Many people are familiar with mandolins, the small, stringed musical instruments commonly used in bluegrass and country music. But, not all mandolins are used for creating music. Kitchen mandolins, or more commonly, mandolines, are hand- operated, kitchen tools with adjustable blades mounted in a frame with movable legs. They can slice food, especially firmer vegetables like potatoes, carrots, squash and cucumbers much thinner than can be achieved by using a knife, no matter what a person’s skill level may be.
The origin of the kitchen mandolin is somewhat unclear, although many food experts consider it to be an Asian product. Although the name of this razor- sharp kitchen utensil is sometimes spelled mandolin, like the musical instrument, the more accepted spelling of the name is mandoline.
The kitchen mandoline consists of two flat, rectangular- shaped surfaces mounted on legs and a frame, with an extremely sharp, razor- like blade mounted between the surfaces, which can be adjusted to separate from each other in a downward motion. The legs of a kitchen mandoline set- up at a downward angle, with the blade(s) facing away from the user. An adjusting- rod or handle underneath the flat surfaces, opens and closes the gap between the two surfaces, determining the size and shape of the pieces of food to be sliced. The word ‘safety’ cannot be stressed enough, when it comes to safely using a kitchen mandoline. These utensils are so sharp and dangerous, that many commercial kitchens require employees to wear special braided stainless steel, or ” KEVLAR” safety gloves, while operating a kitchen mandoline.
While various models of kitchen mandolines are constructed of stainless steel, ceramics, plastic and china, it is the stainless steel models that are the longer- lasting and more efficient versions. The price range of kitchen mandolines ranges from approximately $7.00- $170.00, and higher. Most decent- quality kitchen mandolines however, fall into the $39.00- $69.00 price range.Although plastic kitchen mandolines, many of which are produced in Japan, are quite adequate and are generally less expensive than the stainless steel models, they sometimes absorb odors of the foods they slice and often do not last as long as the metal versions.
Although in theory, many foods could be sliced on a kitchen mandoline, they are primarily used for slicing vegetables. Some of the uses of kitchen mandolines include slicing vegetables so thin that a person can see through a sliced piece. For light and authentic homemade potato chips, a kitchen mandoline can’t be beat. By alternating downward strokes of a potato, from left to right on the mandoline, waffle- cut, or Gaufrette potatoes can be formed. By adjusting the blades of the utensil, Julienne’, or matchsticks, and crinkle- cut items can be sliced.For the thinnest sliced cucumbers imaginable, or many other forms of garnish- work, a kitchen mandoline is indispensable.
The most important aspect of using this tool however, is learning how to safely use a kitchen mandoline. If possible, always read manufacturer’s instructions before using the product. If a person is working in a commercial kitchen and is directed to use the utensil, it is highly unlikely that any written instructions would be available. There are steps that a person can take, in order to safely use a kitchen mandoline.
First, a clear focus must be maintained on the operation of the utensil. Make sure that the folding legs are snapped into place and that the bottom end is securely flat on the work surface. Avoid wearing obstructive jewelry or very loose clothing that could come into contact with the tool. An old chef’s trick in the restaurant industry involves placing a damp towel underneath a cutting board, to prevent slippage. The same holds true, when it comes to safely using a kitchen mandoline. Place a damp dish towel underneath the legs and support of the utensil, to ensure that it will stay in place. Slippage of the machine is the cause of many injuries sustained by use of this tool. While most modern kitchen mandolines come equipped with a food ‘guard’ that holds the item to be sliced in place, many of the older models in use in commercial kitchens, have no such guard. Therefore, it is strongly advised that a person wrap a dish towel, or rag around the hand making contact with the kitchen mandoline, guard or not, to avoid serious injuries. As with the use of other dangerous tools or implements, it is imperative that the user stay relaxed, does not rush and maintains a steady focus. If these practices are observed, a person will successfully learn how to safely use a kitchen mandoline.