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Is it me, or are mandolins overrated?

  • k

I was given a mandoline as a gift recently and after a couple of so-so results, I'm thinking about returning it.

My friend bought it at Williams-Sonoma, so I know it's not cheap, but I still am not satisfied...

1. It has a tendency to slip on the counter, which could be dangerous.
2. Besides french fries and the occasional salad, I'm not sure how much use I'll be able to get out of it.
3. I'm still a relative novice in the kitchen and would like my knife technique to improve.
4. At $100-$150, I've seen simliar prducts (v-slicer?) for far less.
5. I find that I'm wasting food- the last bits of veggies are left uncut and I have to manually cut them anyway.

Any advice? Will its worth or my technique improve over time?

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  1. I have a Japanese Benriner mandoline: about $30, even in non Japanese culinary shops. I use this at least 3-4 times a week. I love it. I've bought several as presents. It's convenient and easy to rinse off and toss in the dish drainer. I use it for carrots and turnips and beets and onions for a start. Since I own a vegetable farm, we eat lots of vegetables. The Benriner makes much nicer carrot chips than my 'regular' cheese grater. I highly recommend this simple Japanese tool. If you are also a Benriner fan, please post! julia

    ps I found this link on google, it's a photo of the benriner mandoline. You might be able to find it cheaper elsewhere...

    Link: http://shop.store.yahoo.com/ciaproche...

    2 Replies
    1. re: julia

      i hurt myself TERRIBLY on one of these!
      maybe i was using it wrong, but all of the instructions are in another language, so...i love the idea of them, but sadly, mine too gathers dust.

      1. re: jerusha

        re: injuries: I use the plastic finger guard cover with no problems. I also use it for cucumbers and cabbage.

    2. I assume you have a metal framed mandoline, which tend to be far more expensive and more difficult to clean than the plastic framed japanese versions. I've had a small one for years and for getting paper thin slices of anything I find it a real timesaver. I like slicing beets, cucumbers, onions, and potatoes especially. I would never be able to get such uniform cuts without it and I don't find it slips much (I use it over a plastic cutting board). Maybe you should downgrade.

      1. I owned a Benriner and almost lost a finger to it. I prefer the metal mandoline. Having said that, I find them overrated too. Mine sits in a cupboard gathering dust most of the time. If I was doing mass quantities of slicing for parties, for example, I might find it useful, but I find for my limited uses, I prefer slicing with a knife. Not as pretty, but less hassle, especially in cleaning up.

        1. To keep your mandolin from slipping, place it on a clean damp kitchen towel. You can also push the last bits of veggie thru by holding on the ends with a kitchen towel-- though you should do this with care. A mandoline has a really nasty bite that can sometimes go through a towel. Some mandolins have metal safety holders that can also be used for the last bits of food. (I personally don't use them as I think you lose too much control over the vegetable.)

          Mandolins really shine when you are making high volumes of food with aethetically pleasing, uniform cuts. If you are just cooking for your household, it might just be taking up space in your kitchen. I'd recommend holding onto it for a little while and making a few more attempts to use it. Try using it for coleslaw or a veggie stirfry; use it to shave potatoes for homemade potato chips or waffle fries; use it for a unique salad to impress dinner guests with rarer vegetables like fennel or daikon cut at a pleasing angle. If it still doesn't do it for you or if you think you'll rarely use it, trade it in.

          1. For others considering what type of mandoline to get: the v-slicer is what I use, and works perfectly fine and is worth having.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Karl S.

              As the owner of both a V Slicer and the metal beast, I have to say I'm much more comfortable with the V Slicer. I even took a class to learn how to use the metal beast properly (learned the damp tea towel trick to keep it in place), but it still scares me. May be a good candidate for EBay!

              1. re: Karl S.

                I love my v-slicer. I could never make as good a gratin with a knife or a food processor. And yes, use the finger guard! I used to wait until I'd gotten partway through the potato before using the guard, but then had a really close call with a slippery spud. Those blades are very scary.

              2. Mine is the plastic variety, a $13 gift from a friend (that's the kind of friends I have), and I have used it for twenty years. It is pert, rinses with the flick of the faucet and goes back into its tiny box on its tiny shelf. It is so easily accessible that I find myself using it often, unlike the more cumbersome kitchen tools that I have stored away.

                I have tried to discipline myself to use the plastic food gripper. I have had occasion to regret its omission.

                I'd take that sucker back in a heartbeat and get something I would really love.

                1. k
                  k. gerstenberger

                  Would you fire up the Winnebago to go to the corner store, or take the bicycle? Would you take your yacht across the marina to say hello to a friend, or take the dinghy?

