Cutting Boards 101


Wooden slabs have served as a cutting surface for food preparation since the prehistoric ages. Their use has not evolved much, but the variety of materials used for cutting boards has expanded, each with its own benefits, uses and care.

Inexpensive and lightweight, plastic cutting boards have become a popular option. They are nonporous, so plastic cutting boards are great for cutting raw or cooked meats, poultry or seafood. Plastic cutting boards can be washed by hand using hot, soapy water and should be completely dry before storing. They also are usually dishwasher-safe, making cleanup and sanitation a bit easier. Compared to other cutting board materials however, plastic is not as durable. Deep grooves and cuts in the board can harbor bacteria and collect moisture, requiring them to be replaced more frequently.

A more durable material, wood is the most common choice for cutting boards. But not all wood is created equal. Harder woods such as maple, teak and acacia are more durable and less prone to damage from knives and absorb less water, compared to softer woods such as cypress. Although harder woods are more durable, they are also a bit harder on knives than the softer woods, making you knives more susceptible to dulling or damage.

Wood is a porous material, so these cutting boards are best for foods such as breads, produce and cheese. They can be used to cut raw meats, but to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination, it is best to use one cutting board for uncooked meats, seafood and poultry, and another for ready-to-eat foods. Wood cutting boards that are not laminated are dishwasher safe, but those that are coated may warp and crack from the high heat of a dishwasher. Wooden boards instead are best washed by hand with soap and hot water, and allowed to dry before storing. To maintain wooden boards and prevent staining or cracking, periodically use a soft cloth or paper towel to rub mineral oil onto the surface.

Bamboo cutting boards are a durable, eco-friendly and affordable option. A harder surface than most wood boards, bamboo is less prone to damage and wear caused by knives, making it more resistant to bacteria. Bamboo boards are not dishwasher-safe and should be washed by hand with hot, soapy water and dried completely before storing. They also can be rubbed with mineral oil, if desired, to help retain moisture and maintain durability.

Glass cutting boards are durable and easy to clean, but they are an extremely loud surface to cut on and are the hardest on knives - leading to excessive wear on knives. Glass cutting boards are not generally recommended for food preparation and should be used primarily for decorative purposes or as serve ware.

General Safety and Usage Tips

  • To help prevent cross-contamination, use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood, and one for ready-to-eat foods such as bread, produce and cheese, or for a serving tray. This can prevent bacteria or pathogens from raw meat coming into contact with foods that are not cooked.

  • To keep cutting boards from slipping, place a damp paper towel, dish towel or non-slip mat underneath the board.

  • Cutting boards should be washed and air dried after each use.

  • Replace any cutting board that sustains excessive wear or damage, such as deep grooves or cuts that are hard to clean.

Fabio AlmeidaeZine46