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Cutting boards

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
I thought I'd start a separate thread for this. I've used cheap boards my whole life, plastic, composite, wood, etc... and I've never been really that happy with any. I prefer the feel and look of a wood board, but the ones I had splintered after admittedly long use and warped after not so long a time. I believe the solution to the warping problem can be solved with a thicker board, perhaps 1-2".

Food safety is my utmost concern, and the relative ease of maintenance. From what I gather via online forums, a quality wood board must be occasionally oiled and sanded smooth, not that big a deal it sounds like. I'm less clear on what foods are acceptable to work with on wood. I've seen numerous postings where a chef would cut everything except turkey and chicken on his/her wood board, and others where people say its safe to cut everything on the board as long as its properly washed down afterwards (although properly washed down was not defined).

My wife found a couple of great looking boards from John Boos, namely some 24x18x2 maple and cherry end grain selections at Cutlery and More online. Before making such an investment, I'd like to get the skinny on proper care/cleaning of such an item, and what types of foods it can and cannot be used for (it says appropriate for all food prep on the listing). It sounds like with proper care, a board of this quality has the potential for a lifetime of use (according to the ad), or at least, quite a long while. I also do not know if buying a board with a "juice groove" is desirable or if it just eats into your effective prep area.

I have no problem with others providing an argument on plastic vs wood etc, its just at this time, we are leaning towards the wood and wanted to get detailed info on that.
post #2 of 50
I have a BoardSmith end grain and love it. It, and your Boos, will be used by our grandchildren. I only use it for fruits and vegetables, preferring to cover it with a poly board or use a Sani-Tuff rubber board for meats of all kinds. Remember when you are using mineral oil to treat your board to apply on all sides to prevent differential expansion and shrinkage to avoid splitting.

Everything you need to know is here and here.

Buzz
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Buzz - with a Short Pilot Story

One day, long, long ago there was this Pilot who, surprisingly...........
was not full of crap....
But it was a long time ago.... And it was just one day. The End
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post #3 of 50
All boards are appropriate for all food prep. But that doesn't mean that you should use your board for anything you want to cut. Most cooks have different boards for different uses. There should be a seperate board for poultry and meat, another board for fruits and vegetables, and some people get very complicated and use a seperate board for seafood, another for cheese, and so on. Very often these boards are color coded. Red=meat, green=veggies, yellow=poultry, blue=seafood, etc.

I would suggest to you that whatever board you choose that it has rubber footing on the bottom - this helps tremendously so that the board does not slip.

I can't recall what kind of wooden board I have but like the above poster I use it only for prepping fruits and veggies and place another board on top of it for cutting meat. I love this board but if there was anything I would change about my boards is to get ones with the juice stopper rings all along the edge.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #4 of 50
For me, i love plastic. It's easy to clean being dishwasher safe. No maintenance to speak of.

No glass or solid surface scraps. Too hard and damages your edge. I've heard the glues in bamboo are similarly too hard, but have my doubts on this.

No juice gutter. Just another difficult place to clean and it limits cutting space. I'll often stack different things around the board for my mise en place and that gutter gets in the way of scraping things into the pan or wok.

And the often vaunted feature of wood being bacteria resistant is stupid. It's not resistant enough for food safety so that's a non issue. You can't put them in the dishwasher, they're heavier and usually bulky which makes them inappropriate for my mise en place tricks.

Wood certainly looks better. But needs oiling, eventual sanding and it's a real pain to get garlic and onion flavors out of just by washing by hand.
post #5 of 50
You can use a single board for all prep -- including meat, and yes, including poultry.

There's some fear of salmonella and other bacterial contamination with poultry, so appropriate care must be taken. "Appropriate care" means a thorough wipe down and a light misting with a food surface sanitizer. There are a lot of sanitizers on the market, or you can use a mister filled with water and bleach at the ratio of 10 water to 1 bleach. You cut the risk significantly if you use fresh chicken which was slaughtered in a clean operation. That means avoiding southern raised factory chicken, and paying extra for the real deal.

If you portion a chicken on your board, then chop some mirepoix without santizing; brown the chicken, add the mirepoix to the pan -- you have not "contaminated" the mirepoix -- nor is the risk of consuming it any greater than the risk of consuming the chicken. It's the same. Let the juices from old, raw hamburger or Sanderson chicken sit around on your board for a few hours, and it's a different story.

