Monday, September 8, 2008

a healthy obsession with cutting boards

how many cutting boards are enough? simply,  I would say 3: one large wood cutting board for larger vegetables, bread, cheese and other non meat items, one medium sized wood cutting board for smaller non meat items, and one plastic cutting board for meats and fish. I own several more than this, some pictured above, mostly for non-cutting purposes such as serving. There are a lot of opinions regarding functionality and use of material type of cutting board, i.e wood, plastic, glass, steel, corian, etc. Some believe that the use of plastic boards for meats and fish due to the supposed ease and ability in cleaning and sanitization in comparison with more porous materials such as wood is actually not true, and vice versa. (though I still go b the three rule noted above) Below is a brief comparison of the various most common materials used in cutting board construction in order to make your own judgement on this extraordinarily important and complex matter.


Chicken with lemons on a large wooden cutting board
Chicken with lemons on a large wooden cutting board

Wood has some advantages over plastic in that it is somewhat self healing; shallow cuts in the wood will close up on their own. Wood also has natural anti-septic properties.[1]

Hardwoods with tightly grained wood and small pores are best for wooden cutting boards. Good hardness and tight grain helps reduce scoring of the cutting surface and absorption of liquid and dirt into the surface. Red oak for example, even though a hardwood, has large pores so it retains dirt, even after washing, making it a poor choice for cutting board material.

Care must be taken when selecting wood, especially tropical hardwood, for use as a cutting board as some species contain toxins or allergens.

Although technically a grass, laminated strips of bamboo also make an attractive and durable cutting board material.


While plastic is theoretically a more sanitary material than wood for cutting boards, testing has shown this may not be the case.[1] The softer surface of plastic boards is scored by knives, and the resulting grooves and cuts in the surface harbour bacteria even after being well washed. However, unlike wood, plastic boards do allow rinsing with harsher cleaning chemicals such as bleach and other disinfectants without damage to the board or retention of the chemicals to later contaminate food.

Semi-disposable thin flexible cutting boards also ease transferring their contents to a cooking or storage vessel.


The advantages of glass cutting boards are ease of cleaning (including being dishwasher safe), and durability. While easier to clean than wood or plastic, glass cutting boards damage knives, precisely because of their durability. Since glass is harder than the steel of even the highest quality knives, cutting on glass tends to dent, roll or even chip edges. Additionally, if used incorrectly, glass can break or chip itself, introducing glass to the food.


Steel shares the advantages of the durability and ease of cleaning with glass, as well as the tendency to damage knives. Depending on the exact steel and heat treatment used, at best a steel cutting board will wear the edge on knives quickly, at worst chip dent or roll it like glass.


Most marble “cutting boards” are not actually intended for cutting, but for rolling dough or use as serving boards, such as for cheese. Aside from sharing the edge damaging properties of glass and steel, marble is in fact also abrasive, and when exposed to some food acids such as tomato juice or vinegar, will slowly dissolve.


Corian or other counter materials know as “solid surface” are composed of a polymer binder and a filler, acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate in the case of DuPontCorian. They are again hard enough to damage edges, and the powdered alumina is abrasive, so slicing strokes will wear the edge quickly.

excerpt taken from

No comments: