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By Tracy Saelinger

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The first time I used a spiralizer — one of those gadgets that turns veggies into "noodles" — I'm pretty sure I looked like one of those overly dramatic, frustrated cooks in an infomercial. Squash quickly clogged the cheap $10 model I bought, and I gave up.

Yet, I kept bookmarking delicious-looking recipes involving spiralizers, and knew I needed to try it again with a model that actually works. (Seriously, just try to resist this Thai salad with cucumber, or Natalie Morales' pesto dish or this Bolognese, both made with zucchini noodles.)

Luckily, after loads of research, I found a gadget that easily turns out long, uniform veggie noodles: the Mueller Spiral-Ultra Multi-Blade Spiralizer, which goes for a pretty reasonable $24 on Amazon. It also has over 4,500 reviews and is a best-seller on the site.

Mueller Spiral-Ultra Multi-Blade, 8-in-1 Spiral Slicer, $24, Amazon

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Admittedly, when I first pulled it out of the box, I was a bit intimidated. But it's simple enough: The spiralizer includes a plastic base with suction-cup feet, a clear bin that collects the "noodles" and a handle-crank that has teeth to hold the veggie in place, sparing your fingertips.

It comes with four blades — a thicker and thinner julienne cut (those are the ones you'll use for "noodles"), a grater and mandoline — plus a juicer.

One note: The instructions are lacking, and I made a rookie mistake, installing the blade in the wrong direction for noodles. But then I consulted one of the numerous videos online about how to use it and quickly corrected my error. I was glad I persevered. Soon, I was turning out veggie after veggie in noodle form. Here's what I found.

1. It's easy to use. You cut your veggie into roughly four-inch sections, if needed. Place one end of the veggie, vertically, into the "teeth" of the veggie holder (under the hand crank) and lower the crank so that the veggie meets the blade. (Make sure the blade is inserted in the sideways orientation, if you're making veggie noodles.) Then, turn the crank and let the "noodles" fall into the four-cup bin below.

Even after cutting our squash into four-inch sections, the spiralizer turned out strands of deliciously long noodles.Tracy Saelinger

2. It turns out the long, uniform veggies noodles of your dreams. During the period of time in which I gave up on spiralizer gadgets, I used a julienne peeler, trying to convince myself that my relatively short, sloppily grated "noodles" were just fine. Well, once I compared this spiralizer to a julienne peeler (below), I decided there was no going back — these looked like Instagram noodles!

No comparison: The uniform ribbons of squash noodles on top came from the spiralizer; the choppier squash noodles on the bottom were made with a julienne peeler.Tracy Saelinger

3. It's fairly easy to clean. The veggies don't make much of a mess, so cleanup isn't terrible. Pop out the blade and veggie bin (hand-wash or clean on then top rack in the dishwasher), then wipe the plastic base clean. The one bummer is that, with all the attachments, storage is tricky. But I'd recommend keeping it assembled, with the accessories nearby in a zip-top bag.

Reviewers online agree that the vertical design makes the spiralizer easier to use than most ("Gravity is my friend," one noted). Another said, "It continues to be the best of the bunch, by a wide margin." Perhaps the biggest miracle of all: "I even got the kids to eat zoodles."

We couldn't agree more.

This article was originally published on Dec. 12, 2017, on TODAY.com.

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