Mandoline slicers used to be expensive, finicky machines used by pro chefs to make 20 pounds of pommes Anna at once. In recent years, the machines have been simplified and mass-produced for home chefs by dozens of companies.
If you???re looking for a mandoline, get ready to learn about some new kitchen brands. Japanese and Euro chefs are much more familiar with mandoline slicers, so there are many makers in addition to familiar US brands in this once-exotic category. Mandolines come in roughly three price ranges. For $20 and under, you can get an inexpensive slicer that will make short work of your occasional julienning needs. For about $30-$50, you can find a very highly rated mandoline with multiple blades and accessories that will collapse into a neat package when not in use. And for $90 and up, professional grade mandolines come in durable stainless steel. Then of course, there???s the Shun Pro, from the famed sushi-knife maker. Available discounted online for only $400.
Do your research. The model you choose will depend on three things: the kind of slicing you do, the size of the vegetables or fruits you use, and of course, how much you are willing to spend.
Safety is the biggest concern with any slicer. Many users report nasty cuts in the first few minutes of use. Experienced mandolinistas suggest adding protection in the form of a cut-proof glove made from Kevlar or chain mail. These are available at your cooking store or online. Expect to pay about $10 a pair – a small investment in safety.
Here's a tip: if you plan to use your mandoline mainly for making French fries, you might consider a dedicated potato slicer instead. Users report that even the largest size of julienne cuts from many mandolines is too small for fries.
Another tip: an angled or V-shaped blade has been reported to work much better at slicing tomatoes and other soft foods.