How to Use a Japanese Mandoline (Benriner)

A Scarlet Queen turnip thin-sliced with a Benriner aka V Slicer aka Japanese Mandoline or MandolinFor a couple of years now, I've experimented with various mandoline-type slicing tools, including several hand-held ones (this one actually works but it was a freebie my sister received in the mail) and a couple of $30 - $50 'sliding slicers'.

Finally, I found the one I love! (Thanks to Karen from FamilyStyle Food for the recommendation!) It's a Japanese-style benriner, some times called a Japanese mandoline (or mandolin) or an Asian mandoline (or mandolin), some times called a V-Slicer.

Me, I call it extraordinarily handy in the kitchen, especially for transforming raw vegetables into perfectly thin and perfectly versions of themselves -- often this makes them edible (and enjoyable) uncooked, but for cooking small size means fast cooking.

In 2005, it was a technique for aggressively trimming broccoli that was 'life transforming' - at least the vegetable area of my life! In 2007, it's the Benriner that allows two of my four tips for transforming mundane vegetables into something new and exciting.

So yes, I'm sold.

Will the Benriner replace knives? No. Sorry, the knives aren't destined for Goodwill and they'll still need regular sharpening. Even so, there's no matching the perfectly thin and perfectly even slices that emerge from a mandoline. And the three interchangeable blades create different widths of vegetables.
  • The 'fine' blade creates light fluffy bits of vegetables, almost like a microplane does for lemon zest and Parmesan.
  • My favorite is the 'medium' blade, for 'noodles' of vegetables along with matchsticks.
  • The 'coarse' blade cuts narrow batons.

Is the Benriner better than the food processor for slicing? Yes. I love my 20-year old Cuisinart but don't like how it slices, except narrow vegetables, like carrots.

So you're sold, Alanna. How how do you use a Benriner?
To my mind, the benriner is very intuitive since there are only two knobs to adjust and one place for one of three blades to be inserted. But after pulling it out of the cupboard once or twice a week for a couple of months now, I'll pass along a few tips. I'll add new ones as more experience is gained but please, feel free to add your own tips in the comments.

Technique Tips for the Benriner
  • DO USE THE FINGER GUARD (unless you're happy to visit an emergency room)
  • Work slowly and deliberately, taking care each time you move.
  • If you're in the habit of pouring a glass of wine while you cook -- do so after using the Benriner! You know the warning, "Do not operate heavy machinery while sleepy or distracted or under the influence"? It applies to the Benriner, too.
  • Set the blade where you think you want it. Then do a test slide to see if the thickness / width of the vegetables is what you want.
  • Use a light touch. Don't push, just slide. This lets the Benriner do the work.
  • If it's 'hard' to slide, lighten your touch. Honestly, lighter is easier.
  • Vegetables seem to have a grain. If sliding one way is a little tough, turn the vegetable another way, again if necessary.
  • Whenever the area underneath is full, the Benriner will stick. It helps to 'count' to know how many slices that'll be.
  • Follow the Benriner's tracks. Keeping a straight edge along the side helps too. Some times it helps to actually cut a straight edge on the vegetable so it's automatically guided along the edge.
  • The finger guard is designed to run perpendicular to the Benriner but it works the other way too, making it easy to switch directions.
  • If the finger guard can't keep a grip because of an irregular top surface, after a slide or two, turn the piece upside down, flat edge on top so the finger guard can get/keep its purchase
  • Be prepared to throw away (or save for compost or vegetable stock) end bits, you just can't get that close, especially with the finger guard.
  • So far, what slices beautifully: potatoes, beets, celeriac, zucchini, kohlrabi, radishes, young turnips, carrots (though with carrots, be prepared to leave behind a good inch since you can't use the finger guard) -- and fingers, are you using the finger guard???
  • So far, what hasn't sliced well: green papaya
Benriner Clean-Up & Storage
  • Rinse the Benriner right away, especially the blades. This means right away, not after five minutes, not after supper. You really don't want the bits of very thin (and thus easily dried) vegetables to stick to the blades.
  • They're apparently dishwasher-safe but after a good rinse, I figure there's no need to risk the dishwasher heat warping the plastic. (And for the record, I one of those who puts everything that fits into the dishwasher, knives, cookie sheets, plastic. The blender. The food processor bowls. Well, okay, I don't put the cast iron skillet in there.)
  • I dry the removable blades on a paper towel, then wrap them in a clean towel and store in a small freezer bag. (The blades are truly sharp. You don't want to risk a bad cut by keeping them in a drawer, for example, even the mandoline box.)
Which Brand/Model to Purchase
  • The brand I'm happy with is from Benriner Co, Ltd and is made in Japan.
  • The model is the 'narrow' Benriner and has a 2 1/2 inch (64mm) sliding surface. So far, this width works fine and is so small it's handy to pull out a few times a week.
  • But if I were to purchase another, I'd be tempted to order the larger Super Benriner (95mm or 3 3/4 inches but sorry, Amazon seems to no longer have that item available) or even the still-larger Jumbo Benriner (115mm or 4 1/2 inches).
  • More important than width, however, might be getting one with a container that rests underneath to catch the vegetables as they fall -- at least, that's what I thought at first, since I had no luck operating mine over a bowl, as hoped, nor with balancing it on its end. Now I think it's a matter of personal choice and it might depend on how you'll use it since even a container underneath would fill up and it's lots easier to just lift up the Benriner than to open up a container. So: a choice.

