I know … it’s a unitasker, a tool with only one function. That’s problematic my small urban kitchen, but I’ve found myself trying to process large volumes of potatoes in one sitting a couple of times lately … and I’ve been wondering if there was any relief available. That last 50# bag was a LOT of work! I remember it all too well!
I decided to check out the French Fry Slicer when I found it on the shelf that day. It was inexpensive ($6.99), but it didn’t necessarily feel totally cheap in my hands once I got it out of the box. It was made mostly of metal, not plastic. There were a couple of plastic parts, but it wasn’t flimsy overall. The pieces seemed to move against each other smoothly. The parts that were designed to fit together really seemed to fit together well, which spoke of good design and construction. And–as far as storing it when it’s not in use goes (the bane of living in a small kitchen)–I know from some of the heavy-duty food processing tools my father built over the years that–in some cases–it’s really handy to have an industrial-type tool to do a job, even if you only really do it once a year or so. His pea sheller was a prime example. It was big and clunky and definitely claimed a large chunk of storage space for itself when not in use … but, boy oh boy … could that thing chew through a bushel of peas in record time, shelling them without smashing them, and neatly separating the shelled peas from the shells in the process. It could shell a bushel of peas in less than 15 minutes–when shelling them by hand easily took 3-4 hours–so it was worth every square inch of the space it took to keep it in the attic 362-3 days/year.
I decided that–if this slicer worked as well as it was advertised–it could well be worth the storage space, too.
As I was setting up to make canned beef stew for my husband’s lunches, the French Fry Slicer sprang to mind. I thought it might work well to shove all the peeled potatoes through the slicer–cutting them all into 1/2 by 1/2 inch fries first–then to rough chop them into shorter, more jar-friendly sized pieces from there. I had almost 10# of peeled potatoes to process, so it would have definitely cut my chopping time down overall if it would work, plus it would give me a fairly consistent sized piece of potato to work with … handy when you’re trying to achieve consistent results in jars where you’re planning to raw-pack the potatoes.
I pulled the slicer from the box, ran it through some soapy water, made sure that the blade lock was in place according to the instructions in the box, and then used the suction cup to attach it to my counter. I selected one of the smaller potatoes first, dropped it into the chute, braced the cutter with the palm of one hand and pulled the handle down with the other.
When I reached the spot where I couldn’t pull it down anymore, I realized that the potato wasn’t coming out the other side. Sure, it had shoved the potato through the gridded blades, cutting it into fries … all the way down to the last inch or so of potato, that is. That’s where the cutter blades and the plastic guide/press section–designed to fit into the cutter’s grid–wedged against each other, obviously out of line.
I released the pressure on the handle, pulled off the fries that had been cut off the sides of the potato, then pushed the handle forward again … this time watching its path as it slid through the mechanism. It jammed again, right at the point where the plastic food pusher came in contact with the cutter blades.
The problem was obvious. The plastic pusher piece is designed with a series of gridded plastic fingers that each push the potato through the corresponding hole in the cutter grid. When pushed into the absolute final position, each plastic finger should be pushed through the holes in the cutter grid, and each wire of the cutter grid should be basically buried inside the plastic pusher piece, nestled down inside the pre-cut plastic piece. The problem on this one was … it worked fine empty … but when you add an actual potato into the mix … its mass threw off the alignment so bad that those two pieces don’t line up properly anymore. They just butt up against each other.
I suppose it would have worked to just keep dropping more potatoes into the chute, letting each new spud push through the remainder of the last one … but by the time I managed to get all the pieces cleaned out of it from attempting the first potato–without cutting the fool out of myself on the sharp grid–I’d just decided I was too frustrated to even try it again. I rinsed it off, stuck it back in the box, and just stuck the whole blasted thing into my “heading to Goodwill” box
Final score: it was cheap … but save your money. I give it a D- over all. They only got that much because it did shove potatoes through itself fairly easily … even though they didn’t go all the way through. Regardless, a good pen knife and some practiced knife skills will give you a ten times better product in a tenth of the time. If you don’t have the knife skills … use these sorts of jobs to get more practice.