A Guide to Choose the Right Cutting Board


Using a cutting board is almost always the beginning step to prepare any meal in the kitchen. But not all cutting boards are created equal. Some materials may look hygienic but actually harbor bacteria pretty quickly. Some are so hard that they dull the blades of your knives. In this post, you’ll read about the different types of cutting boards (and which is the best) and how to choose and care for an old or new cutting board.

What Are The Different Types Of Cutting Boards?

1. Wood:
The Best for prepping vegetables and fruit. A wooden cutting board is the most popular type and offers a great look and feel. But you may wonder what the best wooden cutting boards are made of? Maple, teak, and beech are the best as they all have high hardness ratings, making them safe to use with knives. Even though wood cutting boards can absorb everything you put on them, including bacteria, they are still a safer and less porous option if you have a good cleaning and maintenance routine. Wooden cutting boards need to be cleaned thoroughly, dried immediately (with a towel and air dry afterward), and oiled with mineral oil. This way your wooden cutting board will last longer and maintain food-grade safe.

2. Bamboo:
A good alternative to wood and environmentally friendly. However, bamboo is not as strong as wood, so bamboo cutting boards have a shorter life span. So do you need to treat bamboo cutting boards? Totally, maybe even more necessary than wooden counterparts because of this. The oiling part is crucial not only to create a barrier to bacteria but also prevents the bamboo from splintering as it is more fragile than hardwoods.

3. Plastic:
Ok for meat/poultry prep. A plastic cutting board is usually made of HDPE (high-density polyethylene plastic), a thick and sturdy plastic. Make sure to choose a high-quality one that is certified food grade. It is dishwasher safe, but when you clean with hands, be sure to use baking soda and hot water to avoid bacteria build-up. It is a good option for cutting meat or poultry. There are even color-coded cutting board sets for each type of protein – fish, poultry, and meat.

4. Glass:
Not the best choice. We know glass is easy to clean and maintain at the highest hygienic level since tempered glass is non-porous. However, the glass surface can easily make the knife dull and chip. Surprisingly, a dull knife is more dangerous because a dull blade requires more pressure to cut. If the knife slips, there is a greater force behind it.

What Type of Cutting Board is the Best?
Even though we have many materials available nowadays, a wooden cutting board is still a cut above the rest when it comes to food preparation. Wood is the perfect material that is dense but with a slight yield, that would withstand daily use but not damage a knife’s blade. It is naturally strong, hard-wearing, self-healing and beautiful. With wood, there are still lots of crevices, but those crevices are deeper, meaning that the bacteria fall in and eventually die—and they don’t come into contact with more food.

But not all wood is created equal. Hardwoods are better than softwoods when it comes to choosing the safest cutting board. Hardwoods like maple are fine-grained, and the capillary action of those grains pulls down fluid, trapping the bacteria—which are killed off as the board dries after cleaning. Softwoods, like cypress, have larger grains, which allows the wood to split apart more easily, forming grooves where bacteria can thrive. Maple, walnut, cherry, beech, teak, and bamboo (technically not a wood but a hard grass) are the best choices.

What is the Difference Between End Grain and Edge Grain?
If you decide on a wooden cutting board, there is one more decision to make – end grain or edge grain. You may have noticed that some wooden cutting boards are constructed of fused long strips of wood, called edge grain, and others had checkerboard patterns, called end grain (the checkerboard pattern). What’s the difference?

Edge Grain  – Cheaper, more durable but hard on knives

The edge grain cutting board is made from parallel fused pieces of wood from the edge. This is the most familiar pattern on the product shelf. Among many kinds of wood that are used, maple and walnut are the most typical. Edge grain cutting boards are known to be more durable, easier to maintain, and more affordable. However, this type of board can dull knives faster than end-grain types and more susceptible to nicks and cuts. Why? Think of a bunch of dry spaghetti you place on a flat surface. When you cut it, the spaghetti will break into smaller sections. So as you continue using the edge grain cutting board, it will show more marks and cuts. So using mineral oil or protecting it beeswax is an important part of the maintenance process.