                  A Bron is a Winnebago. Good for big long trips/projects. A good alt is the Benriner as clean up is super quick, but nothing removes finger tips faster than a fresh Ben. The parallel cuts of the cutting inserts are not much fun to bandage either. Like any knife, keeping the blade sharp helps prevent injury, by reducing the force necessary to make the cuts.

                  All in all it's worth it to have one or two mandolines on your shelf. Great when slicing uniformity and speed are important, but not made for every project. Like all tools you develop muscle memory with regular use and the best place to get the hang of a mandoline is in a commercial kitchen with a well stocked first aid box nearby. One good mistake is usually all it takes to get the learning curve firmly etched.

                  Don't try to fly even though it seems tempting. Use the finger shields/sliding devices, learn a towel trick, or buy yourself a chain mail (sp?) glove. Above all focus and think about danger and safety simultaneously.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: k. gerstenberger

                    If the Benriner is a bicycle, the Feemster is a pair of Keds. The Grubs have been using their Feemster for 40 freakin' years to make slightly imperfect smooth slices of most anything that'll fit on the slicing platform. That's all it does -- smooth slices. Great for cukes, potatoes, carrots, radishes & the like. Not so hot for tomatoes. NEVER been sharpened in 40 freakin' years & will still neatly gash up a Grubby digit if not careful. Oh yeah, costs a princely $7.95.

                    Link: http://www.vermontcountrystore.com/pr...

                    1. re: Mr Grub

                      I second the feemster - good for apples and cabbage too. It adjusts from very thin to thick and has a wider blade than processors or v-slicers - an advantage.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        Another Feemster vote here -- costs next to nothing, just as good as a mandoline for many applications.

                        -- Paul

                    2. I use a cheap hoffritz mandoline (see link below). The mandoline fits like a lid over a bowl that has a nonslip surface on the bottom. Working in restaurants, I had some bad experiences with the regular mandolines (my mind just wanders to much with the zen back and forth motion).

                      I use my mandoline almost every day for cucumber slices, carrots, papaya salad, potatoes, mushrooms, etc. There are just certain textures that you can't replicate with a grater (though you could with a knife if you were very adept).

                      Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/...

                      Image: http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B00...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: butterfly

                        I have the Hoffritz also and have been very pleased with it.

                      2. Does your brand slice to 1/32 of an inch or less?

                        Do other brands?

                        I'd love one.

                        1. I don't know if they're over-rated, but bluegrass music wouldn't be the same without them. Although I guess I do like the sound of a dobro better.

                          Valerie Smith has a great version of "Oh Mandolin" on her "Turtle Wings" CD, if you're at all a bluegrass fan I highly recommend it. Even if not a fan, this CD might well convert you.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Guy
                            quiz wrangler

                            You took the words out of my mouth! ROFL

                          2. j
                            Jon Leventhal

                            I bought the Zyliss V-shaped mandoline, $40 after coupon at Bed,Bath etc...

                            It's awesome. Plastic, has various inserts, easy to clean and very sharp.

                            A solid compromise.


                            1. Indispensible for slicing potatoes thinly enough for pommes anna, potato chips and gratins. For ease, cut the potato in half then with your knife cut off the small round end. This makes it much easier for the little spikes on your hand guard to grip the potato and helps reduce slippage.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: TomSwift

                                It also results in two ends that are wasted, rather than one.

                                1. re: mistermike

                                  Did I neglect to mention that if you take your two ends from 3-4 potatoes and toss them with olive oil and S&P, then roast them, you have a very tasty litle nosh.

                                  1. re: TomSwift

                                    Nice save. But you don't need to justify 000.2c of potatoes. Silly. Haven't we all thrown away a little of something because it doesn't present? There's a difference between thrifty and nutty.

                                    1. re: bryan

                                      Thanks. You found me out. And, of course, you're right. Although I save a ton of trimmings and other stuff for the stockpot, there's a lot of waste in my kitchen because what's left after cutting for presentation (while perfectly good) has no practical use. It goes into a baggie and into the fridge but usually gets thrown away on trash day. But the roasted potato ends really are tasty.

                                      1. re: TomSwift

                                        Wow everybody has different perspectives.

                                        As a nonfussy (in some respects) home cook I dont like to have to trim down my veg and fruits before slicing - the ends, irregular pieces etc. are perfectly ok. They go right into the pie, salad or gratin - I generally wouldnt think of leaving them out because they dont make as pretty a picture. So the extra work required to use the elegant mandolin or even to run a potato through the food processor seems wasteful and fussy. Give me my feemster with its wider blade any day.

                              2. Mine is stored in a box in the closet and I still have ten fingers. I find a grater gives me as thin a cut as I could want on potatoes or most everything and it is a snap to clean and store. Just trying to remember how the thing works and how it is packed when done is a pain unless you use it a lot. I don't make too many mistakes on buying kitchen stuff but this was a big one.

                                1. I tried my cheap mandoline exactly once. It slipped and I now have a nice scar across my ring finger (3 stitches). I'd like a better/more stable one someday. Until then, I'll stick to my knives.

                                  1. You mentioned that you wanted your knife technique to improve and I heartily recommend that. After a while you'll find that there are things that take too long or are too difficult to cut/slice by hand quickly. What those things are vary from person to person.

                                    I use a knife for potato gratins since I can do this quickly, but my friend reaches for her mandolin every time.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Jonathan Saw

                                      I too reach for the mandoline for potato gratins and pommes anna, because it takes, oh, say, 3 minutes to get a huge mound of perfectly even super-thin slices.

                                      Could I do almost as well with my knife, well-sharpened? The answer is yes, I probably could. But it would take much, much more time, and the slices would not be of uniform width.

                                      My main reasons for liking my mandoline are 1) the speed and 2) the uniformity of the slices. I find it worth it.

                                      Also, one of my very favorite applications is getting fresh-from-the-farm strawberries, and slicing them paper thin. I serve these with other berries, or regular-sized peach or nectarine slices, drizzled with sweetened lime juice, a liquer, or condensed (Eagle Brand) milk. There is something about the very fine slices that brings out the fresh berry flavor very well, and it makes a great presentation with other whole berries or the bigger stone fruit chunks.

                                    2. When I worked in a restaurant, I used a mandoline ALL the time, but that was when I was cutting WAY more than I do now. Also when I worked in a restaurant, I used a knife a lot, so my knife skills are much better than the average bear's. Consequently, I find that at home, I don't need to use a mandoline for slicing a lot...my restaurant-honed knife skills are enough for 'home' quantities.

                                      1. There are many who are terrified of this device, rightfully so. But it's sometimes important to access your use. The accidents that happen are not the fault of the "Mandolin", but the person's using it being careless. True there are some mandolins that are more user friendly, but as one poster said, don't use any mandolin, or for that matter any cutting edge tool, that not kept sharp. Most accident's in kitchen are caused by someone trying to work with dull knifes, getting distracted, or very rarely bumped. There are often things that a mandolin does best, but since we are often willing to make do with less, those times don't require the mandolin, same with electric mixer, food processor in fact the majority of gadgets. There are several things that Mandolins excell in doing, especially with potatoes or root vegetables. One utilization that may not occer to everyone is that almost every "Pho Restaurant", uses a mandolin to slice the Beef, served with the Pho, using semi-frozen firm beef, this works better then almost any method, including commercial food slicers. the same applies for sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, raw beef Sushi, Cheese Steaks, etc. I use mine rarely, same as most of my other gadgets, but I like having the option, plus you nver know when company comes, or it's party [preping] time.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Irwin Koval

                                          The slice of banana (baked) that was on a dessert I had a few days ago had to have been done on a mandolin because it was no more than 1/32 of an inch thick - no exaggeration. No human hand could have done that with a regular knife. It was the full arc of the banana, not a round slice, better than thicker banana chips.

                                          Irwin - Who sharpens mandolins?
                                          My grocery store will sharpen my knives, but I'm thinking of getting a good mandolin and how and what in keeping it up is as important as the tool.

                                          1. re: kc girl

                                            I received a heavy-duty Bron mandoline as a gift about twenty years ago. I may haul it out of the closet no more often than six or eight times a year (it doesn't take up that much room), but wouldn't make some of the recipes I do if I didn't have it--six pounds of carmelized onions for pissaladiere, for example.

                                            Would love to get mine sharpened, also. Anyone know where?

                                            1. re: Joan

                                              I e-mailed for a response from the site below. I hope someone answers soon about how to sharpen the blades (straight and serrated) because Summer is such a great time to use it on fruits and vegetables.

                                              Link: http://www.chefknifes.com/bron_mandol...

                                              1. re: Joan

                                                Joan, for caramelizing onions, you can also use your cuisinart slicing attachment. I save the mandoline for items where appearance is important.

                                          2. A mandolin is indispensible for various fried potatoes, and I make a salad of paper thin slices of lemon, cucumbers and red pepper ( Marcella Hazan ) that would be impossible with a knife ( I tried - and I have good skills ). Also, you may grow into it.
                                            For slipping, try using a piece of that rubber shelf-liner they sell, the lacey stuff. You can also use it under cutting boards.