I first heard of mandoline slicers when I was mildly-obsessed with raw foods guru Natalia Rose. The way she raved about them in her Raw Foods Detox Diet book, I imagined that they must be some complicated, expensive piece of equipment. But mandolines are actually pretty simple—kinda like a cheese grater with legs, they slice vegetables such as zucchini and carrots and squash into pretty little spirals, thin ribbons (I believe they’re called juliennes?) or crinkle cuts. Most come with several attachments for different kinds of slicing; these attachments, containing different kinds of blades, are mounted on a fixed surface, and to slice, you simply run your vegetable or whatever back and forth over the blades. The advantage is that you can do this fairly quickly (quicker than with a knife), and it will result in uniform slices.
Looking to purchase a mandoline? There are three basic things to consider (aside from cost, of course):
Stainless steel vs. plastic body: The stainless steel ones are studier and may last longer, but they’re also more expensive. Experts say that if you plan to use a mandoline more than several times a week, a stainless steel one is best; otherwise, a (cheaper) plastic model will do.
Ceramic or metal blades: Ceramic blades tend to stay sharp longer, and won’t ever rust.
Variety of attachments: Some mandolines just to basic slicing; others come with attachments to make crinkle and waffle cuts, dice and julienne.
The following mandoline slicers all come recommended by some sort of consumer report, magazine, chef, etc. Take a look—there are options for every budget and kitchen-skill level.