Dear Home-Ec 101,
This past weekend I attempted to fix a wood (plank, not end-grain) cutting board with some pretty deep cuts in it, and wound up totally botching the project. Do you have any tips or tricks for cutting board maintenance? Any recommendations for a new cutting board, since I ruined the old one? Thanks so much.
First and most important tip for selecting a cutting board.
Just say no to glass cutting boards.
Glass cutting boards are slippery and dull your knives. (If your knives are already dull, here’s a handy knife sharpening tutorial).
Second: Own at least two cutting boards, unless you are a vegetarian. It’s simpler to avoid cross contamination if you have one cutting board reserved for handling meat products.
Plastic v Wood Cutting Boards
Some people prefer plastic cutting boards on the premise that they are easier to sanitize. However cleaning and sanitizing a cutting board is two step process, first all of the organic soil (food bits etc) must be washed away and then the cutting board needs to be sanitized. You can use dilute chlorine bleach, heat, or properly diluted food grade hydrogen peroxide. Some suggest using vinegar or lemon juice for sanitizing purposes, but I am not comfortable with this recommendation in cases where someone in the home has a compromised immune system -just FYI: taking an acid reducing medication like Nexium (just an example) reduces your body’s ability to fight off ingested bacteria.
Plastic cutting boards may be more vulnerable -depending on the softness of the plastic- to scarring. These scars provide excellent hidey holes for bacteria which makes the cleaning and sanitizing process more difficult. That said, plastic cutting boards can be tossed in the dishwasher, which I find incredibly convenient.
Plastic cutting boards have no maintenance outside of the regular cleaning and sanitizing; they are also fairly inexpensive and should be replaced often as they show wear.
Wood cutting boards are attractive, fairly durable, and those of the hardwood variety are less likely to scar deeply which reduces the ability for bacteria to hang on during cleaning. Wooden cutting boards also seem to have some natural antibacterial properties. (Here’s a journal article on this, but it isn’t free)
Wooden cutting boards do have some minor maintenance requirements to help maintain their appearance and improve their lifespan. Every other month apply a light coating of food grade mineral oil to your cutting board.
Small scratches in wooden cutting boards typically heal, but if a deep scratch occurs, it can be scraped out using a plane or scraper. Avoid sandpaper as it can leave grit behind that may dull your knives. Follow up scratch repair with another coat of food grade mineral oil.
Do NOT place wooden cutting boards in the dishwasher.
Do NOT soak wooden cutting boards or allow them to sit in a puddle of water. If the cutting board is a solid piece (usually fairly expensive) it may warp and split. If the board is glued together, the water will damage the glue and you may end up with several too small pieces.
Always sanitize your workspace after working with raw meat.
The type of cutting board you choose is mostly based on personal preference, budget, and habits. I use plastic because they are cheap and can easily be tossed in the dishwasher. Down the road I plan on getting a nice hardwood chopping block, but I am aware that it has higher maintenance requirements.
Send your questions to email@example.com
10 thoughts on “Cutting Board Basics”
I’ve got a bamboo cutting board that I love! My tip is more of a hybrid between wood & plastic cutting boards. I buy those thin plastic cutting mats and use them on top of my bamboo board. They are cheap and can be tossed when they start looking ratty and it really helps protect the wood.
Some of them even come with little a little meat or veggie symbol to help you remember which to use. It’s not advisable to use the mats directly on the counter because they’re thin enough that it could dull your knives as well and they do warp over time in the dishwasher, but again, they are fairly disposable.
Where can I get food grade mineral oil?
Ikea sells food grade mineral oil for cutting boards for less than five dollars and it comes in a convenient squirt top bottle.
I use glass ones. Whenever I have has wood or plastic boards in the past, I have found them hard to keep clean due to the grooves which develop from cutting. Glass ones are great as this doesn’t happen. Much safer!
@rutherman We got ours at Lowe’s. It’s just for butcher blocks, and it’s found where the stains are. I don’t think it’s mineral oil, but it’s actually specially designed for wood items for use with food.Watco Butcher Block Oil & Finish
*Easy wipe-on application–no brush marks.
*Safe for food contact–FDA compliant.
*Multiple uses–wood cutting boards, butcher blocks, salad bowls, and more.
Follow ALL directions on can.
Hope that helps. 🙂
@rutherman you can find it near the laxatives (a common use for mineral oil) at the grocery or drug store
I have glass, plastic, and bamboo cutting boards each for a different use. I will have a pull-out hardwood cutting board/extra work surface once the cabinet to house it is in place (may be a while). The glass cutting boards aren’t used so much for cutting as for kneading, assembling, and serving things like sushi/sashimi, antipasto, or cut fruit and cheese. The plastic cutting boards are for daily cutting use. The bamboo cutting board is very large and has a juice trough around it, and works perfectly for serving large meats to be carved at the table, whole french breads for sandwich assembly, or as an extra-large trivet. It is particularly useful under things that tend to make a mess while being served. Because my husband tends to make a mess on his placemat, I purchased two thin plastic cutting sheets (plain rectangles, about the size of a placemat) at Ikea and am now using those for daily use placemats.
@rutherman Most drug stores carry it. Look in the laxative area.
@imabug @rutherman Hm. Sorry Ima, your comment wasn’t showing when I made mine. Great minds think alike, eh? ;o)
I believe an end grain (where the end grain makes the cutting surface) will not dull your knifes so fast.