What the best mandolines and slicers have

  • Sturdy construction. The best mandoline slicers are durable enough to withstand the pressure of sliding produce down the slicing plane without wobbling or flexing. Meat slicers should be sturdy and have strong, rubber suction cups on the legs to keep them securely anchored to the counter. Spiral slicers should cut long, unbroken ribbons without clogging.
  • Comfortable, safe cutting guard. Essential for safety on a mandoline, the hand guard grips the food and presses it against the slicer, keeping your fingers away from the sharp blade. The safest guards are at least as broad as the base of the mandoline slicer, and run smoothly along the slicing track without catching or jittering. Those shaped like derby hats with brims wider than the slicing plane feel the sturdiest and are considered safest. On meat slicers, the blade guard should completely cover the blade. Always use the pusher on your meat slicer, don't push the meat with your hands. Spiralizers are safe to use because of the way the blades are set into the plastic housing; however, great care should be taken in cleaning them -- some experts recommend a soft brush to clean the blades so you don't have to get your fingers near them. At the very least, wear a good pair of rubber gloves.
  • Razor-sharp slicing. Whether it's ceramic or stainless steel, the blade should cleanly slice produce without having to push hard against the mandoline. The best mandoline slicers deliver precise cuts on a wide range of produce, from soft tomatoes to firm potatoes. Some experts fee that models with V-shaped or diagonally slanted blades perform much better than the horizontal style. Blades are constructed of either ceramic or stainless steel. Both are equally sharp, but stainless steel can be sharpened, ceramic can't. However, the blade should stay sharp for several years. Meat slicers have stainless steel blades and some can be sharpened. Replace the blade -- or have it professionally sharpened -- if it begins to pull against whatever you are trying to slice.
  • Several height settings. The more height settings, the more versatile your slicer will be; enabling you to cut deli-thin slices of cucumbers,  thick tomato slices, or sandwich-ready cuts of meat. The thickness setting (blade height) should be easy to adjust and lock firmly in place. Mandolines with pre-set increments are faster to set up but limiting. Most experts prefer dials that let you select any cutting height and make fine adjustments as you go. Meat slicer thickness adjustments generally lock in place.
  • An assortment of blades. Many people just need a basic mandoline for slicing and making julienne cuts, but, some mandolines come with blades you can swap out to make waffle cuts, dice, shred or even cube. The best meat slicers will either include a serrated and non-serrated blade, or have the option to purchase one or the other. Spiralizers should have a variety of blades you can change out for various thicknesses and shapes.
  • Easy to swap accessories. A key to safety with any slicer is blades or cutting tools that can be swapped out without having to dig out the blades or fumble with them to put them in place.
  • Easy cleanup. The best slicers have a body that washes easily and doesn't trap food in its crevices. Look for dishwasher-safe models for fast cleanup, though some manufacturers recommend hand-washing removable blades to prevent dulling.

Know before you go

What types of dishes you want to create. If you need only an occasional slicer, consider a simple mandoline with a fixed straight blade. For more complex dishes -- such as fries, chips, stir fry meals and ornamental salads -- select a mandoline with replaceable straight, julienne and crinkle blades. If you need to slice meats or cheeses, you'll need a meat slicer, as a mandoline won't perform those tasks.

Expect some scraps. The hand guards on mandolines limit slicing the entire vegetable because of their design, but it' much better to have a bit left over than remove the hand guard and risk cutting off a fingertip. Some chefs use a knife to finish that last bit, or just save it for stew.

All slicers are extremely sharp. Owners frequently are caught off guard when using specialized slicing tools for the first time; learning to clean and switch blades can be difficult without cutting yourself if you're not careful.

Invest in an extra measure of safety. Whether you're using a mandoline, meat slicer, spiralizer or a knife, you may want to look into investing in a pair of cut-resistant gloves. They've long been available for people who work with cutting tools in the shop, now they're being redesigned for the home cook, and they can help you avoid a nasty cut.

Maybe you just need a knife. If you almost never slice anything, or maybe just slice the occasional potato or carrot, a mandoline, meat slicer or spiralizer is probably overkill. But everyone needs at least one good knife. If that's you, head on over to our separate report on kitchen knives for the best chef's knife, paring knife, knife set and steak knives.

Elsewhere in this Report:

Best Reviewed Mandolines and Slicer: The right slicer can make food prep so quick and easy, you'll wonder how you did without it. Here are the top mandoline slicers, meat slicers and spiralizers, plus a great pair of cut-resistant gloves to keep your hands safe.

Best Mandoline Slicers: Mandoline slicers aren't just for professional chefs anymore. The best mandoline slicers are razor sharp; but they're also versatile, easy to use, and safe -- if used properly. They're also highly affordable; none top out at more than $50.

Best Meat Slicers and Spiralizers: Want to make quick work of cutting large hunks of meat down to size, or make perfect vegetable spirals or ribbons? We found a great home meat cutter, popular for those who make their own jerky, and a fun-to-use spiral slicer that will keep you in curly fries.

Our Sources: We used these professional and user review sites to find the best mandoline slicers, meat slicers and spiralizers. They are ranked in order of their expertise and helpfulness.

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