Bacteria grow fast, but they aren't magic.

Changing boards for chicken is a fetish at the Food Network and a few other places. It isn't necessary as long as you clean and sanitize. But keeping separate boards for proteins is good hygiene, and I mean no criticism of anyone who does so. Moreover, it's good to insist on separate boards when you're dealing with folks who don't understand the biology behind hygiene.

My prep routine is involves prepping various items until the board becomes crowded, then clearing it completely by placing prepped items in bowls or plates as mise en place. It's an incredibly good habit, the way pros in well run kitchens cook, and you should do it. One of the advantages is that you clear your board frequently, which allows you the opportunity to wipe it down. If you've been cutting poultry, you can also sanitize. (Keep your bottle of sanitizer by your board or your block -- it's also part of your mise. While we're off on this tangent, it will help your cooking tremendously if you think of all of prep as a thing with the sole goal of creating mise.

The best way to care for your board is to keep it clean by wiping it down frequently with a damp cloth or sponge during prep and sanitizing it after every meal you prepped raw meat; and at least daily. Don't use the same sponge to wipe the sanitizer you keep by the board for routine wiping. Sponges and damp towels are great media for bacteria. They're also easily sanitized.

Wash your board occasionally as needed, by schlepping it to the sink and using dish soap and hot water. Allow it to air dry standing on edge. Use the opportunity to clean the counter beneath the board thoroughly. Make sure the counter and the board are completely dry before replacing the board. If your board has removable feet, remove them occasionally, flip the board over and use the other side. It's a good idea to do this after every couple of washes. Proper drying and flipping will help prevent warpage.

You'll want to sand your board if it's deeply scarred, or if it shows any sign of warpage. You may want to sand it every two or three years on general principle. Start with 150 grit and take it up to 0000 steel wool. Tack rag it thoroughly, before oiling.

Speaking of deeply scarred -- try not to get too boisterous with meat cleaver. They're sharp axes, and they will cut into the board.

Oiling your board is an important part of maintenance. Once your board is well oiled, it only needs to be oiled every two or three months -- before it starts looking dry. The way to get it well oiled is to go the drug store (not the hardware) and buy a bottle of regular mineral oil. You don't need special oil, or rather food grade mineral oil (all they sell at the drug store) is special oil.

To oil, pour plenty of oil on the board, spread it all over (edges and both sides), then wipe off the excess. A well oiled surface takes time to develop. Oil according to the following schedule:

1st week, 1st month: 1st day, 2d day, 4th, day.
2d week, 1st month: 1st day.
3d week, 1st month: 1st day.
2d month: 1st day
3d month: 1st day.

(Just realized the first 3 weeks is a Fibonacci sequence. Cool.)

The surface will start to show visible signs of drying after four or five months of service. Don't let it get that far and you won't have to go through the whole mishegas. Maintain the surface by oiling every two or three months.

Keep your knife block oiled, and your knives' handles (if they're wood) too. I do general oiling on the same day I sharpen one particular knife -- about every 10 weeks or so. If you've got a spare board or two in storage -- oil them too. They don't really need it as often, but it's not going to hurt anything and it allows you to turn them over and help prevent warpage.

While you're at the drug store, pick up a bottle of unscented baby oil and use it to oil your salad bowls and any other wood service surface. FWIW, unscented baby oil is simply a lighter grade of mineral oil.

Your Boos boards will come from the factory about 1/2 oiled. Oil when you get them, then thirty days later.

Hope this helps,
BDL
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post #6 of 50
I just saw a nice end-grain board at BB&B for $60. It was about 14"x20" and a good two inches thick. Wasn't a Boos, though, but pretty hefty.

Just a casual look, though, as I have several made by my son when he was in the cabinet business. He bought, for a song, a semi-trailer load of hard-rock maple cutoffs from a fabricator of bowling alleys, and used them for several years, some furniture as well as boards.

