If I do not engage either of those blades, it will leave me with a nice slice. Great for escalloped potatoes as an example. Next you will notice there are two levers underneath the device that will raise and lower the ramp which in turn controls the thickness of all the cuts. The top one works the Julienne/Slice/Baton thickness, and the lower one controls the crinkle cuts.
Tip: To make a waffle cut, set the crinkle cutter to be about 1/8th of an inch. Then slice once, rotate your victim 90 degrees (from 12 to 3 on a clock face) and go again, every cut, you rotate and this will give you your waffle cuts. Play with thickness and you can even produce the small holes through. Works best on very firm veg like Carrots or Potaoes.
When it comes to these things, they can be dangerous to be sure, I mean, you have an exposed blade hanging out there. They will sell you a holder for it, which it sounds good, but they also leave much to be desired. Once you get comfortable with the pressure, and how to use it, you will find your own best method. In the end, NEVER let your hand slide on the “ramp” leading up to the blade, that is asking for trouble.
Invest in at least one cut-resistant glove. Notice it is cut-resistant and not cut-proof. You can still cut through it, but it at least gives you a good amount of protection. In my experience these run very large, so go at least one size down. Ladies, I have only ever seen that small and extra small fit the best. You want the fit to be snug so you can keep as much dexterity as possible.
Okay, so I know I talk about having restaurant grade equipment a lot, and I want to emphasize the age old adage that you get what you pay for. Do you need to run out and buy a $100 Mandoline? Well, no. There are plenty on the market that do the job just as well and for less. But, and there is usually a but, if it is something you are going to use once a week, is it worth buying something that is going to be with you for years to come?
The benefits of the steel are pretty apparent. They are rugged, and build for harsh wear and tear. The lighter one made of plastic and other materials are not. When you are doing potatoes, for instance, you are putting a lot of pressure on the “ramp” and if that were plastic, it could bend, warp and even crack after time. The less expensive also tend not to have the adjustability of the full scale model, if they even have it all.
Here are a few pieces of advice when it comes to buying one.
- Make sure it has a solid base and is sure-footed. You do not want one of these sliding around on you. Mine has thick rubber feel and doesn’t budge.
- You want it easy to clean. The pro model is very quick to service and I find even getting the stuck bits in the blades is not too tough.
- I would suggest NOT getting one that has removable parts, like the blades. One more thing to lose, and one more thing to care for, and yest another chance to cut yourself.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Pretty easy care on this one. Like any knife product, do not put in your dishwasher. Wash these by hand a dry as much as possible. If the joints get stiff, you can use a little mineral oil to lubricate them, but not too much.
The better ones fold flat for storage, and always raise the ramps as far as the go so there are no exposed blades when you put it away.