For many professionals, the mandolin is more of a want than a need in the kitchen, especially compared to a knife.
But if you’re wary around knives or aren’t that adept at using these, the aforementioned gadget is a definite must-have.
The Mandolin’s Bag of Tricks
New versions can now julienne, dice, do crinkle and waffle cuts, and shred. But it can only do plain slices for certain fruits and vegetables.
Take oranges, for instance.
Can this nifty tool slice this citrus?
The mandolin is used for slicing so you can make thin orange discs that would look great as toppings for citrus pies or pavlovas.
• After washing your fruit under the tap, attach it to the protective holder that comes with the gadget.
• Turn the knob on the side to set the thickness that you prefer.
• Using the straight blade, run it over the metal plate in the see-saw fashion.
Unfortunately, that is the only type of slice which you can get from a mandolin – paper-thin discs.
Falling Short with the Orange
Even more unfortunate, there are very few recipes that require that type of cut.
Most dishes with this citrus call for other slices. And those require the more multi-purpose knife.
Here are some of the most common cuts:
Halves and Quarters
Used for squeezing out the juice, this is simply made by slicing the fruit in half.
• Make sure that the eye or the navel is on the side so that you will get the cross-section, exposing the juice sacs. Cut in half.
• Lay the halves down, skin side on the board, and the pulp side up then cut one more in half to make quarters.
• Roll the fruit on a flat surface so that you can get as much juice from it.
Heating the fruit a bit also helps.
This is called for in salads, punches, and a lot of Asian-style sautees.
• Cut the top part of the citrus, where the eye or the navel is. Lay that part down on the chopping board.
• Starting from the other ‘pole’ of the fruit, slice the rind and white pith off using a small paring or utility knife. Go around until what’s left is the pulpy inside.
• Gently grip the orange with your non-dominant hand. Make V-shaped slices in between the filmy membranes with your dominant hand.
This is the same as above except that the rind and pith are also removed. It is also used as a topping for pies and pavlovas.
• Peel the fruit following the first two steps mentioned above (instructions for the wedges). Again, the best tool for this is a paring or utility blade.
• Lay it sideways so you can make cross-section slices with a Chef’s knife.
Use your knuckles as the guide for the thickness of each disc.
Citrusy marmalades make use of the rind, a bit of the piths, and the pulpy juice.
• Follow the instructions provided for peeling above. Set aside the pulpy part first.
• With a Chef’s knife, try removing the white piths from the rind by laying it flat and ‘fileting’ it off. You can save some if you like your marmalade a bit bitter.
• Make a stack of several thin rinds and start julienning, which is slicing thin matchsticks. Do the same with the piths you saved.
• Remove the seed from your oranges and chop these into smaller pieces before putting everything inside a pot with sugar.
This is usually the way to go when snacking on oranges, although some also use segments for their salads.
• If you have easy-to-peel Navels, Tangerines, and Mandarins, you can just segment these with your hands and remove the seeds as you eat them.
• But if the variant you got is a challenge to peel, then you will have to use a blade.
With a chef’s knife, cut the top and the bottom of the fruit then cut out the rind and pith as instructed above.
• You can easily segment these with your fingers.
Other Important Tips
First, it’s important to get fresh oranges.
If the fruit you have is past its best, it will be too dry inside and slightly foul-tasting.
The skin will also be too wrinkly and rubbery, making it hard to slice.
Secondly, use the appropriate blade for a specific task.
If you noticed, there were two knives mentioned: the paring or utility and the Chef’s knife.
You will do a better job if you follow this tip to the tee.
Third, make sure those are sharpened and well-honed. Blunt blades won’t do you good.
Finally, and related to the second tip, use the right tool for a particular task.
The mandolin can slice oranges, yes. But knives will do a better, all-around job.
All it takes is a bit of practice so you can wield this tool in the kitchen with more confidence.