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I've bought two mandolines recently and I've returned the first and will return the second. The first was a stainless steel contraption that:

  • Broke my food instead of slicing it.
  • Was ever so hard to clean. At first I thought this was because the blade was perpendicular to the food and so wouldn't slice it correctly. But on closer examination, it was because the food would bump against the plastic casing of the knife.

The second mandoline has a V-shaped knife. The blades are not adjustable. My issues with this apparatus are:

  • The smallest blade will not cut straw potatoes.
  • The next blade will cut French fries but won't cut through so I have to waste time loosening the cuts.
  • On cleaning, the V-shaped knife will cut a slice of the sponge and it will stick there, and I don't want to find sponge in my next batch of cuts.

So, for my next mandoline, I'll be looking for a mandoline that's:

  1. Easy to clean.
  2. Has adjustable blades.
  3. Made of dishwasher-proof plastic (as opposed to stainless steel?).
  4. Safe.
  5. Durable.
  6. Economical in a sense that you don't end up with leftover cuts.
  7. Extractable blades so they can be sharpened.
  8. Size, I just got the Benriner and I should have bought the super. Three sizes, small = too small, medium (super) is good I hope.
  9. ...

What else should I be looking for?

Edit: Economical. The current mandoline doesn't cut the last slice so I end up throwing pieces of food away (recycle for other dishes, really).

Edit (update): Thanks for all the input. As only one answer can be accepted, I've accepted the Benriner, I bought it. Too small for me. I'll have to buy another one. :)

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I sliced the end of my finger off with my mandolin slicer. You can have it. –  Mark McDonald Jun 6 '11 at 8:32
    
Safety, that sure is a good thing to look for... –  BaffledCook Jun 6 '11 at 8:38
    
All mandolins will slice the sponge you clean them with if you do it wrong. The idea is to only wipe from one direction, i.e. the one that stops the blade cutting the sponge. –  ElendilTheTall Jun 6 '11 at 12:55
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@c4h5as: Ha! My answer was going to be "Your thumb." I took a huge chunk out of mine the first time I used one. Buy some kevlar gardening gloves, and never worry about hacking off fingers again. That annoying plastic hockey puck is worthless. –  Satanicpuppy Jun 6 '11 at 18:22
2  
A good mandolin should make pretty music. A good mandoline juliennes and thin-slices things. These are not the same thing. –  BobMcGee Jun 7 '11 at 1:16

7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Every professional kitchen I've been in uses the simple Japanese Benriner brand mandolines. They are sharp, efficient, and reasonably priced. It is indeed good advice to use a kevlar glove. Microplane sells this one: Microplane 34007 Kitchen Cut-Protection Glove, which I've found works fine.

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I know a couple cooks too macho to follow "good advice." Their finger tips show it. –  BobMcGee Jun 7 '11 at 1:25
    
That looks similar to mine which works fine. Same sort of price. You don't want to spend too much since the blades can't be easily re-sharpened, and replacements are always hard to get –  TFD Jun 7 '11 at 2:29
    
I have used a Benriner once and it's a marvel. The only 'issue' is that you need a screwdriver to fasten the blade. –  BaffledCook Jun 7 '11 at 9:27
1  
@GUI Junkie - that must have been an older model; the current ones have thumbscrews for fastening the blade, no tool needed. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Jun 7 '11 at 16:26

This is a super-late answer in an attempt to summarize desirable mandoline properties.

  • Dishwasher friendly. (For what it's worth, I've found the straight blade to be easy to clean by sponge.)
  • Included hand / finger guard. The food-holder design shown here: allows you push the food down down towards the blade as the food gets thinner and thinner; which I've found to be very effective at getting the last little bit of whatever I'm slicing.
  • Sturdy construction. (We had a cheap one break and then cut the cook.) This is probably difficult to judge based on packaging bullet points, but generally stick with a known brand, and avoid the cheapest ones.
  • Easy to set depth adjustment, so you can slice as thick or thin as the situation requires. I like a dial with the thickness measurement printed on it.
  • Changeable blades for plain, crinkle or waffle cuts.
  • Removable main blade for sharpening.
  • Appropriate size - it should be large enough for your squash, without being so large that you'll never be able to put it away.
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Thanks for the well thought answer. I finally did buy the Super Benriner last month! –  BaffledCook Jan 4 '13 at 9:48
    
@BaffledCook how has it performed for you? –  wootscootinboogie Mar 21 at 13:00
    
@wootscootinboogie it performs great, but I stopped using the "dicing" blades. They tear through the food instead of slicing. The adjustment scale is lacking, so it's eyeballing. –  BaffledCook Mar 21 at 13:14

The Benriner is really the only one that professional chefs go for. It's a combination of fantastic Japanese build quality and a very good price. The advice to go for the wide version is good advice, but the thin one out sells it by probably hundreds to one; get both. A good knife costs hundreds these machines cost around 30 bucks. And you can easily remove the blade for sharpening but you do need to know how to sharpen properly. There usefulness is only limited by your imagination. I wouldn't ever be without mine.

