A cutting board is a critical tool in the kitchen. Choosing a cutting board is almost as important as choosing your knives. By finding the right cutting board you can make your cutting, slicing and chopping go much more smoothly. We feel the there are really two main choices in cutting boards, wood or plastic. Even though there are other options in the marketplace for cutting board materials, such as marble, ceramic and glass, we don’t recommend them as they can quickly dull your knives.
Factors to consider when choosing a cutting board
In cutting boards, size matters. You can always cut smaller items on a larger board, but it doesn’t work to cut larger items on a smaller board. The size of your cutting board is more a factor of your budget, how you plan on cleaning it and the space you have to store your board. If you choose a plastic cutting board, just make sure you can fit it in your dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher or you choose a wooden cutting board just make sure you have a reasonable way to wash the board after use. Selecting a board with a width just less than the width of your sink will ensure cleanup goes quickly. The last factor in determining the size of the board is where you’ll store the board. Make sure you have a clean, dry place to store your board when it’s not being used.
The plastic cutting board wins the price competition. Quality wooden cutting boards are made of hard maple or other hardwoods. If cost is a major consideration the plastic cutting board will almost always be the more economical choice.
There have been many debates on whether wood or synthetic cutting boards offer better sanitation. One school of thought says that wooden boards offer natural protection because bacteria may not like the wooden surface and would die if bacteria remained after the cleaning process. Plastic boards on the other hand offer a non-porous surface so juices are unable to penetrate the surface. Furthermore, plastic boards can be sanitized in the dishwasher where the cleaning process is likely to kill all of the bacteria. Wood cutting boards should not be cleaned in the dishwasher or soaked in water. The proper way to clean a wood cutting board is to scrub with hot soapy water immediately after use.
While the jury is still out on the most sanitary cutting boards, properly cleaning of cutting boards after each use is vital to the sanitation of any cutting board.
How a cutting board can keep your knives sharper
The choice of cutting boards can dramatically improve your knife’s ability to hold an edge. The best choice for keeping your knives sharp is a wooden cutting board. The wood is soft enough that it does less damage to your cutting edge. The best cutting boards have the end grain facing up in a butcher block style. This style is durable and allows the knife to slide between the vertical wood fibers.
The next best cutting board surface is the plastic cutting boards. These cutting boards are relatively easy on knife edges and are practical to use. Unlike a wooden cutting board, the plastic boards can be tossed into a dishwasher for sanitizing. These cutting boards are also available in many sizes and are priced economically.
The last choice in cutting boards would be glass, marble or ceramic boards. These cutting surfaces are just too hard for knives. Constant chopping and slicing on these boards will dull even the highest quality kitchen knives.
A cutting board is a necessity to any kitchen; if a functional piece can double as a decorative piece you can save space in the kitchen. Quality wooden cutting boards are as attractive as they are functional. Nothing says “A good cook lives here” like a nice wooden cutting board. Other cutting boards don’t seem to have the same appeal.
Other Cutting Board Tips
- Replace cutting boards when they become deeply worn or cracked.
- Be aware of cross contamination of food. It’s recommended that you use separate cutting boards for raw meats, chicken, etc. You may want to consider using color-coded boards for easy identification.
- Sanitize boards from time-to-time. Use a solution of 5% white vinegar with 4 parts water.
- Properly season your wood cutting board.
How-to season your wood cutting board.
Before using a new wood cutting board, you need to properly season your cutting board. Seasoning will prevent staining, absorption of food odors and bacteria and will keep water from penetrating the wood which causes warping and cracking.
You will want to season your wood with an oil that is edible and tasteless. The most commonly recommended oil is USP-grade mineral oil. It’s inexpensive and can be found at most drug stores. Vegetable oil and olive oil are not recommended as they can turn rancid. There are other alternatives to mineral oil, but you must verify that they are food-safe finishes.
It is best to apply the oil slightly warm to the cutting board in the direction of the grain. Allow the oil to soak in for about 30 minutes between coats. Four to six coats are recommended for the initial seasoning. You will need to re-oil your cutting board on monthly basis or when it looks dry.