End Grain – More expensive, but better for the knives

The cutting surface is made from end pieces of wood. You can recognize an end grain board by the checkerboard pattern. Although it will cost more upfront, it is better for knives. During the cutting process, knife edges sink into the fiber, making the end grain boards self-heal pretty quickly. In the spaghetti example above, this time you can visualize yourself holding the bunch vertically and cut it in the middle. It won’t leave any marks, and when you lift off the knife-edge, the spaghetti close back up, so in a sense, “self-healing.”

How to clean and sanitize a cutting board?
If you are using a plastic cutting board, the most convenient way to clean and sanitize it is to put in the dishwasher. But if you prefer to wash it by hands, use hot water and a scrub brush, instead of a sponge, because a sponge won’t get into the knife grooves. After washing, try soaking the cutting board in the white vinegar solution or simply spray the solution to the surface. Let the board sit for five minutes before washing it again with soap and water. If you notice some stains, make a paste of baking soda, salt, and water in equal amounts.

How do you clean a raw meat cutting board?
Wash it immediately to remove any particles and blood. After proper cleaning, it’s recommended to disinfect it with 3% hydrogen peroxide or vinegar solution. Pour the liquid over and spread it around. Let the board sit for a few minutes. Then wash it with hot water and soap again.

How do you clean an old wooden cutting board?
You’ve made the right choice of not throwing it away! Good! But now there is some serious work waiting for you. First, pour some vinegar into the kitchen sink and put the cutting board face down into the sink. Let it soak for at least one hour. Use a scrub brush to clean the surface. Notice the water changed color? Next, pour some hydrogen peroxide to disinfect it. Scrub it again and wash it. Let it dry. If you still notice any bad spots, repeat this process. Once it’s all cleaned up, sanitized and dried, apply some food-grade mineral oil. Add an additional layer of coating if it starts to dry out. Let it sit overnight and it’ll be ready to use the next morning.

How to Care For A Wooden Cutting Board?
Proper Oiling
The main purpose of caring for a wooden cutting board is to make it last longer. Without proper care, wooden cutting boards will eventually splinter or crack. Oiling it is a crucial step to maintain the working condition and appearance of a wooden cutting board. The benefit of oiling is not only about the longevity of the cutting board, but it’s also about your own health. Oil can act as a water-repellant to help cutting board form a protective layer, which will reduce bacterial building, warping or liquid stains.

What Oil is Best for Wooden Cutting Boards?
The best choice and most affordable one is food-grade mineral oil. It has no taste, color or odor, and it’s super resistant to oxidation. Unlike most cooking oils that are high in unsaturated fat, mineral oil won’t become stickier or smellier when exposed to heat, moisture or light. Of course, mineral oil will eventually get oxidized, but Vitamine E can help it last longer. The next best choices are coconut oil, beeswax, beeswax-based board cream.

How to Season A Wooden Cutting Board?
Choose a time to start the oiling process. Because you want the cutting board to soak in the oil overnight, it’s best to start the process at the end of the day when you don’t use it anymore. First, wash it thoroughly with a scrub brush and hot soapy water. Then air dry. Do not put wooden cutting board into the dishwasher.

Once it’s dry and clean, pour a good amount of oil on one side of the board. Use a clean and soft paper towel or sponge to rub the oil into the wood in the direction of the grain or in a circular motion. Continue rubbing and add oil if needed until that side has a nice shine and won’t take in any more oil. You want to oil both sides of a cutting board. So now flip to the other side and apply the same process. Don’t forget all the sides and corners.

Once it’s oiled, prop it up against a vertical surface. Wipe away any excess oil after 10 minutes, then let it sit overnight. The next morning you should be left with a beautifully shiny cutting board.

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