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I have the 'normal' now, and I've had the Jumbo. The Jumbo was far too wide for me, and I want the 'Super' –  BaffledCook Dec 3 '11 at 22:59

The Benriner is good, but you should get the wide version. The standard one listed in the answer above isn't wide enough to handle large onions, large potatoes, most beets, and many other things that you will probably want to put through the mandoline.

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I totally agree with you and this was already on the list. –  BaffledCook Jul 21 '11 at 21:42

Consumer search has a selection of mandolins. This is my outline of their review (which also come from reviews !) so it's a meta-meta-review.

In addition to your criterion:

  • Possibility to sharpen the blades
  • Waffle cut (I like this one, it's kind of hard --I'd say impossible-- to do it without a mandolin)
  • Julienne and crinkle
  • Dishwasher-safe

However, you end up with a 180 $ mandolin !

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Waffle cut is great, how about dicing? –  BaffledCook Jun 9 '11 at 21:02
    
@BaffledCook Maybe julienne, but dicing is a three cut process, you'll have to finish with a knife. I'll add julienne though. –  Etiennebr Jun 10 '11 at 14:04

I would look for durability. I've personally gone through several mandolines that worked beautifully at first, but quickly and tragically dulled to the point of unusability. Like you mentioned, the food will simply break rather than slice, and my eggplant parmesan would be mush.

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Added to list. Thanks. –  BaffledCook Jun 7 '11 at 9:21

As a minimalist chef myself, I have to ask: is a mandolin a requirement in your kitchen? Unless you need hundreds of crinkle cut fries on a regular basis, you might find it more FUN to get great at creating mountains of your own julienned veggies with lightning-fast knife skills.*

That having been said, my non-tested research says simple japanese mandolins are the most affordable and intuitive choice (The Elements of Cooking, page 162). A specific french-style option that Cooks Illustrated recommends, after putting 8 through the rigors of the scientific method, is Oxo Good Grips (standard blade is $69.99; v-blade is $39.99).


*NOTE: Build up speed gradually. Lauren Costello and Russell Reich: To save time, avoid injuries, and do better work, don't rush. No frantic action. First master your craft, then EARN speed as the external expression of internal fluency. (Notes on Cooking, page 10). Poetic thought.

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I've got to say that I love my mandolin. It fast and everything comes out identical. I've talked to a couple of professional chefs who've said, "All I really need in a kitchen is my chef's knife and my mandolin." It surprised me to hear it, but it convinced me to get one. –  yossarian Jun 6 '11 at 15:18
    
Interesting! In your opinion is it primarily beneficial because you need high volumes of uniform food, or (regardless of amount) you want perfectly identical pieces? Which type / brand do you recommend -- based on what factors? Thanks for the input. –  Kati Jun 6 '11 at 17:15
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I think the advantages are a few. It certainly helps get a large volume uniform, however, with small quantities it helps keep everything identical for even cooking. It's also by far the easiest way to julienne veggies. You can also use it to provide a much thinner cut than I can reliably manage with a knife (think pickled ginger thin). Mine is orange and was a gift. That's not much help though... –  yossarian Jun 6 '11 at 17:57
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@GUI Junkie & Kati: Even executive chefs pull out the mandoline for scalloped potatoes and fine julienne carrots. I've seen them do it. Knife skills are wonderful, but a mandoline is several times as fast, and more consistent. If you do a lot of thin slices or juliennes, a mandoline is really the way to go. So, you're not alone in struggling with a couple really tricky cuts. Yes, you can learn to do the cuts by knife, but it really isn't worth the time doing it the hard way unless you have no choice. –  BobMcGee Jun 7 '11 at 1:22
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@bob, I don't have sushi chef knife skills, so the mandoline will have to do! –  yossarian Jun 10 '11 at 14:55

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