What I Don't Know is how to pronounce Benriner! My mind pronounces it ben-REE-ner but of course, that would not be the phonetic Ben-RINE-er. Thoughts?



FROM THE ARCHIVES I'm so happy with the Benriner (and think you will be too) that there's a special spot in the Recipe Box for dishes where I use (or wish I'd had used) a Benriner. So here you go - the Benriner recipes.

A Veggie Venture is home of the Veggie Evangelist Alanna Kellogg and vegetable inspiration from Asparagus to Zucchini. © Copyright 2007

30 comments:

I love my v-slicer for making perfectly thin slices, as well as little matchsticks of veggies. But these things can be very dangerous. It took one very painful, and expensive mistake for me to learn. I now have a permanent reminder to *always* use the hand guard.

Yikes. I've been lucky so far but have had enough experience with the blade of the Cuisinart blade and even the Microplane to imagine. (It makes me faint, just to consider ...) Thanks for the reminder.

I've been desperate to get a mandolin for sometime now. With a very small kitchen the enormous versions I've come across just haven't been feasible. This looks perfect!

One thing I did when I got my mandoline was to buy the cheapest 5 pound bag of potatoes and just play with them on the mandoline because yes practice does help and it got me comfortable. Summertime it gets a heavy workout.

Oh, thanks for the tips and product rec! I had Michel Richard's book "Happy in the Kitchen" from the library for a few weeks, and his recipes make heavy use of his mandoline. Everything turns out so pretty when sliced thin like that.

I'm such a clutz that I would be terrified to take off a finger. Even with the guard.

I do love my mandoline. Great tips, thanks for sharing.

Wendy ~ I like the small size too.

Tanna ~ Very smart! I did potatoes (and beets!) early on, too.

IronStef ~ Nice to see you, fellow St. Louisan! The slices are ever so pretty, that's what keeps us all coming back, despite our cautions.

Kelly ~ Understood. I know this is one favorite kitchen tool that my sister's not getting for Christmas since she's got two teenage boys.

Cynthia ~ You too!

I tried to post yesterday under the "other" catagory but the mail seems to have failed.

Just wanted to let you know that I looked up the pronunciation in kana and it is "be-n-ree-nah" with equal stress on all the syllables. The "be" is pronounced somewhere between beh and bay.
:)

Just wanted to second (8th? 9th?) how important finger guards are. Very, very important. Mandolins cause lots of bleeding and nasty scars.
But they're also amazing kitchen tools! As long as they're used safely.

I was slicing onions without the finger guard and my wife said, "You're going to cut your finger!" on two successive swipes before I stopped and said, "Don't be silly".

On the very next swipe I cut my thumb. No stitches but almost.

