Most cooks spend a considerable amount of time and money when buying kitchen knives, but only a handful think about the importance of a perfect cutting board. In a kitchen, knives and cutting boards are as important as salt and pepper. This becomes even more important if you want to cut fresh vegetables by yourself instead of buying pre-cut ones that usually cost more. Thus, a cook needs to have a solid understanding of cutting boards and how they can affect their knives and the overall cooking process in turn.
Choosing the right material
At first, you need to decide on the material that is perfect for your kitchen. Cutting boards are extremely useful when it comes to preparing ingredients to cook a meal, preparing a snack or even when you simply need a place to keep a hot pan to save the kitchen counter from getting damaged. Most of the cooks have multiple cutting boards because the more of these you have, the more prepared you are for multiple activities in the kitchen. Some cooks prefer wooden boards because of their functionality and aesthetics, while some others prefer to have boards made of bamboo, plastic or glass. Let’s have a look at the 4 key types of cutting boards that are:
Wooden cutting boards have been in use for years, thus making them gradually become the most sought after choice among cooks. You can find lots of people who always stick to wooden boards no matter how many new-fashioned boards become available in the market. Wooden cutting boards not only look the prettiest but if handled properly, can even resist almost every kind of abuse. These boards are not as easy to clean as the others but traditional cooks don’t mind hand cleaning as well as sanitizing. Additionally, as wood comprises of natural substances that destroy germs, if any bacterial contaminant gets trapped underneath the surface during the cleaning process, it will die quickly. It’s important to note that all wooden boards aren’t equal in nature. Ideally, you should look for a cutting board made from hardwoods such as maple, teak, acacia etc. because they’re least porous and thus are less likely to hold bacteria and water. Wooden boards can get grooves from the usage of knives on them, which can become a breeding ground for bacteria, over time. That’s why you should replace wooden boards with knife grooves to avert the chances of cross contamination between foods.
Bamboo cutting boards are quite similar to wooden boards and they have natural antimicrobial properties. But bamboo boards are a bit harder, which can be slightly rougher on the blades of your knives. However, the extra density also makes the board less prone to marring and scarring from the knives, which leads to fewer chinks and nooks for water to flow in. A dry board is always less likely to distort compared to a moist one and if you don’t soak the bamboo board in your sink, it can actually last for a prolonged time. Moreover, bamboo cutting boards are an environmental-friendly and sustainable choice as bamboo falls under fast-growing, easily renewable resources. These boards are lighter compared to wooden boards and you don’t need to oil them frequently as you have to do with their wooden counterparts. As a natural light wood, bamboo contains fine grain and because of this, many cooks adore the natural look of bamboo cutting boards and their modern elegance. Additionally, bamboo resists staining, which is often a problem with meats and various acidic plants like tomatoes.
Plastic cutting boards come with a number of advantages. Firstly, they’re comparatively cheaper compared to wooden boards. Secondly, you can easily toss them in your dishwasher. In addition, plastic boards come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors, which makes it easier for you to mix and match them with the kitchen décor. For instance, plastic cutting boards with different colors can be used in this way:
- Yellow colored for poultry
- Red colored for raw meat
- Green colored for vegetables
Plastic cutting boards also carry a general consensus that they’re likely to be more hygienic for preparation of raw meat and prevention of cross contamination of foods. However, this may not be completely true because of their ability to have deeper grooves, which can be breeding ground for bacteria. It’s important to understand that some kitchen knives can cause great damage to plastic boards. So, you should keep an eye on the board when breaking down an entire chicken and make sure to replace them on a regular basis when you find signs of substantial wear. However, you can still have a few plastic boards simply because they’re lighter in weight, easy to store and you can conveniently move around your kitchen with them.
Glass cutting boards have gained some popularity among cooks due to various reasons. First, they can be cleaned easily i.e. you can simply put them in your dishwasher and they would be usable again soon. In addition, you can be rest assured of not getting grooves from the knives on a glass board, which leaves no breeding place for bacteria. Glass cutting boards are available in different designs and colors, which can easily increase the aesthetics of your kitchen. Finally, glass cutting boards are capable of resisting heat, which means they can be used as hot pads. Despite of all these advantages, many cooks don’t encourage using glass cutting boards because they can easily ruin your knives. Hence, while glass boards are easy on the eyes, it’s advisable to look for other options and avoid using glass boards in case you’ve got a good chef’s knife that you wish to cherish for a prolonged period.
