Multitasking kitchen gadgets help save both money and counter space. When you can pull from the cupboard one gadget that will dice, julienne and slice instead of three separate gadgets, it also helps make dinner prep and cleanup quicker and more efficient. The right food processor or mandoline slicer can cut vegetables in those three ways, and sometimes many more.
A mandoline slicer contains a sharp, sometimes interchangeable, blade on a flat board. A second piece, the vegetable pusher, holds the vegetables to be be cut to protect fingers from the blade. Holding the vegetable in the pusher, slide it back and forth across the blade to slice at a thickness determined by adjusting the height of the blade in the mandoline board. A serrated blade replaces the flat slicing blade to julienne cut. Some mandolines offer a rotating vegetable pusher, which, when used in conjunction with the julienne blade, dices the vegetables as well.
Whether manual or electric, a food processor uses a rotating blade to slice food fed through a chute or other type of feeder. Changing the blade changes the thickness of the slice and allows a julienne cut as well. Higher-end food processors equipped with a second blade housing can use that blade to cut the julienned vegetables into a small dice.
Which Gadget to Buy
A mandoline uses manual power so it works best when outlets are at a premium. It also folds virtually flat for convenient storage. A drawback of the mandoline is that because the pusher holds the vegetables for slicing using prongs inside a casing, there will always be a small portion of every vegetable not sliced by the mandoline that will either be discarded or sliced by hand with a knife. Food processors that feed vegetables into the blades using a chute efficiently cut the entire piece. Electric food processors can cost several times more than a manual mandoline slicer.
Tips and Tricks
Without an all-in-one gadget like a mandoline or food processor, dice, julienne and slice using tools already found in most kitchens. For instance, use a vegetable peeler to cut thin vertical slices from vegetables like squash and carrots. Then draw a knife through a stack of the slices to create a julienne and then horizontally to dice. Use a coarse grater to simulate julienne cut suitable for many recipes. A slapping-style chopper creates a small chop, though not an exactly cubical dice. Slice potatoes using an apple peeler corer slicer and then use a knife to cut the slices into a fine dice.
- The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook; Jack Bishop
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