Caring for your cutting board and other wood utensils.
How to Purchase Wood Cutting Boards
Buy the best wood cutting board you can afford, take care of it, and it is likely that your grandchildren will be using it. Even as cutting boards age, or especially as they age, good wooden cutting boards become more and more attractive.
Size – Your first consideration should be how much counter space you have. Every kitchen should have at least one large cutting board. The bigger the board, the less you will find yourself fussing as the larger surface area of a cutting board gives you more space to work with. You are likely to leave it where it sits, as a good-size cutting board weighs a good deal. So buy a cutting board that fits your counter space. A stylish wood cutting board may also enhance the look of your kitchen. Small cutting boards are convenient for clean-up and cutting small things quickly (for example a garnish or some cheese).
Shape and Thickness of Cutting Boards – the second question is which shape works best for you. Your main choices are rectangular, square, or round. Be sure that if you buy a cutting board that's several inches thick, its surface doesn't sit so high on your countertop that you can't cut on it comfortably. Don't choose style over substance.
Types of Wood Cutting Boards
End Grain – End Grain cutting boards are the best cutting boards to be found and will meet the needs of the most discerning customer. More durable than regular cutting boards, these end-grain boards look beautiful on your countertop. An end-grain is a much harder surface and has a greater tolerance for the chopping of the knife edge. These boards give a truly resistant cutting surface while being kind to the blade’s sharp edge.
The old fashioned cutting boards were always end-grain design (the chopping block) for a reason, it keeps the knives much sharper. Instead of crushing against the wood fibers in a cross-wise strike the blade goes between them much like cutting into a firm brush. You will find that your blade edges last much longer, and you'll see fewer knife marks on the board.
When the individual boards of wood are arranged so that the grain of the wood runs vertically (up and down), this puts one end of each board up so that the cutting surface is actually the end of many individual pieces of hardwood. With the grain aligned in this manner (up and down), when the knife strikes the surface during cutting, the grain of the wood actually separates in a minute amount and then closes when the knife is removed. This accounts for the “self-healing” aspect of the end-grain surface. The wood itself is not cut, but instead you are cutting between the fibers.
Edge Grain – Edge Grain is essentially the opposite of that described above. The orientation of the grain is horizontal from side to side. Edge-Grain Cutting Boards are also one of the best-selling cutting boards for the kitchen – an excellent value chopping board and the perfect companion in the kitchen. The majority of wood cutting boards you can buy today are edge grain design. The main reason for this is that they are significantly easier to manufacture making them less expensive.
Wood vs. Plastic Cutting Boards - Which is better - wood or plastic?
There is much debate on this topic, and I make no claim one way or the other on this subject. It is said that bacteria have a tougher time surviving on wood boards. Most people are surprised to hear that a wood cutting board may be more resistant to bacterial buildup than plastic ones. Research has shown that bacteria, such as the salmonella often found on raw chicken, will thrive and multiply if not removed from plastic boards (because germs that cause food poisoning can hide out in the knife-scarred nooks and crannies that develop on the surface of a plastic cutting board). Hand scrubbing with hot water and soap can clear microbes from the surface of new or used wooden cutting boards and new plastic ones, but knife-scared plastic boards are resistant to decontamination by hand washing.
Research and Studies to read – One study reported that new wooden boards had antimicrobial qualities while plastic cutting boards trapped bacteria. Source: Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards, by Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D. Although the Food and Drug Administration has long recommended plastic cutting boards, based on the observation that it is not as hard to clean plastic as porous wood, new information shows that wood cutting boards are actually safer than the plastic or so-called anti-bacterial kind. Source: Which Cutting Board is Safest? by Patrick J. Bird, University of Florida, College of Health and Human Performance. While at the same time the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the United States Department of Agriculture has concluded that the use of plastic cutting boards over those made of wood is still the best approach.
Some useful tips;
- To eliminate garlic, onion, fish, or other smells from your cutting board: Coarse salt or baking soda - Rub the board with coarse salt or baking soda. Let stand a few minutes and wipe salt or baking soda from board, and then rinse.
- Use a good steel scraper or spatula often when using the board. Scraping removes 75% of the moisture that builds up on a wooden cutting board. An occasional sanding will return a wooden board to a smooth luster. But never scrub a wooden board with a steel brush (a steel brush will ruff up the finish and should be avoided).