A mandoline might seem like a scary kitchen gadget — the blade is so sharp! — but if used correctly, it can save time not only for everyday prep, but also for Thanksgiving dinner.
“There’s definitely a time and a place when a mandoline is helpful, and that’s when you want to shred or slice a lot of things and when actually being consistent with the size of things that you’re slicing is important,” shared Elinor Hutton, author of the book “The Encyclopedia of Kitchen Tools” and cookbook consultant. “If you’re making an apple tart and you want all the apples to be sliced the same width, that would be a great instance, or if you’re making a gratin where you want all the potatoes to be a similar width so that they all cook evenly. If you’re doing it with a knife, you are going to get a lot of variation. And the variation can mean that some pieces aren’t quite cooked and other pieces might be overcooked.”
For Thanksgiving, a mandoline works well for slicing fruits and veggies, with the exception of food that’s too soft. “I think a lot of people try to extend what a mandoline is useful for,” Hutton said. “I’ve seen people try to slice tomatoes on a mandoline, and I think that’s crazy. When precision’s No. 1, use a mandoline. If you need to be gentle, I’d just use a knife.”
If you have not experimented with a mandoline before, that’s OK — Turkey Day might be a good time to learn a new tool. “Thanksgiving is a great time to use a mandoline because you have so many cooking projects going on that actually shaving off a few minutes here and there makes kind of a big difference,” Hutton said. “For me, it’s more of a special occasion tool, but it’s one of those things that I think if one gets really comfortable with it, and if you don’t mind pulling it out and giving it a quick wash after, it actually can be really handy probably all the time.”
Hutton gives her top-three picks of best mandolines to buy (and the best protective gloves, too), none of which cost a lot. “More expensive mandolines are made of stainless steel, and that doesn’t provide any real advantage,” she said.
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Recommended all around: Benriner mandoline slicer
This chef-approved Japanese mandoline has a straight blade and four attachments, including a julienne option. “The Benriner’s fun because you never know if you’re going to want to julienne something,” Hutton said. “It’s kind of fun to have that option. It’s the easiest to clean, and it’s straightforward. It also comes in cute colors, and its simplicity is very appealing.”
Best for larger foods: Swissmar Borner V-slicer
Even though The Swissmar is more expensive than the other two, she said it has easy-to-change blades and is more “substantial” because it has a wider blade. It’s more practical for slicing veggies like butternut squash, cabbage, fennel and celery root. “It comes with a julienne attachment and a shredding attachment and all these things,” she said. “If you want to have a few different options to play around, if you really think you’re gonna get into it, that’s a great one.” However, the V-blade “doesn’t really have any real impact from my impression versus a straight blade,” she said. “And you still may have to cut some veggies to fit.”