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Choosing a Cutting Board

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
Hi Gang,

I'd like to get a new cutting board to better fit the space in the new kitchen. In the past I used maple, however, this morning I was made aware of bamboo. Is one "better" than the other, or better for specific tasks? Any thoughts on the pros and cons of each material?

Thanks,

Shel
post #2 of 50
I have a small maple butcher block I made myself long ago, and it's good. But I tend to use the plastic ones more so I can throw them in the dishwasher.

I bought bamboo board not too long ago and to be honest, I don't like it as much. It seems hard and my knife seems to bounce off it a bit. Maybe it needs to be broken in more, but I'm not a fan of it.
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post #3 of 50
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your comments. I've got several plastic boards, and they're nice for some things - I do like being able to toss 'em in the dishwasher - but I miss my old maple board. I liked that it sat higher above the counter than the plastic boards do, and I can always put the plastic board on top of whatever other cutting board I get.

The bamboo boards were quite a bit more expensive than the maple boards at the one place I checked, so that's probably another reason to go with maple.

What about other wood choices? There's a place near me that specializes in hard woods, so I can get almost anything I want at "reasonable" prices, and cut/trim it to my specs.

Shel
post #4 of 50
Plastic for me. Wood takes too much extra care and fussing. The less I have to hand wash the better.
post #5 of 50
The plastic ones are more sanitary. Wood tends to absorb things and chances are they don't get washed as well as they should.
post #6 of 50
THIS IS FALSE -- studies have actually shown that the accumulation of harmful bacteria is greater on plastic boards. There seems to be something about the wood which inhibits bacterial growth. The most important thing is to clean all boards thoroughly, sanitize and toss any boards with long or deep scratches and/or gouges.
post #7 of 50
This is a NON ISSUE as the studies actually show that when you wash the board it's statistically insignificant which you use. We do WASH our boards don't we?

This is the important thing and the only issue to focus on.
post #8 of 50
I respectfully disagree.

It is widely recognized these days that enzymes in the wood act as a kind of natural sanitizer, killing bacteria. Once plastic boards have been used for a bit their surfaces get rough and bacteria grows in the microscopic crevases. Even scrubbing with a bleach solution doesn't kill them all. I don't have a dishwasher to keep plastic boards properly clean so I stick with wood.

One of the benefits of bamboo from an ecological point of view is that it is a renewable resource. It is very tough but like Mezz says, maybe a bit too tough for cutting boards. (They are selling bamboo for floors now, instead of hard woods.)

Then there's the aesthetic factor; wood just looks and feels nicer than plastic.

Jock
post #9 of 50
Agree on the bamboo!
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post #10 of 50
My neighbor, who knows way more about wood than I do (he's a violin maker) says that some woods (like oak) contain chemicals that effect the flavor of the food (which is why whiskey barrles are oak).

You can buy really nice maple cutting boards by the foot from a place called "Woodland Specialties" in Syracuse, NY.

They carry it 1.5" x 25" deep (std countertop depth) from about 1.5' to about 10' in length.

They don't do retail, so you'll need a friend in some type of remodeling/construction/kitchen business to get it for you.

Terry
post #11 of 50
The ol' "enzymes in the wood act as a kind of natural sanitizer" routine. Maybe some truth to it, but the plain facts are that wood, as nylon, will get cut and scuffed up. Bacteria will harbour in these cuts if they are frequent and deep enough--no matter what the material. I repeat, no matter what the material is, bacteria will harbour in cuts. And cuts and scars are a matter of fact for all cutting boards. For something like a breadboard, where only one item is being cut, and a fairly dry and protein free item at that, it's not such a huge issue. But for preparing meat, and moist and starchy vegetables, it's a huge issue.

Just for arguement's sake, if the wood did somehow render all bacteria inert, you would still have food debris (week old dried, or day old moist...) in the deep cuts that would mix in with fresh food. Don't believe me? Roll a wad of dough--any kind of dough-- over a cut and scuffed up cutting board and see what it picks up.

When your cutting boards get to this stage, you can retire them or take them to a woodworking shop and run them through a thickness planer. This handy little machine will take about 1/16th of an inch off of each surface, basically giving you a brand new cutting board. I've done this with both nylon and wood, many times in fact, until the board become too thin to use.

