Watching a popular TV cookery show where contestants were struggling to get a mountain of egg plants and zucchini prepped and sliced for 150 meals, reminded me how much it helps to have the right kitchen gadget for the job in hand, if anyone had given them a mandoline slicer the job would have been done in minutes.

As it was they had no chance and the judges stepped in to help – with one hour to go and the lamb cutlets sitting there completely untouched it was always going to end badly, the 150 guests were happy enough, hungry but quite merry with all the pre-dinner drinks they’d consumed while they waited!

If you ask a chef which two gadgets for cooking they use at home as well, most will tell you a kitchen mandolin and a home meat slicer, because these are the two which save you the most time and manual labor. The two chefs I know wouldn’t be without a slow cooker either – they count on coming home to a hot meal which always strikes me as funny.

For slicing cooked meats, cheese and home baked fresh bread, a home meat slicer has no equal. Designed for use at home these resemble deli slicers but are smaller and far lighter, taking up less room on the counter. You’d think only people with big families would bother with them but not so, you can save a lot of money cooking a large ham, slicing it and vacuum sealing portion sizes for sandwiches and rolls, you can do the same with cheese.

When my bread slicing guide vanished off the porch where it was drying, the food slicing machine stepped in and did a lovely job of slicing even very fresh home baked bread. In fact other than the hassle of continually changing the blade from meat to bread and back again, I wouldn’t have bothered replacing it.

For vegetables kitchen mandolines are invaluable, there is no way you can get level thin slices of anything as fast as you can using a mandoline, from translucent sweet potato crisps – try beetroot too – through to wafer thin cucumber, no knife I’ve ever wielded has gotten close for speed and believe it or not safety. Dehydrating apples takes a lot of slicing and the simple truth is without this it would take all day.

Most mandoline slicers fold down flat so are easily stored in a draw, on a shelf or hanging up, always make sure the safety guard is on the blade before you put it away – that’s how a lot of very avoidable accidents happen. Mandolines are wickedly sharp yes, but used with a cut resistant glove and some care they are a heck of a lot safer than trying to slice a slippery onion with a razor sharp knife.

I’ve had plenty of cuts when the knife slipped, but only one from the mandoline and that was in a bowl of soapy water, my fault I shouldn’t have just dropped it in there and then having forgotten it, reached in. Don’t you do the same!

And there you have it, the two speediest slicers in the kitchen. So if you’re looking to trim time off prepping food or catering for a big family every day, one or other of these might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.