by Chef Dez
As part two of a series of three columns on cutting, this one will focus on cutting boards.
Almost every household has some type of cutting board to offer a place for chopping or slicing in order to protect their kitchen counter tops. With so many to choose from, hopefully I can help shed some light on this subject by discussing the pros and cons of the three main types of cutting boards available: glass, plastic and wood.
One of my biggest pet peeves is a glass cutting board, and I take every opportunity to advise anyone I can of the reasons. Tempered glass cutting boards are made to offer a surface that is easily sanitized by hand or by putting them in the dishwasher, and offer a surface that will never deteriorate.
However, because this cutting surface is so hard, it will dull even the highest quality kitchen knife faster than any other cutting board. They usually depict an attractive photo or print under the surface of the glass which makes them desirable to have out and ready to use, but I would highly recommend using them only as a serving platter and nothing else.
Plastic cutting boards on the other hand offer a softer surface that won’t damage knives and can still be placed in the dishwasher for cleaning. The plastic surface can also be subjected to sanitizing cleansers, like bleach, without damaging the board itself. However, recent studies have revealed that over time bacteria can build up in the scores from knives on the surface, that even sanitizing will not remove completely. When deep scores have been made in a cutting board, it is recommended to reface the board. Plastic boards are very difficult to resurface, and it is much easier to purchase a new one.
Wooden cutting boards have been thought of surfaces that hold bacteria, and many households have switched to plastic for this very reason, but wood offers natural antiseptic qualities. The wood also can naturally reseal small scores from cutting. A food-grade mineral oil should be used on a regular basis to help stop the wood from drying out and cracking.
I prefer to use plastic cutting boards for meat or seafood. This way I can sanitize them in the dishwasher, until they get well used that is. Wooden cutting boards offer a cutting surface for all other applications such as fruits, vegetables, etc. I do not own a glass cutting board.
The most unique cutting surface I have ever used is a phone book. I was invited to a “guy’s night” poker party at a bachelor’s apartment, and it turned into an impromptu cooking demonstration. His kitchen was not well equipped, so we sanitized the outside of his Yellow Pages and used it as a cutting board! While this might be an amusing story, I strongly advise against this practice.
Dear Chef Dez:
Can you suggest a natural cleanser for cleaning cutting boards?
Diane T., Nanaimo
I often sprinkle a cutting board liberally with salt and rub the surface with the cut sides of a halved lemon. The salt acts as an abrasive, and the lemon not only offers a natural acid, but a fresh clean scent as well.
– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4