I love wood, love working with it, especially with hand tools, and it breaks my heart to see a nice wood cutting board doomed to become all scuffed and cut up. I prefer nylon, a heck of a lot easier to toss into the d/w....
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post #12 of 50
I use wood for slicing bread and plastic for chopping and cutting veggies, meat etc.
post #13 of 50
FOOD PUMP IS RIGHT!
Also please check your Martha Stewart Homemaking Handbook
I don't think she says to place wood boards in dishwashers because they crack the wood. So you wont fully sanitize them! And they ARE hard to keep !
But she does still use them
Cant check for exact facts I'm to tired to lift that **** book
post #14 of 50

Almost Disposable

I use the thin color coded cutting "boards" They are sold in sets of 4 or 5 and can be cleaned with bleach. I use them when I am cutting up meats and seafood. When they get nasty I replace them. I also use them when I am teaching my knife skills class. I put them on top of my plastic cutting boards to cushion my blades and protect my clients counters. They can also be used to move cut product to the pot.

my .02
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Each mistake teaches us something.
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Failure is the key to success;
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post #15 of 50
Some research has been done on the subject of whether wood or plastic boards are safer.
http://www.naturalhandyman.com/iip/i...tingboard.shtm

A good read, and points out that wood is in many cases, the best material to use from a bacterial safety standpoint.

Personally, I use both kinds. I am a big fan of Boos rock maple boards, and I also love my polypro ones.
post #16 of 50
I like the plastic ones . They are easy to wash and go into a dishwasher. I prefer the 3/8 inch thick ones as they don't slide about.

I think the most important thing about a board is how easy it is to wash , as this way you will wash it efficently between each task. Personally the idea of cutting raw chicken and the like on wood is rather worrying . But yes , don't keep them too long.
post #17 of 50
Ok, here's where my lack of knowledge really shows, and will probably seem like a real dumb question....what about a good set of knives, isn't it better to use them on wood than plastic? (I told you this may seem like a dumb question). I have globe and henkel knives which I love so I use wood because I thought it would be better on my knives. Thanks for all the info on the cutting boards, I sure learn alot listening to all of you professionals.
post #18 of 50
The way you phrased your question is impossible to answer. Some woods are very hard. So are some plastics. Both can also be too soft.

Wood is also a natural product. This means it varies quite a bit in the same type and within the same tree. Further, wood is prone to inclusions. Dirt and grit are often grown right over and into the wood. Those sorts of inclusions are bad for your knife.

Maple is the classic wood. But you want an endgrain piece as that's a harder and more resilient orientation of maple which would otherwise be too soft and wear out quickly.

The other factor is the knife itself. Most kitchen knives are about 56 RC. That's a hardness measure. For a cutting steel, thats on the soft side. So you want a pretty soft material without abrasive content to cushion the edge as you cut. A properly chosen wood or plastic can do that. Wood isn't automatically better or worse than plastic and vice versa as a cutting surface.

The right wood or plastic can both make a good cutting surface.

Phil
post #19 of 50
I use maple wood. Just figured plastic was too hard on my knives and I didn't want to damage them. I'm pretty picky about my knives so I haven't used plastic thinking wood was better for them. Thanks for the info.
post #20 of 50
The wood/plastic controversy has gone on for a long time.

My son, a professional woodworker who has made some cutting boards, researched this and found studies from the Food Science Department of the University of Wisconsin that concluded wood cutting boards were more anti-bacterial than plastic ones. Bacteria. it seems, get absorbed into the wood boards, where they die.

You'll need to Google this for more details.

Mike
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post #21 of 50
As was said multiple times in this thread, that study was for unwashed boards. Washed boards are both very clean. As long as you wash your board, the bacterial properties of wood are insignificant. We all wash our boards right?

Phil
post #22 of 50
I have mixed feelings on cutting boards - on one hand, the ease of use with plastic boards is very nice, but i have found some of them to be too soft. After repeated use, the surface becomes very rough and abrades my hand severely - this winter I had open wounds on ALL of my left fingers because of rough cutting boards...and I don't have sensitive skin or wound easily. Chop a lot of garlic, touch the cutting board a lot, end result is painful and a liability in a commercial kitchen. Wooden boards, and harder plastic boards, don't seem to suffer from this problem.

My solution is to iron the cleaned, sanitized boards every week or so - a process similar to lapping with a planer, but can be done in two minutes without much effort. So far so good.

E
post #23 of 50
We go through this discussion every time cutting boards come up...:p

When my son was a cabinetmaker, he made a lot of wood cutting boards, and found serveral reports by researchers at the Commercial Food Institute of the Univ. of Wisconsin. They were unanimous that wood boards were more sanitary, as any leftover germs, after scrubbing, were absorbed into the wood... where they died.

