I rarely devote a column to products that don’t meet my expectations (government excluded). But, this time, a product I tried was so abysmally designed that it warrants a few pixels.
The failing product is OXO’s Steel Chef’s Mandoline Slicer.
It’s a bit painful writing this review. I have always trusted OXO kitchen tools. Most of my gadgets and really useful stuff has been made by OXO. The brand enjoys endorsements by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen and (among others) Chef Jacques Pepin.
First, a little bit of background on mandoline-style slicers.
The mandoline slicer is sort of a horizontal guillotine. Fruit or vegetables are slid down its upper surface where they contact a fixed blade. The blade slices off a bit of the food item each time the operator passes the food over the blade. The device can be adjusted to cut foods in almost any thickness. Mandolines are extremely helpful when the cook needs to slice a large quantity of foods or if the slices must be uniform and the cook has less than average knife skills. Think of the device as an upside-down wood plane.
I was introduced to mandoline slicers as a professional cook. In those days (and in many pro kitchens today) the food was pushed on the slicer by a hand protected with a folded towel or flour sack.
Nowadays, many professional mandolins and virtually all home models come with a food pusher designed to hold the food and protect the operator’s hand from the razor-sharp slicing blade.
The pusher (or ‘food holder’) on the OXO Steel Chef’s Mandoline Slicer fails to hold the food because the blade is poorly designed.
The holder has a dozen or so small plastic nubs molded into it’s base. It also has about six thin, steel pins that retract as the food gets thinner from slicing. In the case of the $100 OXO slicer in question, the food starts past the blade and then quickly jams. The food pusher rips right out of the food. The food jams, because the blade of the slicer reverses to a toothed side designed to slice soft foods (such as tomatoes) and, as a result, the blade has a small ‘step’ where the two blades join.
Getting the jammed food out of the slicer is like arm-wrestling Edward Scissorhands. There is no way you’re going to finish the event without getting cut.
Usefulness aside, the OXO slicer is an elegant piece of kitchen equipment and its construction is quite sturdy.
It simply does not work. Kitchen tools need to work.
I tried to julienne carrots and daikon for a batch of kim chee and I could not complete more than three passes with either food before my slicing came skidding to a halt. I switched the blade to simply slice the food and hoped to complete the julienne cuts by stacking the sliced food and then cutting it with a knife. The same problem manifested. The slicer jammed after 2 or 3 passes and the pusher ripped right out of the food.
Once the food is ripped out of the pusher/holder, it cannot be replaced and the cut re-tried. The metal pins designed to hold the food, thoroughly rip the food to ribbons in sort of an ironic mockery of slicing.
I finished my kim chee using a kitchen utility knife. But, not wanting to concede defeat, I used a spare potato to see if the OXO slicer could be salvaged to make fries.
It could not.
The slicer was carefully cleaned, re-boxed, and returned to the seller.
What a shame.
I think the product is worthy of a re-design. The most simple change would be to package the slicer with four, individual blades. Doing so would eliminate the sharp ‘step’ present on the reversible blade and such a design would likely put an end to food jams.
For just over $50 more, I purchased a Bron professional mandoline. Except for the folded flour sacks, the Bron on order is virtually identical to the one I used professionally nearly forty years ago.
I promise to give a review.