I've loved the Benriner ever since the good old days of Iron Chef in Japanese. I've got both the narrower and wider one. But I must admit - I still don't know what to do with the toothy attachments. My attempts at using them to julienne have been fruitless. Little help?

I tried slicing tomatoes with it last night and all I was left with was mush. I can't seem get my small Benriner to slice any thicker than 1/8". Is that normal?

Do you have a serrated knife or a bread knife? That'll do the trick, especially with 'good' tomatoes, the ones we're so lucky to enjoy right now. I would guess that only 'supermarket solid' tomatoes, the ones picked green, would make it through a Benriner, there just isn't enough to hang onto. Hope this helps!

Yes, I have a fantastic Wusthof tomato knife...I was just hoping to use my Benriner instead! Thanks for letting me know that using the Benriner probably wouldn't work...I thought I was doing something wrong!

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i just got one today, the "super", and its really hard to adjust. the screws are painful to grip. I took them ALL the way out, and it still wont slice thicker than a few millimeters, is this normal? seems like a normal mandoline is way more adjustable.

also, the name is benri na, a pun which means "convenient, isnt it?" benri rhymes with tinny and na rhymes with hah as in hah-hah-hah

Hi Anonymous ~ That doesn't sound 'normal' at all.

And thank you for the explanation of the name, I shall never pull mine out without a giggle, again! (Although too bad, it does sound as if yours is failing in the convenience department ...)

Does it make waffle cuts?

I don't believe that mine does. It all depends on the blades, if a mandoline has a waffle blade, then it would. My experience however is that the more complicated the blade, the less useful it is because it's hard to use.

Could you please tell me how to hold a cabbage while slicing so that I get thin shreds for cole slaw? I think I read somewhere that I have to cut it in half first and then????

The trick with cabbage is to cut a wedge that fits into the mandoline, one that you can hold well with the gripper tool (the one that saves your fingers!) and then slice. Hope this helps!

The Japanese pronunciation is BEN-ree-na and used as an adjective such as in "a convenient location". In conversation, it might be pronounced with a rising intonation like you do asking a question. In that case, the "na" is drawn out more like "naahh" implying "pretty convenient, huh?"

HTH, Roxanne (BA in Japanese Lang and 2 years in Japan :)

I use a travel toothbrush case to store the extra blades for my mandoline. Keeps them clean and safe in my kitchen drawer.

I understand the Kelvar gloves (available on Amazon for 7.99) protect your fingers. I have been researching mandolins, the Benriner looks to be the best for the price, something simple to use.

I just read your post on the Benriner - and found it very helpful - especially the reminder about the wine with cooking and the emergency room...

Benriner is the Americanization of the Japanese expression - benri na - which means "convenient"... (vowels pronounced similar to Spanish)

Hey I was keen to get one of these and use it to turn potato's into pasta like string (coz I can't eat wheat pasta.

I was looking at getting one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Benriner-BN7-Cook-Helper-Slicer/dp/B000BI6CZ8/ref=sr_1_26?ie=UTF8&qid=1305516035&sr=8-26

But then saw there are flat one's too. You said you've tried multiple styles.. which one is the best and why?

Joey

One review I read said that they are horrible to clean and recommended to spiral slicer instead:

http://prettysmartrawfoodideas.wordpress.com/2009/07/14/do-not-buy-this-machine-my-experience-with-the-benriner-spiralizer/

I'm so confused now!

Joey ~ I don't have experience with the spiral cutters, so can't make a comparison. I still like mine though find I don't pull it out as often as I used to. I also know that last week when I asked the owner of my local kitchen store, "What's selling?" that he showed me a ceramic slicer and said they are selling like crazy. It's like this one except that it comes with a few different blades. It also looks easier to clean than the metal one I have. Let me know what you decide and how it works out for you!

Hi, just got a Super and am learning to use it, cautiously. I had read that carrots stain the Benriner surface. It's true, but if you wipe the orange stains with a bit of alcohol on a napkin, the orange stain turns to yellow and then comes right off. Just thought I'd share the tip.

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna