A mandoline isn’t an essential kitchen tool, but for dishes that require a lot of slicing, or very consistent slices, it’s faster and more exacting than a knife. It can also be more inspiring. How else can you make crinkle-cut potatoes or get paper-thin slices of cucumbers or radishes for a salad?
Until recently, the choices in mandolines have fallen into one of two extremes: those intimidating professional-style models that cost around $175, or inexpensive, plastic slicers, often with inadequate safety guards and no legs for stability. The new Oxo Good Grips mandoline falls neatly in between, with an exceptionally smart, sturdy, and safe design and a modest price tag.
An innovative dial lets you adjust the thickness of the slice from paper thin to 1/4-inch thick, as well as the slice style, which includes julienne, french-fry, crinkle, and waffle cuts. If the blade dulls or gets nicked, it’s replaceable. Tested alongside two popular inexpensive slicers, the Oxo was noticeably more consistent and versatile. For slicing vegetables with high water content, like peppers or tomatoes, it did require a little know-how in mandoline technique (see below). Our one complaint: carrots got stuck when we tried to julienne them.
Mandoline tricks and tips
Getting the hang of using a mandoline takes some practice, but these suggestions will give you a good head start.
• Set the mandoline lengthwise in front of you so that you’re pushing forward, not sideways.
• Use a sweeping motion from the top to the bottom of the “runway.”
• Keep the pressure constant. Don’t bear down or let up midway as the food hits the blade.
• For blades that are oriented to hit the food straight on (like Oxo’s) rather than on an angle, use a gentle back-and-forth sawing motion to slice high-moisture foods that are apt to squish, compress, or collapse under pressure, such as tomatoes, citrus, kiwi, eggplant, and bell peppers.
• For thin or thick julienne, the less mass that has to pass through the blades, the less wedged in (and stuck) the food is likely to get. For example, choose small to medium potatoes for french fries.
• Very dense vegetables, such as winter squash and sweet potatoes, can be difficult to slice, especially into julienne or frenchfry cuts. Use your chef’s knife on these vegetables instead.
• Lightly grease the runway with cooking spray if it feels sticky.
• For round fruits or vegetables, such as potatoes, oranges, or beets, use a knife to cut off a portion to make a flat edge or, if necessary, cut in half and then slice them cut side down.
A mandoline comes in handy when making…
• an apple tart
• caramelized onions
• cucumber salad
• eggplant Parmesan
• french fries
• potato gratin
• julienned (matchstick) vegetables for salads or stirfries
• paper-thin slices of carrots, cucumbers, onion, fennel, or melon for salads or hors d’oeuvres
• perfect planks of zucchini for grilling
• onion rings
• crinkle-cut roasted potatoes
• crinkle-cut pickled vegetables