Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Food slicer fun

I think I mentioned that I like kitchen gadgets.  Well, the newest one in my repertoire is my food slicer.  It is a totally fluffy, unnecessary kitchen gadget, but holy crap has it proven its usefulness.  I was a little skeptical at first, driven away by high prices and bad reviews.  But hubby and I were at JC Penney the other day and I decided to go ahead and take the plunge (on sale of course) for around $55.

I have long had a v-slicer (a cheapy version of a mandoline) which essentially does the same thing, but did not have an adjustable blade, has a much narrower blade, and takes a lot more muscle.  The v-slicer faced some serious limitations.  For one, I had to cut things down to make them fit the limited width of the blade.  One of my favorite dishes is French Onion Soup, and slicing 3 lbs of onions into 1/8" slices with a knife with ANY kind of consistency is near impossible, not to mention the strain on your tear ducts.  A v-slicer makes this much easier, but large red onions are too big to fit in the handle or over the blade, forcing me to cut them in half, which ruins the aesthetics of my soup (I never claimed to be sane), not to mention, an onion cut in half tends to pop out its inner rings, making wrangling the things even harder.  Another, more significant limitation was its inability to cut things like meat and cheese.  For anything that caused major friction across the blade, it took more force than I was able to give it to get a slice, and even if I did manage, they came out all wrinkled up and uneven.  And of course, because I did not have a true mandoline, my slice width was not adjustable.  Rather than spend $70 for a nice mandoline that still suffered from the first two limitations, I decided to try a cheap version of an electric slicer.

I got the Cook's brand from JC Penney (their house brand I believe) because it was on sale and I saw it on display and it looked reasonably sturdy and useful.  It adjusts from about 1/8"-5/8" slices, and is on a dial, so although each number on the dial corresponds to a 1/8" increment, it can do anything in between as well.  I think if I tested it with something a little more sturdy I could even get less than 1/8", but I have not tried with success yet.  To test it out, I made French onion soup which requires the aforementioned sliced red onions as well as sliced swiss cheese for the yummy broiled topping. I didn't try slicing the baguette that is also used for the soup since it is cut on the bias and would be a pain to keep even in the slicer and I only needed 4 pieces, but bread is supposedly sliceable as well.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are my results:

Beautiful, even slices.  Quick, simple operation.  It worked like a champ.  I had all the onions done before the butter foamed in my dutch oven.  I had all the cheese done before I even thought about it.  And of course, I was jumping up and down, squealing with joy at how cool it was the whole while.  Poor hubby... Intrigued, I tried it on some provolone I had wanted to slice for sandwiches.

Cutting the round food was a little harder, but other than some slightly jagged edges, I couldn't see any fault with them, either.  I wanted to try it on some meat, but I didn't have anything handy, so I will have to post again with some ham and roast beef.

All was not perfect, though.  There is some waste for each item you cut, because the slicer cannot get in that last slice very well (that's the one you lose fingers on with a knife).  Also, because the back of the slicer is made of silver plastic and not metal, it flexes under pressure and can make some uneven slices, although it was well within the limit of acceptability for me.  This did result in awkward shaped rinds left over though.  The v-slicer has the same issue, so I wasn't too dismayed.  I also did have a little problem keeping even pressure on the pusher so that it fed evenly without bending that plastic piece back too much. I needed an extra hand almost so that the food stayed in place and slid back and forth correctly.  I did manage to wedge a piece of swiss down into the mechanism once when I tried to get that one last slice.  It was easy to retrieve, but I felt like an idiot for getting it stuck.  (of course I turned the blade OFF before sticking my hand in there!)

Oops.  Stuck cheese.  Luckily that front part flips toward you for easy retrieval.

As for everything else, it was pretty great.  The blade comes off for easy cleaning, as does the plastic pusher,  and everything else just required a wipe down with a washcloth or sponge.  The cheese left a little film of cheesy goodness on everything, but unless you let it dry on there, I don't see it being an issue to wipe off.  All in all, it outperformed my expectations.  I half expected it not to cut through cheese without leaving a mangled mess.  I am sure it works better on harder cheeses than the softer ones I tested it on, so I am glad to report even the softer ones held up pretty well.

My main motive was to save money by slicing my own lunch meat and cheese with this machine (and make it myself since I am not allowed to have deli food during pregnancy.  Stupid food-borne illness).  At $55 it will take a while to pay for itself, but the simplicity of the design makes other kitchen slicing tasks less of a bear and much faster, so it was totally worth it.  And then of course there is its inherent coolness.  I mean, who doesn't want to use a power tool?  As Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor would say, "More power!"  Oh, and grunt grunt.

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