A mandoline, also spelled mandolin, is a kitchen instrument which cuts fruits and vegetables into even and precise slices. Consumers who have wondered about how chefs achieve perfectly evenly sliced food need ponder the mystery no more; the chef undoubtedly uses a professional model mandoline. While a mandoline is not a vitally necessary kitchen tool, it can be handy, especially for home chefs who want to present their food with a professional flair.
A mandoline consists of a set of extremely sharp blades to cut through foods. The food is placed into a frame which keeps it stable and guides it towards the blades. Most mandolines have a safety guard to protect the hands and fingers of the user from the sharp blades. When the food is forced across the blades, which can be adjusted for cuts of different thicknesses, the food is sliced and falls through the mandoline to the counter.
Some users liken a mandoline to a manual food processor, since it slices foods quickly, efficiently, and evenly. Using a mandoline is much quicker than individually slicing the foods in question, and professional level models have a number of different blade settings and inserts. Using a mandoline, a chef can julienne cut vegetables, slice paper thin wafers for deep fried vegetable chips, cut even potato slices for gratin, or waffle cut carrots for a stir fry.
Because the blades of a mandoline are very sharp, cooks should use one with care, and young children should never be allowed to handle a mandoline. Even with a safety guard, a mandoline can still take a chunk out of a finger. After use, the blades should be meticulously hand washed to remove food, or rinsed and placed on the upper shelf of a dishwasher, depending on care directions. The blades should also be periodically replaced, as they will ultimately wear down.
Many kitchen supply stores sell mandolines, which range in price and durability. Lower end models use plastic and have a limited number of blade settings, but are highly suitable for basic use. More expensive professional models have wooden or metal frames, along with an assortment of blade settings and inserts. In both cases, look for stainless or ceramic blades, along with a sturdy construction which will stand up to hard use. Always keep a mandoline safely out of reach of young children and curious pets, along with other sharp kitchen instruments.