How to Use a Slicer Without Chopping Off Your Fingers

調理器具ベンリナーの外観 (Outline of food slicer "Ben...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This summer, I bought a new mandoline. The blade is still very sharp and, frankly, I cheaped out and it isn’t the safest one. As a result, everybody who has used it has nicked themselves at some point. My brother calls it the Death Machine. I sliced open my finger and he almost cut his off. So I thought I would share some tips on how to use a slicer without chopping your fingers off.

Now, there are generally two types of slicers: electric and hand-powered. Electric slicers are easy. They have a big built in guard to keep your fingers safe. Use it! Simply put the food to be sliced against the blade, move the guard into place, and turn it on. Some electric slicers even have safeties that won’t let the slicer turn on unless the guard is in place.

A hand powered slicer, such as a mandoline, is more difficult. The guard tends to be smaller and some modles don’t even have any way of requiring it’s use. In the mandoline shown in the picture above, it is built in. But most have a removable guard. Here’s what to do in that case:

Slicing food vertically

When slicing food vertically (think making rings out of an onion, or pickle chips from a cucumber), the guard is pretty useless, because the pressure is being put in the wrong spot until you get down to the end. Also, guards simply don’t grip the a rounded end that well.

To start, cut the top off. This will give you a flat edge to grip into when you get lower.

Hold the vegetable with a firm grip around the middle. Press down and in the direction of the blade. Go slowly and adjust your grip as you go. As the food gets shorter, move your grip towards the top. When the food item gets to be about 4 inches tall, use the guard to hold the food again. Always keep at least 4 inches between the blade and your fingers.

And above all else, go slowly. If your grip slips while moving slowly, you will miss the blade. If you hand slips while flying through the slicing, you will send your fingers – most likely your thumb – right into the blade.

Slicing food horizontally

Slicing horizontally, to make long thin strips or a julliene cut (with the appropriate blade) is tougher. Rarely will a food be so large that you can keep your fingers 4 inches away. The guard really is necessary at this point. Take the food item and press it against the slicer with your palm, keeping your fingers well away. Slowly move the food against the blade to remove a slice. Then pick the food up and turn it upside down. You now have a flat side to work with. The guard will now have something to grip against.

2 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mary Beth Elderton on 03.10.13 at 19:52

    Thank you! I bought a slicer. The first time I used it I removed a slice from my middle finger. The second time I used it I sliced off about an eighth inch hunk of my ring finger—thank goodness I wasn’t trying to make 1/4 inch slices! I’ve been afraid of it ever since. I like the tip about taking off a first slice then turning the veggie over to make a flat surface for the gripper to handle.

  2. Posted by Edward Antrobus on 03.10.13 at 19:52

    I remember a line from Malcolm in the Middle when the older brother got a job at a butcher shop and said his nickname was “ten fingers” because the old “ten fingers” wasn’t using it any more for some reason. Hopefully you have better luck in the future.

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