Cutting Boards – The Great Debate
Cutting boards are an essential tool of any kitchen. The help to protect our counter tops and our knives.
But, the debates over what kinds of boards are best come fast and furious.
- Plastic is best
- Wood is best
- Glass is best
We decided to scour the Internet and compile some information to try to clarify the situation.
First Things First
The number one rule for food safety is to have multiple cutting boards. Most restaurants have colour coded boards to prevent cross contamination. Without argument, the consensus is to have at least two boards: one for foods that can be eaten raw; and one for foods that need to be cooked. And, always wash your cutting boards after each meal, don’t just wipe them down with a damp cloth.
Plastic Cutting Board
Plastic cutting boards are extremely popular for a number of reasons:
- Lightweight and portable
- Dishwasher safe
- They come in many colours
Wooden Cutting Board
Cutting boards made of wood have always been a staple in kitchens around the world:
- Sturdy and long lasting
- They do not damage knife edges like other board materials
- Any bacteria that enter the wood will be killed
After much research, most experts agree that using glass, ceramic, or marble is not a good idea. Even though these surfaces are harder for bacteria to migrate into, these surfaces are very damaging to knives.
On the whole, the only types of material recommended for a cutting board are wood or plastic.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Most of the qualities of wood and plastic, like portability, weight and price, are a matter of opinion. However, safety is not a subjective issue, and it is here where the debate gets quite passionate.
The biggest danger you have when it comes to using a cutting board is spreading bacteria.
There are a lot of articles online that say that wood boards have anti-bacterial properties that kill bacteria. That is not exactly true. What wooden boards do is absorb the bacteria within the first millimetre or so below the surface. Within a few hours the bacteria dies as the board dries.
According to Dean O. Cliver, PhD, professor emeritus of food safety at the University of California;
Wooden cutting boards pulled the bacteria down beneath the surface of the cutting board, where they didn’t multiply and eventually died off. Even older wooden cutting boards with deep grooves had low levels of recoverable bacteria, similar to what was found in new boards.
It’s been suggested that bacteria being slurped down in wood could reappear if you scored the wood with a knife, but research found that the bacteria never reappeared on the surface, even after it’s been sliced multiple times with a sharp blade.
Some say plastic boards are easier to clean than wood boards. This is simply not true because the proper steps for cleaning are the same for both.
- Rinse the board with hot running water
- Hand scrub your boards in clean, hot, soapy water. This will remove fats and oils that can shelter bacteria
- Rinse the board again in hot running water
- Sanitize with bleach solution (for plastic boards)
- Air dry the board by standing them upright so air can circulate. Never stack a cutting board until it is completely dry
If you want to use a dishwasher (never place wooden boards in dishwasher), this is done after the initial washing. Plastic boards need to be removed before the dry cycle to avoid warping.
Using the dishwasher alone becomes less and less effective at removing bacteria as plastic boards age. This is because the scratches and scars become so deep that the water and heat cannot get to it all.
The best way to sanitize an older, scarred plastic board is to soak it overnight in a bleach solution. Or you can just purchase a new one.
What About Salt on a Wooden Board
Many swear by rubbing salt on their board. In fact, this was often used by butchers to stop a board from smelling.
Salt does stop a board from smelling. The odour that comes from a board is actually bacteria growing. The salt helps draw out moisture and dry out the board. This kills the bacteria that cause the odours.
Yes, there is a lot of information out there. Some of it contradictory. Whether you choose wood or plastic, our recommendations are:
- Take care of your boards and take the time to clean them properly
- Let them air dry before stacking
- Always have at least two cutting boards to avoid cross contamination
- Replace boards that are getting old and very scarred
References: http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/wellbeing/cutting-boards-and-bacteria, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/09/01/the-dirty-truth-about-cutting-boards.html, https://news.ncsu.edu/2014/09/cutting-boards-food-safety/