Everybody seems to be germ conscious nowadays, right? So it probably comes as no surprise that cutting boards are one of the biggest germ absorbing and carrying accessories you probably have in your kitchen right now. Anything that touches your food can be a source of contamination and foodborne illness and that includes cutting boards.
Its seems to be to general consensus that wooden cutting boards harbor more bacteria and germs than plastic cutting boards, but is this entirely true? To be honest the answer isn’t as clear-cut as you may first of thought as to which is the best type of cutting board to own. So keep on reading and hopefully I can help clear up some myths and truths when it comes to the best cutting boards to use in your kitchen.
Plastic Versus Wood
For many years (I’d go as far to say centuries) we have been happily using wooden cutting boards, that’s all there was and that was it, no one ever questioned it. However, at some point the trend for using plastic cutting boards seemed to gain traction, mainly due to the false pretense that plastic cutting boards were more hygienic than wood. People presumed because they were easier to clean and sanitize they must be safer for food preparation. How foolish we were to discard our beloved wooden cutting boards for the latest fad.
This myth was debunked in the late 1980s by researcher named Dean Cliver who decided to investigate whether plastic cutting boards really were safer than wood. What Cliver discovered was that plastic cutting boards were more hygienic and easier to sanitize (when they were new) but as they become worn and knife cut indentations started to appear this then become to prefect breeding ground for bactria.
So does that mean you should run into your kitchen and throw away all of your plastic cutting boards? Not really, here’s why.
Wood cutting boards are tougher to sanitize completely, you can’t just throw them in the dishwasher. But on the other hand they tend not to have as many deep scratches on the service when compared to plastic boards. And in my opinion this is where wooden cutting boards excel because any bacteria that does get left on the wooden boards tends to die quickly, there isn’t any deep crevices for it to hide and multiply unlike the plastic boards where there are deeper cuts and scratches which is the perfect breeding ground from germs and bacteria.
The type of wood also plays a key role in how germ resistant the cutting board is. Hardwoods (which can be more damaging to your knives) such as Maple have a fine grain which tends to “pull” fluids, trapping the bacteria which then die once the board is completely dry after it has been fully cleaned.
On the other hand, softer woods such as Cypress (less likely to dull the edge of your knife) have larger grains which will overtime start to split open making far easier for germs and bactria to find a safe haven and thrive.
Two Boards Are Better Than One
You’ll find that almost all of the professional kitchens will use multiple cutting boards of varying colors for their food preparation, this almost eliminates cross contamination but it isn’t ideal for the home kitchen. Two cutting boards is more than enough for home use and it really boils down to common sense. Would you put a raw chicken onto the same cutting board you’re going to use for preparing your salad? Of course not and that is the basic principle of the two cutting board approach.
Personally I use two cutting boards one plastic and one Epicurean wooden composite board (same as those above in my videos). The plastic board I use only for raw meats, raw fish and poultry nothing else. The Epicurean cutting board I use for everything else, such as preparing salads, cutting vegetables, and even cutting cooked meats.
At a very basic level simply keeping raw meats away from everything else will help to, if not almost eliminate the risk of cross contamination.
When to Replace Your Cutting Board
Your cutting boards won’t last forever; at some point you’re going to have to say a teary goodbye to your old faithful. When your cutting board has seen better days and has built-up an impressive amount scratches, nicks, and scrapes it’s time to throw it out.
This is more prevalent with plastic cutting boards and there is no saving them. But with wooden boards, and if you don’t mind using a bit of elbow grease you can sand away the top of the board until the marks have gone and then apply mineral oil or 100% pure Tung oil to bring them back to life.