21 December, 2020
We purchase certain things ‘off the shelf’ without giving much thought to it. One such thing is the kitchen cutting board. Perhaps, many of us may not really be even aware of the material of our cutting board, or how often it is washed, etc. But, the truth is that it matters, and could be one of the contributors to the health of the family. A good cutting board and the way it is maintained may help reduce certain infections in the family. In other words, there is a certain science behind the material of the cutting board and of course, the hygiene associated with it.
Today, we have multiple choices in cutting boards; wood, bamboo, plastic, rubber, glass, or some even use the kitchen counter slab as the cutting stone. The general myth is that wood can be a carrier of bacteria and that plastic can be fully germ-free. However, you may be surprised to know that studies conducted on cutting boards have proved to the contrary.
Most studies around this have shown that wood is the most hygienic, and plastic is the one that retained bacteria. While it is much easier to maintain a plastic cutting board, it seems that bacteria cannot survive long on a wooden board and dries quickly. The issue, especially, was with a much-used, knife-scarred plastic board, which is very tough to disinfect after each use. The problem was more so in households where people use it for chopping raw meat or seafood.
As compared to plastic, wood, especially a bamboo cutting board is much more environment-friendly and also absorbs less fluid as compared to other materials. A wood or bamboo cutting board is also easier on the knives and will keep them sharper for longer. These are also self-healing and won’t have knife scars like a plastic one.
Note: One solution for this problem is to maintain two cutting boards; one for the meat, poultry, and seafood and the other for veggies.
Whichever cutting board you use, it is important to wash it with mild soap and water after each use and dry it completely before putting it away. Boards should not be washed in the dishwasher and should be scrubbed by hand under running water, preferably warm water. Wipe it with a cloth or paper towel immediately after washing, and allow it to air dry completely. Also, as a practice, it is not good to cut stuff once after the other without cleaning in between. For example, you want to clean the board after cutting meat and then use it to cut the vegetables. Apart from the daily cleaning after use, the boards also need some regular maintaining.
Once a month or so, you could also deep clean the wooden cutting board using coarse salt and lemon. Sprinkle some salt on the wooden board, then take half a piece of lemon and gently scrub the board with it, squeezing out the juice as you go. Let it rest for five minutes or so, and then scrape out the dirty liquid and then rinse and dry out the board.
You could also do the sanitization with 1:3 part vinegar to water solution by spraying it on the board and air drying it naturally. Apart from this the wooden cutting board also needs to be oiled once in two months at least with food-grade mineral oil. Beeswax, almond oil, walnut oil, grape seed oil and coconut oil are also options that can be used for oiling a wooden cutting board.
It has been observed that well maintained wooden cutting boards can be safely used for many years, whereas the plastic ones wear out easily. Also, when they get grooves, they look ugly and also affect the smoothness of the cutting process.
The Bottom Line
So, the bottom line with cutting boards is that it is preferable to use wooden or bamboo ones to others. It is also important to do daily cleaning and periodic maintenance, to ensure that no bacteria are getting accumulated or breeding in those. It may also be a good idea to maintain two cutting boards for better hygiene for non-vegetarian households. The boards need to be replaced irrespective of the material, if they have too many grooves (scars), as it is these grooves that hold the bacteria. So, the next time when you reach out to pick a cutting board, do pay attention to the material and the cleaning options.
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