or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Equipment Reviews › Can you use a wooden board for raw meat?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Can you use a wooden board for raw meat?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
So I just purchased a nice wooden board, end grain maple butcher's block type, and I intend to take good care of it (beeswax+mineral oil)!!

Question: is it really a big no-no to cut raw chicken, fish or meat on that board? Or is it ok? I've cut chicken on wooden boards for as long as I can remember, but now that I'm getting nice tools I want to make sure I do the "right" thing - if there's such a thing.

What are your opinions? Should I get a non-wood board for cutting my raw chicken? And if yes - which one would you recommend?
post #2 of 22
It's fine. Clean it well afterwards.

You'll hear many people talk about wood's natural anti-biotic abiltiy. It's true to a point. While it's less hospitable than a nylon/plastic cutting surface, it's not food-safe without proper cleaning.

Phil
post #3 of 22
There are only two benefits to synthetic cutting boards: 1. you can put them in the dishwasher, and 2. they're cheap enough that you can throw them out when they become scratched and scraped. That's why they make sense for restaurants. For at-home use, stick with your wood board.

I wouldn't bother with beeswax, and don't understand why you'd use it. Mineral oil is all it takes to maintain your board.

Enjoy your new board! Given proper care it will probably outlast you.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
I read in different places that mixing beeswax with mineral oil with a 1:5 ratio will make the perfect solution to maintain a wooden board, apparently the beeswax is supposed to make it waterproof - is that just a myth?

Anyway thanks to both of you for the answer - makes my life easier!
post #5 of 22
just an assumption on my part, but oil is waterproof already, don't think ya need the beeswax. However, i am now curious if beeswax has similar enough properties to honey that it too could be used singulary like mineral oil. it has been proven that honey does not go bad since the only viable food source found buried in egyptian tombs was dried honey iirc.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
Reply
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
Reply
post #6 of 22
I'd be concerned that the wax would merely form a water-repellent surface coating. That's fine for furniture. But it's the opposite of what you want with a cutting board---particularly an end-grain type.

Part of wood's anti-microbial property comes from the fact that the baddies are drawn down into the dry interior, where they cannot grow because the environment is wrong for them. If you clog the surface you negate that function.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #7 of 22
Just to give a brief counter-opinion: I would suggest that it's probably wise to have a different board for raw poultry especially, but really for any raw meats. As already noted, if you wash the board, it doesn't make much difference, but in the normal round of things in a kitchen, you may not always have time to wash between prepped ingredients. The board can be wood or a synthetic, and it won't make a lot of difference one way or another granted that you're washing it. If you want a synthetic, you may want to look for SaniTuf, which has cutting-surface properties amazingly similar to end-grain wood, meaning that it will not screw up your knives and so forth. A restaurant supply store is the place to get this, and it's not especially cheap. I suppose it depends a good deal on just how scary even a mild case of food poisoning is in your house: I have two very small children, so it's pretty terrifying; if your kitchen serves healthy adults, it's less of a worry.
post #8 of 22
Interesting point, Chris. But the fact is, poor sanitation is poor sanitation. If somebody cooking at home doesn't have the few seconds it takes to clean a cutting board between uses I, for one, don't want them cooking for me.

One surprise: Studies have been done in which wood boards were tested against synthetics. Mind you, these were not washed or otherwise cleaned. In every case, there was less bacterial growth on the wooden boards than the synthetics---the exact opposite of what most people would suspect.

There are reasons why this happens, which I can share if anyone cares. But IMO the studies themselves were kind of silly. We should be encouraging good sanitation, not deciding which is the lesser evil.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #9 of 22
I keep a few of the cheap flexible boards on hand for handling meat. They are easy to grab, use and drop in the sink. They get to cut up I just toss them.
post #10 of 22
Can you use a wooden board for raw meats? Yes.

However, sanitation and proper cleaning is vital. Once raw meat has touched the board, wash it with warm water and dish washing detergent. Rinse thoroughly, dry and oil if necessary. (Don't do as one of my customers did, leave the board under hot running water for 5 minutes. WHAT a mess!)

To sanitize use a mild mixture of Clorox and water, the formula is on the back of the Clorox bottle, or use a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water. Flush the cutting surface with water afterwards, dry and oil if necessary. Or as an alternative for boards that use raw meats exclusively, coat the surface with table salt and let it sit overnight. The salt will kill the bacteria and wick any moisture out of the board. This is what the old time butchers did and it is about the "greenest" solution I know of.

