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cutting-board

Cutting board

A cutting board is a durable board used to place material on to be cut. Most common is the kitchen cutting board for use preparing food, but other types exist for cutting raw materials such as leather or plastic. Kitchen cutting boards are often made of wood or plastic. There are also chopping boards made of glass, steel, marble or corian, which are easier to clean than wooden or plastic ones, but tend to damage knives.

Sanitation and care

Regardless of the material, regular maintenance of a cutting board is important.

  • Sanitation with cutting boards is a delicate process, because bacteria can reside in grooves produced by cutting, or in liquids left on the board. For this reason, it is often advised to cut raw meat on separate cutting boards from cooked meat, vegetables or other foods.
  • A very dilute bleach solution is best for disinfecting cutting boards.
  • To remove odors, rinse the board and then rub with coarse salt and let stand for several minutes. Wipe board and then rinse clean. This procedure will also smooth out minor imperfections in the wood.
  • Wood boards should never be placed in the dishwasher, or left immersed for long periods, as the wood or glue may be affected.
  • A light food grade mineral oil is a good preservative for wooden cutting boards as it helps keep water from seeping into the grain. Alternatively, one may also use a food grade drying oil such as poppyseed oil, tung oil or linseed oil. The first two dry much faster than linseed. Note that most commercially available linseed and tung oil are not “food grade” as they contain metallic driers. In general, edible savory vegetable or olive oils are not recommended because they tend to go rancid, causing the board to smell and your food to pick up the rancid taste.
  • Cutting boards should be treated when they start looking dry to prevent cracking. A standard recommendation is 5-7 times a year, or as needed.
  • When heavily or deeply scored, wood or plastic cutting boards should be resurfaced as scoring can harbor bacteria, or mildew in the case of plastic boards. Wood can be easily resurfaced with various woodworking tools, such as scrapers or planes. Sandpaper is to be avoided however, as it leaves residual abrasives in the surface, which will dull knives. Resurfacing a plastic cutting board is more difficult and replacing it is recommended instead.

Materials

In choosing a cutting surface, there are pros and cons to each depending on application.

Wood

Wood has some advantages over plastic in that it is somewhat self healing; shallow cuts in the wood will close up on their own. Wood also has natural anti-septic properties.

Hardwoods with tightly grained wood and small pores are best for wooden cutting boards. Good hardness and tight grain helps reduce scoring of the cutting surface and absorption of liquid and dirt into the surface. Red oak for example, even though a hardwood, has large pores so it retains dirt, even after washing, making it a poor choice for cutting board material.

Care must be taken when selecting wood, especially tropical hardwood, for use as a cutting board as some species contain toxins or allergens.

Although technically a grass, laminated strips of bamboo also make an attractive and durable cutting board material.

Plastic

While plastic is theoretically a more sanitary material than wood for cutting boards, testing has shown this may not be the case. The softer surface of plastic boards is scored by knives, and the resulting grooves and cuts in the surface harbour bacteria even after being well washed. However, unlike wood, plastic boards do allow rinsing with harsher cleaning chemicals such as bleach and other disinfectants without damage to the board or retention of the chemicals to later contaminate food.

Semi-disposable thin flexible cutting boards also ease transferring their contents to a cooking or storage vessel.

Glass

The advantages of glass cutting boards are ease of cleaning (including being dishwasher safe), and durability. While easier to clean than wood or plastic, glass cutting boards damage knives, precisely because of their durability. Since glass is harder than the steel of even the highest quality knives, cutting on glass tends to dent, roll or even chip edges. Additionally, if used incorrectly, glass can break or chip itself, introducing glass to the food.

Steel

Steel shares the advantages of the durability and ease of cleaning with glass, as well as the tendency to damage knives. Depending on the exact steel and heat treatment used, at best a steel cutting board will wear the edge on knives quickly, at worst chip dent or roll it like glass.

Marble

Most marble “cutting boards” are not actually intended for cutting, but for rolling dough or use as serving boards, such as for cheese. Aside from sharing the edge damaging properties of glass and steel, marble is in fact also abrasive, and when exposed to some food acids such as tomato juice or vinegar, will slowly dissolve.

Corian

Corian or other counter materials know as “solid surface” are composed of a polymer binder and a filler, acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate in the case of DuPont Corian. They are again hard enough to damage edges, and the powdered alumina is abrasive, so slicing strokes will wear the edge quickly.

See also

References

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