ON THE KITCHEN: Chef Dez says the wooden cutting board is the safest option

by Chef Dez

As part of the second part of a three-column series on cutting, this one will focus on cutting boards.

Almost every household has some type of cutting board to provide a place for chopping or slicing to protect their kitchen counters. With so many to choose from, I hope I can help shed some light on this topic 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 let anyone know why. Tempered glass cutting boards are designed to provide a surface that sanitizes easily by hand or by putting them in the dishwasher, and provides a surface that will never deteriorate.

However, because this cutting surface is so hard, it dulls even the highest quality kitchen knife faster than any other cutting board. They usually feature an attractive photo or print under the surface of the glass making them desirable and ready to use, but I would highly recommend using them only as a serving tray and nothing else.

Plastic cutting boards, on the other hand, provide 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 disinfectant cleaners, such as bleach, without damaging the panel itself. However, recent studies have found that over time bacteria can build up in knife scratches on the surface, which even disinfection will not completely remove. When deep nicks have been made on a cutting board, it is recommended to grind the board. Plastic panels are very difficult to resurface and it is much easier to buy a new one.

Wooden cutting boards have been considered surfaces that harbor bacteria, and many households have switched to plastic for this very reason, but wood offers natural antiseptic qualities. Wood can also naturally close small cutting partitions. Food grade mineral oil should be used regularly to prevent 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 well used. Wooden cutting boards provide a cutting surface for all other applications such as fruits, vegetables, etc. I don’t have a glass cutting board.

The most unique cutting surface I’ve ever used is a phone book. I was invited to a “boys” poker night at a bachelor’s house, and it turned into an impromptu cooking demonstration. His kitchen wasn’t well equipped, so we sanitized the outside of his Yellow Pages and used it as a cutting board! Although this can be a fun story, I strongly advise against this practice.

Dear Chief Dez:

Can you suggest a natural cleaner for cleaning cutting boards?

Diane T., Nanaimo

Dear Diana,

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 also a fresh, clean scent.

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– Chef Dez is a food writer and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send your questions to [email protected] or PO Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4

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• ON THE KITCHEN: How to find knives that are a cut above

• IN COOKING: Italian pasta has a risky history

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