Mandoline Slicers – FAQ

What is a mandoline slicer?

It’s a kitchen tool used to produce uniform sizes and thicknesses (actually thin is the goal) of food, usually vegetables, fruit and hard cheeses.

Why would I want to do that?

Foods that are fried or stir-fried cook more evenly when cut to the same size. You can also create beautiful presentations of raw vegetables, fruit, and hard cheeses very quickly when using a mandolin slicer. Your veggie trays will have a professional look to them and your friends will be impressed. Your dog will only be interested in the cheese.

Is it spelled mandoline or mandolin (slicer)?

Both, although the word mandoline on its own usually means the lute family stringed musical instrument. The meanings come together when the cook “plays” the food on the slicing tool.

Where did the mandolin slicer come from?

Many sources point to one of the very first illustrated cook books published in 1570 by Vatican staffer Bartolomeo Scappi, who was Pope Pius VI’s cook. A drawing in the book shows a board with a central cutting blade and other small perpendicular blades to cut vegetables into thin sticks. So a good guess is that this tool in its basic form has been around since the middle ages and probably originated in Italy or France.

How do they work?

Almost all models of mandoline slicers are made up of two parallel working surfaces, one of which can be adjusted in height. A food item is slid along the adjustable surface until it reaches a blade mounted on the fixed surface, slicing it and letting it fall. Some have interchangeable blades to produce different kinds of slices.

What are they made of?

Scappi’s slicer was probably made of wood with a metal blade. Modern day mandolins are made of either stainless steel (professional grade models) or with less expensive plastic surfaces. All have very sharp blades.

How do I use a mandoline slicer?

First, using a knife, cut the food to be sliced into a size that will fit the surface area of mandolin. Then using the food holder or “gripper” run the food over the blade, letting the slices drop. It’s very important to follow the manufacturer’s directions and keep protection between the blade and your fingers.

How do I clean it?

Some models can be thrown in the dishwasher (OK, carefully placed in the dishwasher) and others should be hand washed. It’s a good idea to give the blades a good rinse right after using so as to keep food from drying and sticking to the blades and making them harder to clean safely.

Are these things dangerous?

To drunks and small children, absolutely. The blades are very sharp. You should always use the food holder or gripper that comes with the unit or invest in a pair of cut-resistant kitchen gloves. Always keep something between the food and your fingers lest you cut them. Keep the slicer away from the kids until they are old enough to know the danger.

Why would I want one?

They are a kitchen time saver. You can quickly knock out julienne, French-fry cut, straight slice, waffle cut or crinkle cuts of potatoes and other veggies. Use it to produce even and uniform slices of firm vegetables such as raw fennel, carrots, onions, potatoes, celery root, cucumbers,  zucchini and cabbage. Firm fruits such as apples, pears, lemons and limes also work well.

You’ll be producing great looking salads and vegetable platters in no time with a mandolin slicer. Your stir-fry meals will be better.

Thank you.

You’re welcome, thanks for asking. I’m here all week.

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