Bees wax is added to mineral oil as an extra water resistant element. (Not water proofing.) You can make a liquid wax solution or a paste wax depending on how much of a ratio that you use. Either will help provided you keep the board clean and oil all the surfaces, top, bottom and sides. The wax an oil mixture will only provide extra water resistance and will only slightly inhibit the natural tendency of end grain boards to wick moisture and bacteria inside the wood blocks. There the bacteria will die because they require moisture to live and the wood grain disperses the moisture away from them.

Oil, oil and wax, Clorox, vinegar, salt.....All great ways to help protect a wooden cutting surface, provide for adequate sanitation and prolong the live of another good kitchen tool. However, of you don't do anything, someone will become ill at sometime from your poor sanitation and the wooden board will be turned into an expensive piece of firewood.
David The BoardSMITH
www.TheBoardSMITH.com
Reply
David The BoardSMITH
www.TheBoardSMITH.com
Reply
post #11 of 22
David's expert advice here does not suggest a method that takes "a few seconds." It takes forethought, discipline, and good general organization in the kitchen. Yes, we should all develop these things, but the fact is that a great many home cooks don't have them. Some who do drop them when they have very little time to slap everything together and get dinner on the table. All I'm saying is that it is worth having two boards.
As you say, it's a matter of lesser evils. Yes, it's true -- I've read the original studies. But it's not magic (you know this; I'm clarifying for those who are surprised by this information). Plastic boards are biochemically neutral, so bacteria just sort of sit there. Wood boards tend to absorb water and dry the bacteria, creating a hostile environment (that's the super-simple version of it, anyway). But it takes time for this effect to be large. So waiting 10 minutes after cutting chicken just because it's a wood board will do very little.

Remember, the primary point of those studies, as evaluated afterward by the authors, was that the food sanitation people who tell homeowners and especially restaurants what to do make things up based on faulty common sense. Obviously plastic is safer, so we'll ban wooden cutting boards from restaurants. But it turns out that a fairly basic study would have shown that the reverse was the case: wood is somewhat safer.

I'm not advocating plastic boards, though SaniTuff boards are very good indeed if you do want something that can run in a dishwasher. I'm just saying that having two boards is safer than having one, because it only requires the discipline to separate raw meat from other things.

Incidentally, all bets are off as far as wooden boards vs. plastic if your dishwasher has a "sanitize" cycle, i.e. can produce a steady steam environment hot enough and long enough to generate a sterile environment. If you have this function, and wish to use it on cutting boards, get SaniTuff, not wood.
post #12 of 22
here's a curious part of using two boards in the home situation:

you're probably going to eat both the meat and the veggies.
so if the the meat is contaminated, does it make a difference whether you get sick from the meat or the veggies?
post #13 of 22
Consider: Broiled chicken and side salad.

'Nuff said.
post #14 of 22
Taking things a little out of order, Chris, let's look at your last point first:

> Incidentally, all bets are off as far as wooden boards vs. plastic if your dishwasher has a "sanitize" cycle,<

I know you know better than this. When it comes to dish washers, all bets are off period with wood. Putting a wooden board in the dishwasher is even dumber than the example Dave cited. You just don't submerge wood in water for any length of time.

>David's expert advice here does not suggest a method that takes "a few seconds." <

Have to disagree again. There are two different things going on when we say "between uses." There is the "I just finished with the chicken, now I have to cut the veggies," and there is the "I'm finished with the board for this meal."

For the first it literally is just a few seconds. Wipe the board to remove surface grease and liquids. Stand in sink. Rinse. Scrub with a Dobie and detergent. Rinse. Wipe dry. The whole thing shouldn't take more than a minute.

If a minute is too long, just reverse the sequence. Prep all your veggies first, wipe the board, then do the protein. I'm not proposing this one way or another, just showing that there are alternatives.

Even if you sanitize between each use, it shouldn't take any time at all if you keep a bottle of bleach/water on hand.

>Plastic boards are biochemically neutral, so bacteria just sort of sit there.<

That would be true with a pristine board. But as soon as one of them is used it develops scratches and gouges from knife work. Turns out, those are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria; especially in the warm environment of a kitchen, and the moist environment of a plastic board.

>Wood boards tend to absorb water and dry the bacteria, creating a hostile environment (that's the super-simple version of it, anyway).<

Not super simple at all, Chris. That's exactly what happens. Combined with the natural anti-microbial nature of most woods, the little buggies don't stand a chance.

>Yes, we should all develop these things, but the fact is that a great many home cooks don't have them. Some who do drop them when they have very little time to slap everything together and get dinner on the table. All I'm saying is that it is worth having two boards.<

Yes it's worth having two boards, or even more. But this reasoning is falacious. A person such as you describe isn't going to change boards in the middle of prep work. And, whether it's a wood board or a synthetic, they'll still cross contaminate. At most they'll use a paper towel to wipe away the gook from the protein.

