The importance of a good cutting board

What to consider when buying a cutting board. What’s the best material for a cutting board? How do I care for my wood cutting board? What is an end grain cutting board? What about cross contamination when using a cutting board?  What about chopping mats?

A cutting board can have more effect on how long a knife stays sharp than any food being cut. A hard cutting board (made of glass, natural stone – such as marble & granite, artificial stone and acrylic) can dull a knife quickly.

What’s the best material for a cutting board?
Soft plastic cutting boards such as those made of polypropylene and polyethylene are easy on the knife’s edge and can be bleached in a sink or placed in the dishwasher for easy sanitizing.
Wood and bamboo make good second choices. They have a natural resistance to bacteria and are pleasing to the eye. Bamboo technically is a grass; it grows much faster than wood, making it a good “Green’ alternative. Bamboo is actually slightly harder than wood. Some bamboo cutting boards are made to be placed in the dishwasher. While a heavily scarred plastic cutting board should be discarded or retired to the garage for other cutting purposes, a wooden board can be sanded or planed back to a smooth finish. Wooden Cutting Boards have tradition behind them; they’ve been used for hundreds of years and can actually be passed down generations as an heirloom. Rubbing oil into a wooden or bamboo cutting board can enhance it’s appearance, help it resist absorbing flavors, and keep it from drying out and cracking. An oil specifically designed for food grade wood should be used,  cooking oil can go rancid while on the board. Click for Cutting Board Oil

Click to see Polyethylene Cutting Boards

Click to see Polypropylene Cutting Boards

Click to see Wood and Bamboo Cutting Boards

End Grain Cutting Boards
End Grain cutting boards (as you look at the top of the board you are looking at the ends of the grain, the grain runs up and down) have a self healing property. When drawing a sharp knife across the surface of an end grain cutting board, the knife’s edge seemingly cuts between the fibers (like drawing a knife through bristles of a hair brush) leaving less noticeable marks.

Click to see end grain cutting boards

Cutting mats
A cutting mat or chopping mat is a thin piece of tough, flexible plastic, designed for cutting. Their flexibility makes them  handy for cutting a quantity of ingredients, picking it up, slightly folding the mat and pouring the items into a skillet, or into the garbage for easy cleanup. They are great for small kitchens, camping and travel. Often sold in multi-packs, they can be used for organizing a sequence of items to be cooked, and as a second cutting board placed over the primary cutting board.

Click to see examples of Chopping Mats

Prevent Cross Contamination
Cross contamination – the primarily concern is to prevent food poisoning. As an example using a cutting board to cut raw protein, like chicken which has a tendency to carry salmonella, then using the same board to cut something that may not be cooked, like salad ingredients. Cooking will kill the salmonella, but if was spread to the salad – disaster is on it’s way.    To minimize the chances of cross contamination, it’s a common practice to have two cutting boards, one designated for cutting meats and another for vegetables and breads. A blood or juice groove in the board used to carve meats, can prevent messes. It has been found that wooden cutting boards actually draw bacteria into the board where it quickly dies, adding another layer of contamination prevention.

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