Mike :cool:
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post #7 of 50
All boards may be appropriate for home use, but not commercial. Our boards cannot have feet as you state. They must be non pourous and without screws or holes or feet
One board may be used for everything like BDL says if sanitized after use correctly.
5 parts per million hypochloride solution(clorox will surfice).Let air dry do not wipe with a dry towel. I go one further ,I put my board which is not wood ,in a steamer and leave in 4 minutes. We have run a swab test and after steaming 0 bacterial count. A while later just sitting on table in air it collected some non harmful bacteria. :p:p
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post #8 of 50
If a cutting board cannot go into the dishwasher, it cannot live in my kitchen. I would love to have only the "best", but it's not practical for me. DH is wonderful about cleaning up after a meal I've prepared. The down side is that he has absolutely no appreciation for what I would call the good stuff. If it will fit in the dishwasher, it goes in the dishwasher (unless I am handy to rescue the thing...which is less than 50% of the time). So, as with my knives, I choose the kinds that do not have to be protected from him. While I know that the "good ones" look & perform better and last longer, they are not worth the price in terms of maintaining sanity and peace in the kitchen. I do have a moderately priced, but nice looking Epicurean cutting board. It's made of earth-friendly materials and process. As far as I can tell, it will withstand all kinds of abuse, and comes out of the dishwasher looking great, but DH avoids that one for some reason...maybe he's afraid because it looks "too nice". :look:

click here---> Epicurean Cutting Board - Epicurean Cutting Surfaces, Epicurean Cutting Boards, Epicurean Boards
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post #9 of 50
Why can't you have rubber on the bottom of the board? I'm sure there is a good reason for it but my first response is that it's senseless. It stays sturdy with slipping, what's wrong with that?

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post #10 of 50
I cut a piece of that non-slip rug underlay stuff just a little smaller than the cutting board, and put the board on it to keep it from slipping around. If it gets soiled, I put it in the top rack of the dishwasher to clean it. When not in use, it easily fits into the drawer with my potholders. When not in use, it easily fits into the drawer with my potholders. Another way to keep the board from slipping is to place a wet cloth under it. :)
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post #11 of 50
Any groove, feet or opening harbors bacteria. Feet in some cases are attached by ss screws or rivits,. Neither NY or Florida health dept permit this. Again commercial and home are DIFFERENT,. Home you dont have inspections and are not written up or fined.
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post #12 of 50
I wash my board, including the rubber pads, with soap and water every time I use them.

It's all about the gaps. Even washing, you can't force out what builds up in those fine gaps. And so some Health Departments disallow them.

Phil

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #13 of 50
Really dont care if you wash them, steam them, burn them or whatever else you want to do with them .According to Department of Health it is illegal and thats the law for us. You can do whatever you want in your house. Call your local Department of Health. Finished end of story.:crazy::crazy:
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post #14 of 50
I'm with Phatch - I like plastic cutting boards so that I can run them through the dishwasher or even bleach them when they get stained. And, I don't worry about rubber feet - in fact I don't really like them because they tend to come off and then my cutting surface is lopsided. Instead, I always lay a silicone baking mat (like a silpat) under my board to stop it from moving.

Good luck and have fun! :blush:
post #15 of 50

As I understand it

Maple is best for cutting boards because it is much harder.
End Grain is better for the board and your knives because of the nature of how wood grows, it heals on the end grain.
I am a bit of a wood worker and I am building my first end grain board right now I am using maple and cherry mostly because those are the most common scraps in our shop.
I have also read that some woods have anti bacterial nature, they have even done some tests and shown that bacteria dies off on wood and just sticks around on plastic.
post #16 of 50

Wood working

I work in a wood working shop and I am working on my first wood cutting board. My research has shown me that wood has some anti bacterial capabilities and that end grain is self healing (doesn't get damaged as easily) and is easier on the knives. I do love my knives so I am excited to finish my end grain board. It will be a mix of cherry and maple and I am trying to deiced between making it one sided or marking one side with a V (for veggies) and the other with an M (for meat) to prevent cross contamination. Basically with feet I could prevent board slippage. Decisions decisions.....
post #17 of 50
As I pointed out earlier the anti-bacterial thing is a non-issue. It's not anti enough to make a food safety difference. Microban boards are much more effective than wood, but still not to a food safety level.

The self healing is highly debatable as is the easier on the knives. Wood tends to include lots of impurities in the grain structure, grit, dirt, sand and those DO hurt knife edges.

There are plenty of reasons to like wood, beauty and craftsmanship are high on that list.

But performance reasons aren't really the way to pick between wood and poly.

