Cutting boards

Discussion in 'Cooking Equipment Reviews' started by jflores, Nov 21, 2008.

  1. jflores

    jflores

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    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.
     
  2. buzzard767

    buzzard767

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    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
     
  3. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    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.
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    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.
     
  5. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    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
     
  6. mikelm

    mikelm

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    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:
     
  7. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

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    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
     
  8. amazingrace

    amazingrace

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    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
     
  9. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    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?
     
  10. amazingrace

    amazingrace

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    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. :)
     
  11. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

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    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.
     
  12. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    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
     
  13. ed buchanan

    ed buchanan

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    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:
     
  14. marye

    marye

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    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:
     
  15. earnason

    earnason

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    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.
     
  16. earnason

    earnason

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    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.....
     
  17. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    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
     
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  18. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    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.
     
  19. earnason

    earnason

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  20. mikelm

    mikelm

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    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