The mandoline pictured above comes with a straight slicing blade and 3 julienne blades for a degree of sizes in your cutting. The protective handle has a spring loaded grip to hold your food in place as you slice it. It does not have a “waffle” blade for doing a gaufrette style of cut.
A French version of the mandoline by de Buyer is pictured here. This machine simply rotates the cutting heads, it is also about half the price. ($199)
In most professional kitchens this machine will get used several times a day for different operations. The design is critical, it is important to be able to adjust the depth of cut and to insure that it remains the same for the whole length of the product. For a lot of mandolines as you push the potato or carrot through it will start off thick and get thinner as it goes through. This can translate to uneven cooking in the case of a gaufrette potato chip where you are looking for a nice golden brown all the way, but by the time the thick side is crisp the thin side is too dark to be served; not good! Look for two things:
- The blades must be very sharp, and should be single beveled at 15 degrees or less. Blades that are set at an angle (45°) tend to cut better than blades that are 90° horizontal.
- The adjustable plate that holds the food should be not more than an eighth of an inch from the cutting blade so that the product will not have a chance to drop off at an angle.
Of all the tools in a professional kitchen my favorite is the mandoline. At one point in my younger days I prided myself on the scar tissue I had built up on my thumb from pushing carrots through the blade. This versatile tool is highly useful in decoration as well as quickly getting julienne vegetables for sautes. For salads I like to use the waffle slice side and alternate the angle of the cut, producing a “holed” cut for carrots. Potatoes an also be cut in this fashion for a delicate chip.
There are a number of mandolines on the market today. They range in price from $70 to $400, seems like everyone and his brother has a version of these thin slicing machines. I have used several during my many years in the kitchen.
The original mandoline that I began with was manufactured by Bron. This one is made from stainless steel with a hinged stand that allows it to be stored flat. It has 2 distinct cutting blades, one for slices and 2 sizes of julienne and the other for “krinkle” or waffle cutting. The waffle blade will allow you to make a Gaufrette style cut with small holes showing. This machine was expensive when I bought it in 1982, but I still have it in 2011 and it still works as well as when I bought it. It is a workhorse!
Over the years several competitors have arrived. Most of the newer models are made of plastic or some such which is cause for concern right there. Most of the newer models are much less expensive, but they are not up to the task of hard use as in a few cases (50#) of potatoes for frittes. Oxo is one of the brands that was extremely disappointing to me. This machine comes with the two blades but the design is poor, the plate that you slide the food into the blade has too much of a gap before it hits the cutting blade. The foods tend to fall into that gap and cut thick to thin. It is rough to get a consistent product, we had one that only lasted for less than 6 month in a commercial kitchen.
For julienne and waffles the best is the Bron for my money. For a consistent thin slice there is a small “tool box” sized Japanese model called the Benriner. This comes with a julienne blade, but the small frame makes it difficult to get a consistent cut thickness, due to the pressure needed to push a carrot or potato through. However for thin slicing this will plough through anything in rapid fashion. The blade is a single bevel razor sharp edge set at an angle. As you push the product through it is as though you were using a knife to slice the item. The newer model shown in the picture below also comes with a “catch box” (not practical for large quantities) to hold the unit in place. Caution…the blade will cut anything that gets in its path, and you wont even notice until the blood starts dripping. Use a glove!
There are a few others you can look at which will do the job for a bit less money. I see that even Shun has entered the market with a$400 offering, which I am sure is of high quality. I have not tried it and probably wont, for a mere $187 the Bron Mandoline is all the workhorse that you will ever need.