The best mandolines have very sharp blades and can, at a minimum, cut slices of various widths. Basic slicers costing $40 or more can make a variety of cuts, including dice, julienne, crinkle and waffle cuts, and they have larger, sturdier hand guards. If you don't plan to use a mandoline several times a week, reviews say that a basic mandoline is your best bet. If your mandoline will be used more frequently, a stainless-steel model is a better bet.
In comparative reviews, Benriner mandolines earn the highest ratings. This Japanese company began making wooden radish slicers in 1940, and its modern, plastic mandolines are fixtures in many professional kitchens. Benriner mandolines come in three sizes: standard (*Est. $25), super (*Est. $50 for Super size) and jumbo (*Est. $50), although the jumbo size can be difficult to find in the United States. The main difference between them is the size of the cutting surface: the standard is about 2.5 inches wide, the super is just over 3.5 inches wide and the jumbo is 4.5 inches wide. All have four interchangeable blades: one for thin slices, one for fine threads, one for coarser ribbons and one for thick sticks. The Benriners cannot make crinkle or waffle cuts, or dice. According to Louisa Chu of Chow.com, the Super Benriner "is well worth it, in its ability to accommodate the diameter of uncut produce."
According to user reviews at Amazon.com, Benriner mandolines are easy to set up and use. Not only are they sharp and precise, they are a cinch to clean: just rinse in hot, soapy water and let dry. These mandolines are deemed efficient by owners, but home cooks and critics alike call the narrow plastic finger guards practically worthless. Louisa Chu writes, "At times, trying to maneuver it nearly drove my fingers into the blade." Experts say you're better off forgoing the guard altogether in favor of protective Kevlar gloves. Several owners posting to Amazon.com concur.
Unlike the Benriner mandoline slicers, the Oxo Good Grips V-Blade Mandoline Slicer (*Est. $40) can produce crinkle cuts, in addition to slicing, dicing and making julienne cuts. This slicer, which sits on rubber-tipped legs, cannot make waffle cuts, however. Two major cooking magazines give it very high overall ratings. Maryellen Driscoll of Fine Cooking magazine calls this mandoline a best buy with a "surprisingly sharp blade." Editors at another cooking magazine concur, calling this mandoline an overall winner. Blades are stored within the housing, a convenience that reviewers like.
In stark contrast to professional reviews, owners are sharply divided over the Oxo Good Grips V-Blade Mandoline Slicer, with nearly as many users giving it the highest rating as those giving it the lowest. Those who love it praise the Oxo Good Grips V-Blade Mandoline Slicer as versatile, though some do say it takes awhile to learn to use properly. Unhappy owners deride the Oxo mandoline as too dull to slice soft vegetables and fruits. In addition, they say it's difficult to remove and change the Oxo's blade, and with so many nooks and crannies, cleaning is a hassle. Even professional reviewers say they wish the Oxo mandoline had more than four thickness settings; according to Fine Cooking magazine, french fries came out "pretty thin."
Another Oxo model, the Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer (*Est. $65) runs a close race in tests by a major cooking magazine, narrowly missing the top slot. Like its sibling, the Oxo Good Grips V-Blade Mandoline Slicer, the Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer has soft-grip feet, a thickness-selector dial and a well-designed finger guard. The main difference between the two lies in performance. At Amazon.com, nearly 40 users give the Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer the lowest-possible rating, far outweighing those who give it the highest score. Several users criticize the blade as hopelessly dull. In the words of reviewer Ravi Radheshwar, using the Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer is "like trying to cut vegetables with a dull metal ruler." Owners also pan the food pusher, saying it is awkward to use.
Like the top-rated Benriner, the handheld, Japanese-made Kyocera Adjustable Mandoline Slicer (*Est. $25), which comes in several colors, must be placed over a bowl or cutting board because it lacks legs. Professional and consumer reviews call this simple slicer a great buy. Not only is it easy to store, they say, it's a breeze to assemble and use. At SeriousEats.com, contributor Blake Royer says he "just lazily slide[s] vegetables over the mandoline's ceramic blade, resulting in beautiful, paper-thin, uniform slices." Owners posting to Amazon.com love the Kyocera Adjustable Mandoline Slicer's sharp blade, which is impervious to rust. Reviews say that you should save the original box, because there's no way to store these slicers safely in a drawer. This lightweight slicer has four width settings, but it can't julienne, dice or produce waffle cuts. Kyocera does, however, make two julienne slicers, the Kyocera Ceramic Mandoline for Julienne Cuts (*Est. $23) and Kyocera Wide Ceramic Mandoline for Julienne Cuts (*Est. $25). Overall, the Kyocera looks like an excellent choice for light-duty slicing, but if you plan to use a mandoline several times a week, or you need a mandoline that can produce more than just slices, the Benriner Mandoline Slicer looks like a better option.
Another mandoline worth considering is the Swissmar Borner V-Slicer Plus Mandoline (*Est. $40), which earns raves from hundreds of owners at Amazon.com. Although it hasn't been included in comparative reviews, owners say that the Swissmar Borner V-Slicer Plus Mandoline is durable. This mandoline can slice in thicknesses of 1/4 or 1/16 of an inch, and make julienne cuts in 1/8-inch or 3/8-inch strips, as well as dice. Not only is it easy to use, owners report, it's compact and very sharp. Unlike the Oxo Good Grips Mandoline Slicer, it can't turn out waffle or crinkle cuts, and it doesn't have a stand, so it must be set over a bowl or cutting board.
The advantage of pro-style mandolines is that they are made of sturdy stainless steel, which makes them both handsome and dishwasher-safe. In addition, they can make every kind of cut, from julienne to crinkle to waffle. Their bases keep the cutting surface at a 45-degree angle, so you don't have to place them over a bowl. To change cuts, you lower one cutting plate and raise another with the help of a dial, which means you don't have to deal with removing and storing blades when they're not in use. However, many reviews indicate that expensive, pro-style slicers aren't worth the additional cost; in fact, other slicers do nearly as good a job and cost far less.
Professional reviews of the French-made De Buyer La Mandoline V Professionnelle (*Est. $180) are divided between those who call it sturdy and easy to operate and those who contend that it's bulky and awkward. This mandoline is constructed entirely of stainless steel and has a razor-sharp, V-shaped slicing blade. It can slice in a range of thicknesses and widths, as well as make waffle and crinkle cuts. While the De Buyer La Mandoline V Professionnelle aced Fine Cooking magazine's tests, (it was the only mandoline that didn't make a mess of a juicy tomato), in tests at another top source, it finished dead last. Some experts like the spring-loaded food pusher, which exerts even pressure on food, while others claim that it sends food bouncing across the work surface.
Most owners posting to ChefsCatalog.com and Amazon.com are happy with the De Buyer La Mandoline V Professionnelle and say that it's worth the price. This mandoline comes with a storage box and an instructional DVD. If you want a slicer that's built to last and can make even the most complicated cuts, reviews indicate that you should consider the De Buyer La Mandoline V Professionnelle.
As with the De Buyer La Mandoline V Professionnelle, ratings for the 16-inch-long Bron Super Pro Mandoline with Pusher (*Est. $180) are a mixed bag. At Tibesti.com, professional chef Scott Liebfried calls this slicer the "best of the best." However, in tests at a major cooking magazine, this mandoline pulped a tomato instead of slicing it. Experts say that the Bron Super Pro Mandoline with Pusher can be difficult to assemble if you're unfamiliar with mandolines, and the directions are hard to decipher. Although reviewers generally agree that it's very sharp, owners posting to Cooking.com say it does a markedly better job with hard vegetables than with soft.