Phil
post #18 of 50
Good luck with your project, Earnason. There's nothing like a custom-built cutting board. I've built many, for myself and others. In fact, I'm building a set of cheese boards now, using cypress and purpleheart.

You're absolutely correct about end grain being self-healing. That's why it's the first choice for butcher blocks. And for a board that will see a lot of chopping action it's great as well.

Keep in mind that end-grain boards usually are thicker, running at least 2" and as much as 18. Making one yourself just means a time investment. But because of the double-gluing, you can see why buying one is so expensive.

Most better boards are laid up using edge grain, because it provides a hard-surfaced, warp-free board that's ideal for day to day use, such as slicing, mincing, etc.

You can all but forget cross-contamination with a wood board. Both the natural anti-bacterial nature of wood, the construction method, and the physics of wood preclude it so long as you keep the board clean.

Although I put them on cheese boards, I don't care for feet on cutting boards. Leaving them off provides me with two work surfaces. But that's just personal choice.

The only downside to wood is that it cannot be put in a dishwasher; shouldn't even be submerged in hot water. Which is one of the reasons you don't see them in commercial kitchens much anymore.
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post #19 of 50

for the video game lover

A triforce endgrain board
Etsy :: 1337motif :: Triforce End-Grain Cutting Board
post #20 of 50
Ernason-

As I've mentioned before, the Food Science Department of the Univ. of Wisconsin at Milwaukee has published several research papers that claim wood boards - especially end-grain - are more sanitary (anti-bacterial) than other types, even though you can't run them through a dishwasher.

You probably already know this, but you can assemble your boards with Titebond III glue, which is waterproof and approved by the FDA for foodservice use.

Mike
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post #21 of 50
Phil (phatch) is right about the "antibacterial properties" of wood boards being a non issue. All boards require proper cleaning and sanitizing -- wood included. The dishwasher is not necessary and doesn't get a board cleaner or safer than ordinary cleaning and sanitizing.

One of the problems with nylon boards is that they scar deeply easily. The scars are excellent breeding ground for bacteria. If the boards are cleaned quickly, NP. But if not.

A good cook keeps her (or his) board clean always. This means regular and repeated wiping during prep. That, in turn, means a well organized board. Food, when prepped, is removed from the board to an appropriate mise en place so the board may be wiped (and if necessary washed and/or sanitized). There are benefits to holding your mise off the board -- besides a clean board. You'll be a much better cook if you work from a mise off your board, rather than working off your board. Your knife work will improve radically because you're board isn't crowded. Your knife work will be safer.

There's a sort of rough hierarchy as to which boards are best for your knives.

1. End grain hardwood; Special woods (like hinoka); and Sani-Tuff
2. Edge grain hardwood (don't heal as well as hardwood)
3. Softwood, typical of Chinese boards (don't heal, and sometimes grab the knife)
4. Bamboo (too hard)
5. Nylon (multiple problems)
6. Wood composition (too hard)

Any surface such as metal, stone, corian, fiberglass, glass, ceramics, etc., is unacceptably hard and will ruin your knives.

BDL
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post #22 of 50
As BDL said, the big issue is scarring. True, nylon is the worst for this but wood comes in second. Sani-tuff tends to chip and flake

Scarring can be remedied with either one of the following items:
-Thickness planer
-Cabinet scraper (with a wicked hook rolled on it)
-Fore or jointer plane
These tools work fine on either nylon or wood, never tried it on sani-tuff.

If you work professionaly, never EVER, discuss the anti-bacterial properties of wood vs nylon with your local health inspector personally. Call or fax for this information anonomously, but never face-to-face. DAMHIKT....

I've been woodworking as a hobby for only 6 years now, and cooking for close to 25 years professionally. For the life of me, I still can't bear to use knives on beautiful natural surfaces, as they will scar sooner or later. On the other hand, I've got no problems tossing out scarred nylon boards into the garbage that are too thin to go one more time through the thickness planer....
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post #23 of 50
Earnason-
You can assemble your boards with Titebond III glue- it's FDA-approved for foodservice and also waterproof, according to the manufacturer.

Don't use Gorilla Glue, since a) it expands when curing and you will need clamps out the wazoo for an end-grain board, and b) the label doesn't mention FDA approval, so you will probably die after eating a pickle sliced on such a board. :suprise:

Perhaps.

