We often discuss the sharpness and quality of our knives, spending ample time deciding which kind is right for us. But cutting boards are often relegated to a last minute purchase while wandering around Wal-Mart looking for kitchenware. Sure, this one works, you say. But a cutting board is an essential and long-lived purchase that you’re going to be using a lot. It’s important to put some thought into it.
Unfortunately, not all cutting boards are made equal. Some look fantastic, but are a huge pain to clean. Others seem to clean easily, but actually harbor dangerous bacteria. Others destroy your knives. So, what’s a prospective cook to do? We’ll show you how to choose the perfect board for you.
1. Plastic Boards
Plastic boards are a classic kitchen staple, but have recently run into some criticism. Why? Because many studies show that bacteria can easily multiply within the gouges left by knives. So that old plastic board you’ve been using for years might be a little bacteria breeder. Yikes. Fear mongering aside, nothing is easier to wash and sanitize than a plastic board. Pop it in the dishwasher and when it’s both clean and dry, you have nothing to worry about. It’s also prudent to replace worn out boards, though, even if you’re sanitizing regularly. Plastic boards are gentle on knives, and cheap, making them a great budget option. You can also get them in colors, which is pretty cool.
2. Bamboo Boards
If you’re concerned about the environment, this might be the board for you. Comprised of hard grass rather than wood, bamboo is sustainable and natural, making it an eco-friendly choice. Bamboo is porous and slightly harder than wood, meaning it shares many of wood’s properties. Unfortunately, bamboo boards require oiling to stay in top shape, and the wear and tear of a knife on the surface can make it more friendly to bacteria. Just like plastic boards, replace after extensive use for the best results.
3. Wood Boards
Contrary to popular belief, wood does not contain any antibacterial qualities. What it does contain is capillary action, which is a fancy scientific term for the idea that it sucks things into it. Basically any bacteria on top of your board gets pulled into the deeper part of the wood, living there however long it takes for the board to fully dry. So they’re still there, even if they’re not in contact with your food.
Although wood isn’t any safer than plastic, it is exceptionally friendly to your knife, and makes for an excellent countertop piece. Its weight means it resists movement, and it’s very satisfying to use. Unfortunately, wood boards require the most upkeep to keep them in working shape. If regular oiling, washing, and drying isn’t for you, then you might want to skip out on this for a more low maintenance board.
4. Glass Boards
Glass boards are loved by many for their non-porous qualities, their ability to be easily washed and sanitized, and for their looks. There’s no upkeep, and they’re made with tempered glass, meaning they won’t easily crack or break. Unfortunately, glass boards can wreak havoc on your knives, dulling and warping the blade. For this reason, glass boards are best avoided.
Ultimately which cutting board you choose to use is up to you, although we do suggest that you stay away from glass. If you’re in the market for a cutting board, regardless of which you pick, make sure you get two so that you can separate raw meat from vegetables and breads. Most foodborne illnesses come from cross-contamination in the kitchen, so use some common sense. Wood is great for vegetables and ‘safe’ foods. Plastic is great for meat because it can be easily sanitized. Common sense can go a long way in your choice of a great cutting board. Happy shopping!