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A Japanese mandoline is a kitchen tool designed to slice, julienne, or angel-hair cut vegetables, fruit, and cheese. There are several factors to consider when choosing one of these versatile instruments, including how much the tool will be used, what blades and how many types come standard with the model, and what kinds of foods it will be used to slice. Better models tend to offer more blade styles, allowing for a wider variety of slicing options, and larger models may offer more versatility in the size of food that can be sliced. Materials also are a consideration, as higher-end models typically are made of metal, while lower-end styles are made of plastic. Plastic models generally are less expensive, however, and usually are perfectly suitable for a home chef who will use it less frequently.
One of the the first factors to consider when choosing a Japanese mandoline is what kinds of tasks the slicer will perform. The needs of an occasional, small-scale home chef are quite different than those of a professional chef or caterer. Also, some vegetables are larger or tougher than others and could require a larger Japanese mandoline to slice or julienne. Certain dishes, such as French fries, require a specific mandoline blade in order to prepare.
Japanese mandolines come in many sizes and usually include several different blade options. Most models have replaceable blades, but not all brands offer the same variety and quality of replacement blades. Before purchasing a Japanese mandoline, it is a good idea to investigate what kinds of blades are offered for that particular brand and model. Choosing an appropriate size is also important. If the main use of the tool will be to slice cucumbers and julienne carrots, for example, a smaller mandoline will be sufficient. In order to prepare cabbage, large potatoes, or green papaya, a larger model is necessary and is entirely capable of slicing smaller things as well.
Some Japanese mandoline models are made entirely out of metal, while others have metal blades and plastic bodies. If the mandoline will be used frequently, a metal-bodied version may be a better choice. Plastic-bodied mandolines work well for occasional use and are lighter weight and take up less storage space.
Another feature to look for is a foldout support so that the tool can be used easily on a flat surface, such as a cutting board. Without this element, the mandoline needs to be rested against the side of a bowl or held in the air during use, which can be tiring after several minutes. These smaller, flat-bodied mandolines are easier to store, however.
Many Japanese mandolines come with a device to hold vegetables, fruit or cheese while slicing in order to avoid accidental injuries. In the case of a home-chef with children or someone who tends to cook in a hurried way, this additional piece of equipment may be quite useful. Good Japanese mandolines have very sharp blades, and care should be taken when using them, both with and without the safety device.
Occasionally a tray will be included that can be mounted on the body of the tool in order to catch slices as they fall from the blade. Generally these trays are rather small and can be helpful in the case of julienne or angel hair cut vegetables for a garnish. A larger bowl or other such receptacle becomes necessary in the case of French fries or coleslaw.
Finally there is the price of the tool to consider. High-quality Japanese mandolines can cost twice as much, or more, than cheaper, basic versions. The investment in a more expensive tool may be well worth it to a professional chef, caterer, or a home chef who intends to use it frequently. Less expensive options are still quite functional and are the right choice for someone who will use the mandoline less frequently and for smaller projects.