A skilled chef can do amazing things with a knife, but it takes years of training and practice. For those of us who just don't have that kind of time or commitment, it's simpler to buy a gadget that will do the work for us. For most kinds of slicing and chopping, a food processor or mandoline slicer will do the job just fine. But what if you want zoodles? Or curly fries, or no-carb lasagna?
For those, you need a spiralizer, a kind of specialized mandoline that cuts vegetables and fruit into long, curly noodle shapes (or sometimes sheets). They're not the hot trend they were a few years ago, but spiralizers can make a useful addition to your kitchen. We look at a few of the best spiralizers and explain what sets them apart from the rest.
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What to Consider When Purchasing a Spiralizer
Yes, you can pick up any ol' spiralizer and crank out a few zoodles (zucchini noodles, for the uninitiated) at the drop of a hat. If you expect to actually use your new acquisition on a regular basis, though, you'll want to pick one that's actually reliable and easy to use. Here are some things to consider:
Design: There are a few basic types of spiralizer, so you can pick a design that makes sense for you. Some hold the vegetable vertically, with a handle on the top and the blades below. Some hold the vegetable horizontally, with the blades at one side and a handle at the other. Handheld models are small, simple and less versatile. Electric models require less work on your part, but often take up more space. Even between models with the same basic design and layout, some will be better-thought-out than others: A storage system for the extra blades is always good, and some models make it a lot easier—and safer—to change the blades.
Number of Blades: Every blade represents another shape or style of cut your spiralizer can make, adding to its versatility (and the chances you'll use it regularly). Fettuccine-sized blades are pretty universal, but others include bigger ribbon blades, tiny angel-hair blades, or even broad "sheeter" blades for lasagna-style cuts. More is generally better, provided that you actually want those sizes and some kind of safe storage is provided. You don't want those razor-sharp blades sitting loose in your kitchen drawer!
Ease of Use: This is closely related to the spiralizer's design (you can think of it as "how well the design works in practice"). If you don't have the chance to do a hands-on comparison of different models—see which of your friends has one—reading reviews can at least tell you what the most common complaints are with a given model. Are the blades sharp? Does it make nice, even cuts? Can it handle a wide range of fruits and vegetables? Does the handle turn easily? Are the blades easy to change? These are all things you'll want to know (and reasons why you might return one if the answers aren't what you'd want them to be).
Storage: Even zoodle enthusiasts aren't likely to give their spiralizer a permanent place on the counter, so that makes its "storability" (if that's a word) a key consideration. Is it compact? Does it fold up? Does it come with a space-efficient storage container for itself and its accessories? Seriously, take a good, long look at your cupboards and ask yourself as you shop "Will this fit into the space I have at my disposal?" For casual users or those with limited space, this might be a good reason to consider a hand-held model.
The Best Overall Spiralizer
Paderno World Cuisine 4-Blade Folding Vegetable Slicer/Spiralizer
If you're looking for a spiralizer that ticks all the boxes, this is the one. We'll start with the added versatility that comes from getting four blades (and five cuts) instead of the usual two or three. The open, horizontal design allows for big vegetables (up to 10 inches long and 7 inches in diameter), and the base of the unit safely houses the blades that aren't in use. The spiralizer sticks securely to your countertop with suction-cup feet. One key difference between the Paderno and most competitive models is that it spiralizes the whole vegetable, without leaving a pencil-shaped "core" that has to be dealt with. Best of all, this unit folds up for compact storage when not in use.
The Best Manual Spiralizer
OXO Good Grips 3-Blade Tabletop Spiralizer
This OXO model runs neck-and-neck with the Paderno, and the prices are similar enough that there's relatively little to choose between them. The OXO unit's "StrongHold" suction mount uses a lever to adhere the spiralizer to your counter and holds tighter than most brands (including our top overall choice). Although they have the same footprint, the OXO spiralizer is less boxy than the Paderno because its color-coded spare blades are held in a separate box. That's a plus (smaller main unit) and a minus (they could get separated). As you'd expect in an OXO product, the build quality is high and the handles are comfortable to use. The extra blade and coreless cutting made Paderno our top choice, but you can't go wrong with the OXO either.
The Best Handheld Spiralizer
Ontel "Veggetti" Vegetable Spiralizer
You may raise your eyebrows at an "as seen on TV" product, but this handheld spiralizer showcases thoughtful design and good workmanship. Its hourglass shape contains two blades, one for wider noodles (fettuccine) and one for thinner noodles (spaghetti). The blades are sharp enough for relatively sturdy vegetables like carrots, as well as softer cucumbers and summer squash. The only limitation is that they have to be 2 1/2 inches in diameter or smaller. Just position the spiralizer over your bowl or cutting board, and twist the vegetable as if it was a pencil you were sharpening. The supplied handguard lets you use up the whole vegetable without putting your fingers at risk, something most competitive models can't do. It's a surprisingly good product for such a modest price.
The Best Electric Spiralizer
Bella 4-in-1 Automatic Electric Spiralizer and Slicer
One thing all manual spiralizers have in common is that they require a twisting or cranking motion. If you have any physical limitations, or if you simply find yourself getting tired before the work is done, you might want to consider upgrading to an electric version. The Bella 4-in-1 electric spiralizer doesn't cost a whole lot more than a comparable manual model and isn't much bigger either (though at 4 pounds, it's definitely heavier). You get blades for ribbons, linguini, fettuccine and spaghetti, and all parts (except the motorized base) are machine-washable. Just clamp your vegetable into the holder, flip the switch, and the work is done for you!
The Best Sheet Spiralizer
Besteely Fruit & Vegetable Sheet and Noodle Cutter
The fruit or vegetable sheeter is a variation on spiralizers, and it has gained some traction in its own right over the past few years. Instead of pushing the vegetable lengthwise through the slicer, a sheeter—as the name suggests—peels wide sheets from the side of the vegetable (or fruit). That means you can extend the "veggie pasta" option to lasagna as well, but that's just the start: Picture wrapping marinated vegetables in sheets of kohlrabi or jicama, or tucking chicken salad and pecans into sheets of apple. You'll find sheeter-only options on the market, but we like the versatility of this Besteely model, which also functions as a standard spiralizer. You can do sheets at two thicknesses and narrow or wide spirals, whichever you need for a given dish.
The Best Stand Mixer Spiralizer Attachment
KitchenAid 1-Inch Spiralizer Attachment
If you're a heavy user of your spiralizer (or expect to be), then there's a case to be made for simply adding a spiralizing attachment to your stand mixer. It means you'll avoid adding yet another single-task gadget to your kitchen, and you'll get a solidly-built device that should last you a lifetime. The downside, of course, is that they're typically costlier than a standalone unit. KitchenAid's attachment comes with four blades and its own storage case and adds a vegetable-peeling capability. The company also makes a sheeting attachment. Other brands of stand mixer such as Cuisinart have their own spiralizing attachments, and you may also find third-party attachments to work with your mixer.