Flat Grain Board
Flat grain boards are quite popular among cooks because of the two key reasons – they’re cost effective and easier to make. Here, the cutting surfaces are typically developed simply by adjoining boards together, much akin to wooden table tops. However, these boards provide a high amount of warping effect over time because of the movement of wood as it gains and delivers moisture. Since cutting boards come in contact with water and different kinds of other liquids, they’re more likely to be warped compared to other wooden items, which are constructed using the same method, such as most of the table tops. However, different construction techniques are there that can reduce these cracking and warping effects. Two of the most commonly used methods are sticking the boards with end grain construction method and sticking the panel in an edge grain design.
End Grain Board
Each piece of end grain boards are placed in such a manner that the wood grains run vertically. These high quality cutting boards look similar to chess-boards and provide more durability and strength compared to other wooden boards. End grain boards provide a conventional ‘butcher block’ appearance and offer more resistance to knife cuts. When slicing down with a sharp and solid object, the bristles move aside merely and the object can pass in between. If you remove the object, the bristles return to their actual position. In addition, with end grain boards, you don’t need to worry about shattering as the direction of wood fibers points upwards, making you cut into them instead of across them. Apart from this, cutting boards created through end grained construction method are usually thicker compared to its other counterparts, which means probability of warping is very rare or completely nil. The only disadvantage of these boards is they’re usually extremely expensive than other types mainly because of the high amount of labor needed to construct them. However, most of these boards provide heirloom quality and, if maintained properly, may remain good for use for multiple generations.
Using Different Boards for Different Foods
In case you’re an omnivore, perhaps having a couple of cutting boards such as one wooden and another one made of plastic would be ideal for you. Wooden cutting boards are perfect for vegetables and fruits, offer prolonged longevity and aid to increase the life of the knives while plastic cutting boards help to keep bacteria away from raw meat. In addition, oils coming out from fish can sometimes flow into the wood fibers and may leave long-term smell on the wooden cutting boards. It’s important to note that vegetables/fruits can carry bacteria too. So, select cutting boards that suit your lifestyle and help you to stay hygienic.
Considering the Sanitation
You can find lots of discussions about whether wood or plastic cutting boards provide better sanitation. According to one school of thought, wooden boards provide natural protection as bacteria may dislike the wooden surface and thus would die even if they remain on the surface after the cleaning procedure, while some others opine that plastic boards are a better option as they offer non-porous surfaces that obstruct juices to penetrate the surface of cutting boards. According to most of the cooks, wooden cutting boards are the best option because of their durability, elegance and protection offered to the knives (bamboo is considered a close competitor though). Additionally, it isn’t advisable to clean wooden cutting in the dishwasher or soak them in the water, and you will need to oil them regularly while plastic boards can be easily cleaned in your dishwasher and any bacteria present would be killed during the cleaning process. In case you’ve a wooden cutting board, you should immediately scrub it with hot soapy water after use. Finally, whatever may be the outcome of the discussion, proper cleaning of the cutting boards after every use is crucial when it comes to sanitation of any type of cutting board.
Size of the Board
Bigger is normally better – this saying doesn’t appropriately fit when it comes to the size of cutting boards. For instance, smaller items can be always chopped on bigger boards but it would become difficult to cut larger materials if you’ve a smaller board. When deciding on the size of your perfect cutting board, there are three key factors that you need to consider. Budget should be the first factor. Secondly, you need to consider how you plan to clean it and finally, find whether you’ve sufficient space to store the board after use. If you plan to buy a plastic cutting board, you need to make sure that you can fit it in the dishwasher. In case you don’t own a dishwasher or you wish to buy a wooden cutting board, simply make sure that you can wash it conveniently after use. Ideally, you should choose a board that just falls short of the width of your sink to ensure you can opt for a convenient cleaning process. According to expert chefs, selecting a cutting board, which is 15 by 20 inches in dimensions, is ideal. This will provide you with adequate room to work effectively and safely as you cut. When it comes to storing the cutting board, make sure that you’ve a dry, clean place to store it when it’s not in use.
Cutting Boards with Legs
According to some cooks, it’s better to avoid cutting boards that come equipped with legs because legs restrict you from using both sides of the boards. On the other hand, especially for those who want their chopping block to be old fashioned, cutting boards with a set of legs seem to be the perfect one. It’s important to note that these cutting boards usually come for a hefty amount of money but if you can afford it and have a special kitchen that can match its elegance, it’s worth the money. If you plan to buy a cutting board with legs, you should look for a 3 to 4 inch high product in your preferred dimensions. If you can take care of it properly, it can be passed down to generations.
Finally, it’s a wise idea to have a couple of cutting boards to avoid possibilities of cross-contamination. Alternatively, instead of using several cutting boards with varying dimensions for different kinds of foods, you can use just one board – one side for certain types of foods and the opposite side for other kinds of foods. With proper maintenance and cleaning, a high-quality cutting board can stay with you for ages, potentially becoming an elegant family heirloom that can be passed down to your progeny.