For home cooks watching cooking shows, one of the most intimidating things about a professional chef in full flight is the speed and accuracy of the knife work. It's very difficult to make perfect slices at high speed until and unless you do it every day. Truth be told, even professionals seldom use a knife anymore when they need to turn out slices or julienne in volume. Instead they use a mandolin or mandolin, a slicer with a blade fitted into it. Some of the best and most popular come from Japan.
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Shun Pro Mandolin Slicer
Shun is a manufacturer of high-end kitchen knives in Japan, and they produce some of the world's most prized chef's knives. Their steel is unusually hard, and holds an edge remarkably well. They apply the same design standard to the blades of their mandolin, a high-end model capable of slicing vegetables razor-thin. With available attachments, it will also create julienne and waffle cuts, and is even capable of dicing vegetables. The blade is both adjustable and removable, and can be sharpened when it becomes dull.
The Benriner Slicer
The Benriner slicer is not nearly the pure cutting machine the Shun is, but at one-tenth the cost it doesn't really need to be. Benriner's slicers are lightweight and very sharp, which earns them high marks for value utility. Unlike the Shun and traditional French models, the Benriner requires no counter space beyond what you would require for a cutting board. Benriner slicers come with interchangeable blades, which slice or julienne the vegetables.
Benriner Vertical Rotary Slicer
The same manufacturer also produces a vertical rotary slicer, an interesting variation on the mandolin theme. Rather than a flat platform with the blades embedded, these stand upright and the blade is mounted in the base. A holder slides down vertically to grip the vegetable and push it through the cutting blades, as the handle is cranked. Thick and thin blades cut the vegetable in spirals, and julienne blades turn the vegetables into attractive "shoestring" spirals for deep-frying, stir-frying or garnishes.
Kyocera Ceramic Slicer
Kyocera, the Kyoto Ceramics Company, has a range of kitchen products featuring ceramic blades. Their mandolins, like the basic Benriner, are marketed to the home cook who wants a mandolin for occasional use, but will not be working with it every day. The crucial advantage Kyocera has in the casual market is the rustproof nature of their ceramic blades. Although no sharper than the steel blades in more widespread use, the ceramic blades will not rust as they sit in the back of your kitchen's utility drawer. They are also impervious to the harsh chemicals used in dishwashing machines.
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