Maple is the preferred wood (hard rock maple, the best) though walnut is good, and looks nice mixed with maple laminations. No experience with oak as a board material. End-grain boards are best, as there's more pores to gobble up the germs. Just treat a new board with USP mineral oil (NOT vegetable- it gets rancid) once a week for the first month - when it's dry, of course; then once a month for six months, and then every six months. Scrub under hot running water, dry in the dish rack. No dishwashers.

If you're making your own, use Titebond III wood glue- it's FDA approved for non-contact food use and is very strong and waterproof. Titebond II is OK and approved, too. Just not quite as strong or quite as waterproof as the newer III. The open time for III is longer, too. (If you're not into woodworking... don't worry about it. :rolleyes: )

You'll need a LOT of clamps. ;) And a belt sander.


Mike :smoking:
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post #24 of 50
My feelings about wood vs nylon are pretty clear, but I've worked alot with wood as well, here are some of my observations.

Stay away from red Oak for cutting boards. My kids amuse themselves by taking a 3/4" x 3/4" stick of red oak, sticking one end in water, and blowing on the other end and watching the bubbles. In other words it's porous.

Titebond2 is good, but finger joints or dovetailing in combination with glue is even better.

Use a cabinet scraper to keep a smooth surface on the boards.
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post #25 of 50
"...but finger joints or dovetailing in combination with glue is even better."

Wow - that would be a very well-joined cutting board indeed. I've never seen one like that. Also a h**l of a lot of work. After ten or eleven years of cutting board experience, I've never seen one come apart just being butt-joint glued.

But, umm... remember, NOT in the dishwasher. :eek:

Mike
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post #26 of 50
Most of the commercial boards are finger jointed, and most are held together with bolts running through the width, and plugged with maple caps.

However, I and many other Chefs (and many, many Health Inspectors) are very worried about the implications of bacteria eating wood cutting boards. A wrong message, but one very easy to believe would be that it's ok to cut raw chicken or pork on the cutting board, give it a quick wipe, and everything's up to sanitation standards.

-Wood is a porous material. Stands to reason, given that one of the main functions of a tree trunk is transport water from the roots to the branches.

-Wood absorbs water, it's a natural function of the wood fibres, they are hollow and they absorb.

-Water is a great transport vehicle for many other things: Salts, minerals, food debris.

Put it all together and a wet cutting board is wiped down, the moisture eventually evaporates, and the debris, salts, etc, are left behind, plugging up the fibres.

I'm no scientist, have no access to a lab, but my big question is: Can a used wood cutting board, one that has gone through many cycles of wetting and drying, still be effective in killing bacteria on contact?

A good example is with an ex-employee of mine cleaning off a s/s table. He gives it a quick wipe, sprays it down with sanitizer, and proudly exclaims it's clean. I point out the spilled juices, fish scales and carrot peels. "But Chef, they're sanitized, it's ok".

Easiest and quickest way to sanitize a cutting board, a way that you're about 95% sure it's sanitized, is to toss it into a high-temp d/w. Can't do this with a wood cutting board or it'll swell and split along the glue lines. Best thing to do is cut raw meat and other perishables on a nylon cutting board and be 95% sure.
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post #27 of 50
My chef keeps both on hand. Nylon and plastic cutting boards are softer than the wood boards we have, and he instructs we use the ones we feel more comfortable. Here at home and at school I prefer Maple VS Bamboo, I find the bamboo is grainy and I have have caught some of the grains with a pairing knife and lifted it up. I really don't want that in my food.

As for wood VS. plastic and sanitation, all the boards I work with a replaced after 3 months on average and I treat them with bleach and T20 sanitizer. I've never had a problem, and my boards if they show too much wear get tossed. Easy as that.
post #28 of 50
I have a solid maple, wood chopping board - about 2 " thick - wires running through the width of the board - approx 22" x 18 " - has lasted 30 to 35 years
cleans with hot water , soap and a plastic scrubbing pad
the board was from ontario
any one in canada or us know where I can buy a similar item
post #29 of 50
I don't understand why you have wires running through it. That sort of stabalization is totally unnecessary with a well-constructed cutting board or chopping block.

If you can't find what you're looking for elsewise, contact me off-list. I build custom boards and blocks, from all sorts of woods, and I'm sure we can work something out.
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post #30 of 50
I have heard the same wood vs.plastic sanitary issues.... personally, I have several plastic boards of varying sizes, I can throw them through the dishwasher. (I also have a spray bottle of bleach solution to spray down the boards after chicken)
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