The irony is that that sort of person is more likely to have a synthetic board because he/she can just toss it into the dishwasher when prep work is done. But based on the studies, they'd be better off with a wood board.

I am not proposing such activity. As I said before, poor sanitation is poor sanitation, and there's no getting around it.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #15 of 22
Perfectly stated!

As an aside.....I have two boards, a larger one by the sink for veggies and a smaller one by the stove for meats. Both stay washed and ready for the next use but I am a little more conscious about this than maybe the next guy since I have so many around.

BTW The guy who washed his board for 5 minutes; the board bowed up and later had black mildew on it. So he bought a teak board and gave the other one to his mother.:eek:
David The BoardSMITH
www.TheBoardSMITH.com
Reply
David The BoardSMITH
www.TheBoardSMITH.com
Reply
post #16 of 22
A big "AMEN!" from the pews!

In regards to the original poster, all of the advice you have recieved has been good.

You have now several options of sanitizing the wood board.

You have the option of getting a nylon board for only raw meats and tossing that in the d/w.

The third option is the one I use at home, and has been discussed already:
I'm too lazy to go out and get another cutting board for at home, so when I cook, I cut any fruit first, and put it back in the fridge, then vegetables, then at last, meats. End of cutting session, board can now sanitized.

Beeswax/mineral oil has been around for quite some time, and usually for furniture. Several centuries ago wax was used as a finsh for furniture because it was cheap and plentiful, and also because it didn't darken or tint the colour and figure of the wood. Not an ideal or durable finish for furniture, but cheap and plentiful. The wax provides a film of protection, and this wears off quickly. Beeswax is perfectly edible, but still, not something you'd need or want trace amounts of in your food. That being said, I use beewax/mineral oil on a weekly basis at work on two 6' maple bakers tables. It does a bit to stop staining and abrasion from daily duties, but one of my golden rules in my kitchen is that the table is NOT a cutting surface--I have plenty of cutting boards for this. A film finish--polyurethane or varnish would eventually flake or crack off and end up in food, so baker's tables are bare wood treated with oil or wax.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #17 of 22
>To sanitize use a mild mixture of Clorox and water, the formula is on the back of the Clorox bottle, or use a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water. Flush the cutting surface with water afterwards, dry and oil if necessary. Or as an alternative for boards that use raw meats exclusively, coat the surface with table salt and let it sit overnight. The salt will kill the bacteria and wick any moisture out of the board. This is what the old time butchers did and it is about the "greenest" solution I know of.<


I use salt on all my boards.

I have Burma teak imbedded in my work top for everyday stuff and another hardwood one for raw meat. Cheapo Pine one for sweet stuff.
A butcher told me years ago to salt my boards after washing down and antibac'ing. I never really knew the value of salting, just did it, so thanks for that. I dont leave overnight, i Simply scrub, leave for an hour or so and wash off. Neither do i oil them. but i will now
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
Reply
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
Reply
post #18 of 22
I just have a bunch of cheap nylon boards I can cycle through. There's usually two or three in every load for the dishwasher.

Very simple, very sanitary.
post #19 of 22
So many have already provided....quite well...... the yes or no answer and some of the reasons why so there's no reason to repeat what has been said.

I would like to add that we keep 4 wood boards in our home kitchen. Each side of the board has a specific purpose or product with chicken getting it's own board. I do have one poly-vinyl board but it's a pain to wash given it size. It gets used when woking with larger pices of meats and seafood.

One board is used for vegeies only, one board for chicken only one board is beef/veal on one side and pok/lamb on the other. The last board is seafood on one side and onions and garlic on the other. I've found that the onlions and garlic create a strong odor after the fact and a poor flavor.

All our boards get treated well..... All are scrubbed with scotch brite and the ones that are used for meat get salted and then oiled.....the veggies just get oiled.
post #20 of 22
I think wooden board is good in cutting raw meat. It does not have toxins that are possibly present in plastic board. However, you have to make sure that you clean the board well before and after using because bacteria may thrive there.
post #21 of 22
Thread Starter 
Guys, thanks to all for your feedback. I'm now comfortable working with only one board, wooden. I obviously will clean it after each use, even if it wasn't chicken. OK maybe if I just cut bread on it I won't wash it - just - don't tell anyone ok?
:talk:
post #22 of 22
Amen to that one brother! I worked in a restaurant in Colorado and they go written up for using a wooden board with meat! Watch out for the wooden boards.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Cooking Equipment Reviews
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cooking Equipment Reviews › Can you use a wooden board for raw meat?