Mike
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post #24 of 50
Google around the Univ. of Wisconsin Food Science Department for research papers on the attributes of end-grain cutting boards and their sanitary advantages.

You can use Titebond III glue which is waterproof and FDA-approved for foodservice use, when you assemble your boards. Have fun. But you still can't put them in the dishwasher. :rolleyes:

Mike
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post #25 of 50

I don't understand how a dishwasher is even easier.

post #26 of 50

How?

 

1) Hose off chicken juice, pork juice, garlic and/or herb bits, etc.

2) Insert board in d/w rack and press "start". A commercial unit takes 120 seconds and is subject to  high heat sanitizing.

3) Remove clean, sanitized board from d/w and place on a rack to air dry.

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post #27 of 50

Plastic boards, even poly and nylon, are much harder on knives than good, wood boards.   They are not more sanitary than wood boards as long as the person using the wood board has the necessary "food handling" skills and good enough work habits to consistently apply them.  Neither are they less sanitary.  Clean and sanitary is clean and sanitary. 

 

Preserving my edges is a greater priority to me than the simplicity of beng able to throw a board in the d/w, and worth the extra effort it takes to wipe down, spritz with commercial or 10% bleach sanitizer and wipe down again.  No reason you should share the priority. 

 

Foodpump's are every bit as good, as right, and as worthy of respect.  His tools and methods are things even an employee or health department inspector can easily understand. 

 

But jeeze-louise! The whole separate board for chicken and meat / cross-contamination thing is superstition -- as long as your work habits are good enough to clean the mother%V@#er (aka "darn board") after cutting raw proteins on it.  If you don't have good workhabits, get LOTS of boards, swap them out frequently, throw them away when they develop deep scratches which breed bacterial colonies, and clean them religiously. 

 

But those would be good work habits, wouldn't they?  Catch 22.  

 

If poultry really worries you that much, in addition to buying color coded boards and all, consider the source.  Try decent birds, instead of those who live out their life in its own filth on a factory farm in Arkansas or Mississippi, and are then slaughtered on an unbelievably septic assembly line. 

 

BDL

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post #28 of 50

Last time we had this conversation I actually timed board cleaning.

 

Forget the wiping and sanitizing part, that's hardly measurable. To actually wash and wipe dry my wooden board: 35 seconds. Hit with a sanitizing spray and wipe again, what? another six seconds, maybe.

 

Anyone who thinks using a dish washer is actually easier is just kidding themselves. Given all the other problems that synthetic boards bring to the table, the only reason to use them is because the health department insists on it. But that hardly applies to the home cook.

 

BTW, as much as I favor wood, if you look at those actual studies, what you find is that they're silly at best. What they are comparing is the bacterial growth in uncleaned boards. That is, you cut up, say, a chicken, on a synthetic board and on a wooden one, and then measure the rate of bacterial growth. No surprise that the wooden board scores best. But hardly a meaningful test.

 

As BDL notes, good sanitation is good sanitation. So other factors should determine your choice of material.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #29 of 50

Yeah...that whole coloured, colour coded cutting board schpeil schtuff....

 

Now, in some places where they hire min. wage staff and get min. wage results, it's a lot easier to explain to the eejit to cut cooked chicken on the yellow one and raw chicken on the pink one.  No such thing as common sense.

 

Where I absolutelty  insist on cutting board "apartheid" is in the pastry side,  No fun chopping chocolate or pineapple on a board flavoured with garlic or rosemary. 

 

Usually If I'm breaking down beef or pork, whole salmon, or a case of chickens, I do it in quantitites that are economical, so I grab a large cutting board--say 18" x 26" and cut away, this board is usually only reserved for raw meats--very rarely will someone take it on the line .  The regular smaller cutting boards are usually for veg prep, sandwiches, or cooked meats anyway.

 

Main thing with all cutting boards is the surface:  Deep or plentifull scratches and scars will harbour bacteria and just plain crud.  Keep it clean.

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post #30 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

How?

 

1) Hose off chicken juice, pork juice, garlic and/or herb bits, etc.

2) Insert board in d/w rack and press "start". A commercial unit takes 120 seconds and is subject to  high heat sanitizing.

3) Remove clean, sanitized board from d/w and place on a rack to air dry.



She was talking about her home kitchen. 

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