Ask any carpenter or mechanic and they will tell you, "Having the right tool can make all the difference." The same goes for in the kitchen. From month to month I will be featuring a different kitchen tool. This month's tool is the mandoline.
This utensil is consists of a sharp, adjustable cutting blade and is not a musical instrument predominant in Renaissance and folk music. Most brands include multiple blades with different cutting styles. Switching between styles usually requires changing a plate.
A mandoline is most useful for cutting uniformly anything to be baked, fried or sauteed. Having everything at a uniform thickness allows for a quick and even cooking. Mandoline's commonly come with blades that will slice potatoes strips for homemade french fries. Or use the thinnest setting to make crispy potato chips.
One thing to be careful of with a mandoline is the blade is extremely sharp. To prevent injuries, many come with a holder that, with little teeth, holds the fruit/vegetable while it is being sliced to keep the users fingers away from the blade.
Prices range from fairly inexpensive, around $9 at Wal-Mart, to very expensive, almost $60 at pamperedchef.com. Finding a mandoline that offers all the bells and whistles or one that simply cuts various thicknesses will determine how much the cost will be.