What cutting boards are the most hygienic?

How hygienic is your chopping board? There are many different types of cutting boards to chose from – plastic, marble, glass, wood, bamboo and composites… A lot of debate goes on between the hygiene benefits of wood vs plastic boards, never mind the other types. They all have their own merits, but which chopping boards are the most hygienic? There are no clear winners, but the reality is that all chopping boards can be a health hazard if they are not properly cleaned and maintained.

 

No matter which type of chopping board you have, it can harbour germs and bacteria (especially from raw meat, poultry and fish) that can cause diseases like E.coli and salmonella. This can lead to serious food poisoning, not a fun experience!

 

Most hygienic cutting boards

Credit: alainap http://www.sxc.hu/photo/903496

 

Different types of cutting boards

Marble, Granite and Glass Cutting Boards:
Pros: Easy to clean (dishwasher safe); Heat resistant; Durable; Doesn’t absorb bacteria (non-porous)
Cons: Bacteria easily spreads over entire surface (as it’s so smooth); Dulls and damages knives (no “give” in surface to cushion knife edge), Loud (clack, clack, clack as you cut)
Good for: Rolling out pastry or dough, or presenting cheese
Shopping tips: Look for tempered glass, it is much harder to break

 

Wood Cutting Boards:
Pros: Natural anti-bacterial properties; Self-healing (shallow cuts close up; Knife friendly; Longevity
Cons: Bacteria can multiple in deep cuts; Bacteria gets drawn into wood (very porous) but research has found that they eventually die off
Good for: Cutting and presenting fruit, vegetables and bread
Shopping tips: Look for a tight-grained hardwood (less chance of deep knife cuts), made without fillers, stains or harmful chemicals. End-grain cutting boards offer more durability.

 

Bamboo Cutting Boards:
Pros: Eco-friendly (fast growing, more sustainable); As strong as hardwoods (less scarring than softer woods means less areas for bacteria); Natural anti-bacterial properties; Knife friendly
Cons: Limited research on hygiene – expected to be very similar to wood (bacteria absorbed and dies off over time); Bamboo fuzz (soft, hair-like splinters) on new boards – it usually disappears within a week or so;
Good for: Cutting and presenting fruit, vegetables and bread
Shopping tips: Look for a bamboo cutting boards made with food-grade glue (formaldehyde free)

 

Plastic Cutting Boards:
Pros: Easy to clean (dishwasher safe); Cheap; Doesn’t absorb bacteria (nonporous)
Cons: Bacteria thrive in deep knife cuts – difficult to disinfect; Small strips of plastic from the board can end up in your food
Good for: Cutting meat (easy to clean in dishwasher)
Shopping tips: Look for a plastic that is BPA free

 

Other types of cutting boards:
Other types of cutting boards include Epicurean cutting boards made from recycled cardboard and resin, and Corn based cutting boards – not sure about the health and hygiene of these ones, what do you think?

 

Cutting board basics

Thin or thick cutting board?
This is really up to personal preference and thicker cutting boards are usually more expensive. The advantage of a thick chopping board is that it is heavy enough to stay in place on the counter. If you have problems with a thin cutting board sliding around, put a clean damp dishcloth or paper towel under the board – it well help it stick to the surface and stay in one spot.

 

Separate chopping boards
To prevent cross-contamination, it is good to keep separate cutting boards for different foods. You can use different colour, size or shaped boards to tell which is which. At the very least, keep raw meats (meat, poultry, fish) separate to everything else. If you take cross-contamination seriously, use separate boards for meat / poultry / seafood / dairy / fresh produce (vegetables, fruit, nuts) / bread.

 

Cutting board maintenance

How to clean a cutting board
All chopping boards need to be cleansed thoroughly to prevent growth of bacteria and other nasties. If you have a glass or plastic cutting board, the easiest way is to put it in the dishwasher. Wood and bamboo cutting boards require a little extra care and should not be soaked in water or put in the dishwasher. Instead, wipe the cutting board with vinegar (a very effective sanitizer) or give it a quick scrub with some hot soapy water then rinse. For an extra deep clean and deodorise (get rid of onion and onion smells from your cutting board), rub with a baking soda and water paste then rinse. It is important that a wood or bamboo cutting board dries properly – leave it upright so that water doesn’t pool on the surface and don’t store until it is completely dry (you can dry it in the oven, but make sure it doesn’t dry out too much).

 

How to oil a wooden or bamboo cutting board
Treating, oiling or seasoning a wooden / bamboo cutting board will keep it looking and performing at its best. This helps seal the surface – the coating will help prevent staining and absorption of food odours, keep the surface smooth and stop the board from drying out and cracking. Use a neutral, food-grade oil – coconut oil (very stable, highly resistant to rancidity) and beeswax are healthy choices. Walnut, almond and grape seed oil are also commonly used. Mineral oil is popular, but questionable in terms health (please leave a comment if you know any more about this). Avoid cooking oils like olive oil or vegetable oil as they can go rancid. Rub the oil in using a soft cloth, in the direction of the grain. A brand-new board may need 4-5 coats (allow at least 4 hours in between each coat to allow the oil to harden, wipe off then re-oil). After that, keep the board maintained by oiling every 1-3 months or as needed.

 

How to store cutting boards
Make sure that your cutting boards stay dry (bacteria thrive on moisture) – store your cutting boards upright in a rack, to allow air flow between them.

 

When to replace cutting boards
Do any of your cutting boards look pretty worn out, warped or do they have lots of deep knife cuts, scratches or grooves? Then they could be a breeding ground for bacteria – it’s time to replace them! A good quality thick wooden cutting board can be planed or sanded down to give it a new lease on life – some are even handed down as family heirlooms. A well-cared for cutting board could keep on going for years.

 

What type of cutting boards do you use?
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About Carrie

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Comments

  1. Stefanie Gasult says:

    I’ve used both plastic and wood. My personal favorite is wood cutting boards. This site offers a decent comparision if you are lost. http://www.woodcuttingboardsguide.com/ For cleaning I use either mineral oil or Vinegar+bakingsoda.

    Thanks
    Stef

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