Perfect julienned carrots or sliced cucumbers make beautiful salads or garnishes, but consistent cutting takes patience ― unless you use a mandoline or slicer. Stainless steel models are pricey, but plastic-bodied models, such as the Börner V-Slicer Plus (shown at left) and the adjustable Japanese Benriner cutter (our favorite), are just as functional. Their blades slide right through a raw potato for paper-thin slices that fry up into crisp, translucent chips.
The Börner V-Slicer Plus is available at amazon.com for about $35. The Benriner cutter, about $35, can be purchased from the Wok Shop in San Francisco (888/780-7171).