Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to examine the safety of your current cutting board and replace it with something safer if necessary.
Level of Commitment: Making Strides
I don’t know about you, but I spend a LOT of time at my cutting board. You can tell this by the amount of schmutz on the floor where I stand at the end of a day.
It wasn’t long ago that I would have sung the praises of the plastic flexible boards like the one below, because I loved schwooping it over to my pot, bending it slightly, and dumping everything in. It didn’t take long for my boards to start to warp and be so scratched I started to wonder about other, more durable cutting boards.
This post is sponsored by Mighty Nest.
What is Your Cutting Board Made Of?
One more thing you probably never thought you’d have to think about.
I remember before I was uber-natural taking great pains to sanitize my cutting boards after tackling raw chicken, but that was as much thought as I put into cutting boards.
But when that knife is hitting the cutting board over and over, even if your food isn’t on it all that long, it’s highly likely that little pieces of cutting board are intermingling with your food (or maybe you have interrupting children like I do, which can cause food to sit waiting on a cutting board for an exorbitant amount of time!).
It’s time to think about those cutting boards.
Most cutting boards are either:
Are there any made of silicone nowadays? I don’t know, I guess, but if they are, don’t use them. You’re not supposed to cut on silicone or it can expose the fiberglass inside.
I choose a wooden cutting board, possibly bamboo, every time.
Why Not Plastic?
First of all, there are plenty of reasons to avoid plastic anytime you’re going to put food on it, such as BPA and phthalates, both hormone disruptors. Not all plastics have BPA though – here’s a mnemonic to help you remember which numbers are safer.
Secondly, plastic takes a really, really long time to biodegrade. Particularly when you see the flexible plastic cutting boards warping and literally begging to be thrown away within just a few years, it’s clear that plastic cutting boards aren’t made to last. They’re part of our disposable society.
The solid plastic cutting boards tend to discolor and get scratched in my experience, and I’m willing to wager that most people switch them out within 10 years or less as well. (Except my mom – she still has the same ones from my childhood.)
When thinking about cutting board safety, bacteria hidey-holes are another issue to consider. All those scratches in the surface make happy homes for bacteria to hide, which can cause problems with cross-contamination. That’s why lots of the boards nowadays come in sets of 4 with different colors for different purposes.
You can see how well that worked for me in that photo above, since I was using yellow (poultry) for vegetables. *cringe* I’m guessing my green veggie cutting board was dirty at the time…
Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life, also the author of Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Habit and You Can Too, shares in her book:
In a UC Davis study comparing scratched up wooden and plastic cutting boards, the wooden boards were found to be naturally antimicrobial, while plastic cutting boards allowed more bacteria to thrive, even after being washed.
She reminds us that manufacturers of many brands of plastic cutting boards are now adding Microban, the solid surface equivalent of the toxic anti-bacterial chemical triclosan, into their products. It may or may not be labeled, so I say better to stick with the natural surface.
Why Not Glass?
Glass is certainly a long-lasting material and perfect for super-sanitizing the bacteria from raw meat, but there are two reasons I personally just can’t stand glass cutting boards:
- They dull knives quicker than I can chop an onion. You’d need this Monday Mission on knives way too often, like in the middle of dinner prep every night, twice.
- They are so. loud. it. drives. me. crazy. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!
Some knives, I know, are made for glass cutting boards
(Cutco, maybe?). If you have those, by all means, glass is a great choice, as far as durability, cleanliness, and material safety.
If you’ve got some glass cutting boards and have been wondering why your knives are always dull, you may need to repurpose your cutting boards.
I have a glass cutting board on my table and one next to my stove – they make fanTABulous trivets! The one next to my stove means that I don’t have to think ahead when I pull a hot dish out of my oven or toaster oven. I think it is one of the more inspired ideas I’ve had in the realm of kitchen organization!
If you want to feel like a super chef, choose a big wooden chopping block like the Boos I got for Christmas a few years ago. They’re pricey, but these guys will last forever.
Wood is a natural substance and won’t leach chemicals into your food, it won’t dull your knives, and the blocks are so sturdy that you won’t have to chase them all over your counter (I used to slide all over with my flexi-boards no matter what I did to prevent it).
We’ll talk later in the week about wooden cutting board care. The big question surrounding wooden cutting boards, which often don’t call for soap, just hot water, is the bacteria thing. From the University of Tennessee:
The question is whether wooden or plastic cutting boards are more likely to harbor harmful bacteria, even after being cleaned. Some have suggested that it is “just common sense” that a porous material like wood would be harder to keep clean than plastic. It turns out that testing does not necessarily support this assumption. In fact, some studies have suggested that used wooden cutting boards are less friendly to bacteria than used plastic boards. Other studies have shown plastic to be slightly easier to clean.
- pesticide/chemical free
- antibacterial itself
Besides all those good reasons, for all you bloggers or wannabe food photographers, look how pretty they are in pictures:
My new French Onion Chip Dip, reverse engineered, part of the upcoming “Better Than a Box” and a guest post at Eating Rules for October #unprocessed.
What About Raw Meat?
I do keep a few of my old plastic cutting boards around specifically for meat. I’m sure I could probably have a wooden cutting board dedicated to meat or just sanitize well in between meat and veggies, but it’s not worth it to me. I like being able to put my plastic cutting board in the dishwasher.
I use it less than once a week anyway, because I’m either using ground meat, using the whole cut of meat without, well, cutting it, or I trim with kitchen scissors on top of the package the meat came in, not using a board.
I have also kept my smaller plastic cutting boards for those quick apples that I need to slice, cutting sausage, and for children. Now that I’m writing this post, though, I don’t know why I don’t just get the smallest of the bamboo boards at Mighty Nest for my kiddos.
They’re hard at work cutting pineapple with me for the dehydrator. Paul, age 7, uses a real knife, and Leah, age 4, is organizing here, but she uses a cheese slicer to cut zucchini, hard-boiled eggs, cooked potatoes, and other soft foods.
Don’t think your kids can handle knives? You’d be impressed by the teachers of Real Food Kids, the newest eCourse at GNOWFGLINS. Their kids are cooking entire meals by just a smidge older than Paul. I’m always inspired when I see the classes come through my email!
What kind of cutting boards do you have? What kind do you prefer? What do you wish you had?
Disclosure: Mighty Nest is a paid sponsor of KS. I have not tried their cutting boards, since I have my own already. I partner with GNOWFGLINS and earn commissions on sales, and I am an affiliate for Beth Terry’s eBook. See my full disclosure statement here.