What is a mandoline?

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To a chef, a mandoline is not a musical instrument (“mandolin”), but instead a bladed device used for slicing things thinly and evenly (primarily produce).  Using a mandoline involves pressing the item to be cut against the back of the mandoline (made of metal or plastic) and drawing it down, while maintaining pressure, across an adjustable blade.  Used properly, mandolines can rapidly and accurately produce thin or thick slices of produce, often at precise thicknesses difficult for a home chef to consistently slice by hand.  They’re great for making everything from carrot coins to homemade chips from heirloom potatoes (taro, lotus & potato chips recipe).

There are two mandoline designs in common use:

V-Slicer or Japanese Mandoline

A lot of chefs prefer Japanese style or v-slicer mandolines to traditional mandolines because they are very simple, very light, and usually very affordable.  A v-slicer is usually a plastic board with an adjustable v-shaped bladed slit in the top, although versions with an angled, straight blade exist (often called mandolines or Japanese mandolines).

Traditional Mandoline

Traditional mandolines are more versatile than v-slicers, but they are also more complicated in their construction (more parts to clean, take apart/put back together, and potentially lose) and significantly more expensive.  Their blades are straight rather than v-shaped, and often have two sides that can be used (one straight, one wavy for ridged cuts and waffle cut fries).   Some traditional mandolines also have vertical blades that can be attached and adjusted for cutting strips (like batonnet or julienne) as well as slices.

An Important Note About Mandoline Safety

Mandolines and v-slicers come with hand guards.  They are not for show.  Though you may see chefs in restaurants (and occasionally even on TV) use them without hand guards, this isn’t really a good idea.  Mandolines, because of the force involved, the slipperiness of washed and peeled produce, and the angle and sharpness of the blades, can be extremely dangerous if not used properly.  If you simply cannot stand using the hand guard, we recommend you at least wear a kevlar “cut-proof” glove.

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