Anything that touches your food is often a source of contamination and foodborne illness – including cutting boards.
For example, if you chop up a raw chicken, then use an equivalent chopping board to slice a tomato for your salad, you run the danger of cross-contamination – with bacteria from the chicken being transferred to the tomato. That, of course, would be bad.
And vegetarians aren’t off the hook either. Fruits and vegetables also can carry pathogens (and transfer them to cutting boards).
To reduce the danger of foodborne illness in your kitchen, here are some belongings you should realize cutting boards.
Plastic Versus Wood
For an extended time, most (if not all) cutting boards were made from wood. But at some point, people began using plastic cutting boards. the thought was that they were easier to wash (and sanitize), and thus were safer.
But within the late 1980s, a UC Davis researcher named Dean Cliver – the de facto godfather of chopping board food safety – decided to research whether plastic cutting boards really were safer. Answer: not really. Plastic cutting boards, Cliver found, are easier to sanitize. But cutting on them also leaves many grooves where bacteria can hide. Wood is tougher to sanitize, but it’s also (often) tougher generally – you won’t find as many deep scratches within the surface.
In addition, researchers have discovered that the sort of wood your chopping board is formed from also makes a difference.
“Hardwoods, like maple, are fine-grained, and therefore the capillarity of these grains pulls down fluid, trapping the bacteria – which are killed off because the board dries after cleaning,” says Ben Chapman, a food safety researcher at NC State. “Softwoods, like cypress, are less likely to dull the sting of your knife, but also pose a greater food safety risk,” Chapman explains. “That’s because they need larger grains, which allows the wood to separate apart more easily, forming grooves where bacteria can thrive.”
Which type of chopping board do you have to use? Chapman recommends using plastic cutting boards for meat and wood cutting boards for fruit, vegetables, or any ready-to-eat foods (like bread or cheese).
Why use plastic cutting boards for meat? due to how you wash them.
Cleaning Your Chopping Board
Plastic and wood have different characteristics, so you’ve got to handle them differently.
Plastic cutting boards are often placed in the dishwasher, where they will be sanitized by washing at high temperatures. But wood cutting boards would quickly be ruined by a dishwasher, and not everyone owns a dishwasher. If you’re washing a chopping board by hand, you should:
Rinse the debris off the chopping board (being careful to not splatter contaminated water everywhere the place);
Scrub the chopping board with soap and water (to get out anything within the scratches or grooves on the board’s surface); and
Sanitize the chopping board (you should use different sanitizers for wood cutting boards than for plastic ones).
For plastic cutting boards, you must use a chlorine-based sanitizer, like a solution of bleach and water (one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water – features a time period of every week or two). except for wood cutting boards, you ought to use a quaternary ammonium sanitizer, like a solution of Mr. Clean and water (follow the dilution instructions on the label).
“This is because chlorine binds very easily to organic materials, just like the wood during a chopping board, which neutralizes its antibacterial properties,” Chapman says. “Quaternary ammonium is simpler at killing bacteria on wood or other organic surfaces.”
It’s worth noting that you simply should also sanitize your kitchen sponge/rag/brush after you’ve used it to wash the chicken juice off your chopping board – alternatively, you run the danger of contaminating subsequent thing you wash (which is that the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do).
The last step in cleaning your chopping board is a crucial one – dry it.
“Make sure you set the chopping board somewhere that air circulates, in order that it can dry completely,” Chapman says. Bacteria need moisture to grow, and you don’t want to offer them a welcoming environment.
“Historically, butchers want to put salt on their butcher blocks to stay them from smelling bad,” Chapman says. “This worked because the salt drew the moisture out of the wood and prevented bacterial contamination, which is what caused the smell – though the butchers didn’t realize it at the time.”
When To Replace Your Chopping Board
At some point, scrubbing and sanitizing won’t be enough. When your chopping board has accumulated tons of deep grooves from repeated use, you almost certainly got to replace it.
“The more grooves it’s, and therefore the bigger they’re, the more area is out there for trapping moisture and giving bacteria an area to proliferate,” Chapman says.