Cutting boards (kitchen)?

Feb 23, 1999
What do you use for a kitchen cutting board, not wood and food bacteria safe. My wife has a hard material cutting board and cutting anything blunts the blade, big time. If you cut though a potatoe, you here a clank like hitting a steel plate. It's not steel but is hard and not a plastic type of material. I can sharpen the knives and once on the cutting board, they are dull, you can see the edge at arms length. Please, point me to the right material.
we have a traditional wood cutting board, one of the resin/wood boards, and a common white plastic board that is like hard Tupperware. The plastic one is easy to care for as we just throw it in the dishwasher.
The one that worked best for me was just a 12X12 Pine board. Wood as I understand is less prone to bacteria growth than most plastic boards. It doesnt dull knives very fast, and is cheap.
I have plastic and wood cutting boards. I prefer the wood, it's actually safer bacteria-wise, though both types are plenty safe as long as you clean them well. I like the wood just because it's a natural material I guess. Why don't you want wood, just out of curiousity?
We use a wood baord, it doesn't dull knife blades. And, according to university study I read, wood is not the bacteria magnet that was originally thought. The study used different types of wood boards and different non wood boards. In one test, they put different food stuffs on the boards and let them set for 48hrs. The non wood boards had a high concentration of bacteria and the wood boards had practically none. They then intrduced a thriving bacteria culture to all of the boards after 24hrs, the none wood boards showed the cultures growing, the wood boards showed the bacteria was almost all dead. They were trying to figure out why this occurred and had not released a reason at that time. I will try and find that article and see if I can't post it.
Great topic, it's been on my list to talk about, glad you beat me to it. I agree about wood and the bacteria thing. I think plastic is the way to go because you can throw them in the dishwasher. Ceramic and metal I think are too tuff on the blade.

I'm going to visit a glass retailer and see if they have any scrap 3/4" plexi-glass. I'm guessing they can cut and smooth the edges for probably less than buying it at a kitchen store. I also plan to buy several, I'm always cleaning and reusing my old cheap-o cutting board in the middle of preparing a meal. I get concerned when I go from raw chicken to vegetables.
Both wood and plastic work well. I've read the articles about wood killing bacteria, but I worry that its effect may be too slow to stop cross-contamination. If you only have one cutting board you may want to switch rapidly between cutting raw chicken (a very dangerous source of bacteria) and cutting your salad greens. I like to scrub my plastic cutting board under very hot running water while treating it with a disinfectant. That would be hard on wood.

It is best to have at least a couple cutting boards. I have several soft plastic cafeteria trays that I bought at a restaurant supply store that I use as cutting boards. They are designed to be cleaned with hot commercial equipment and tolerate my sanitizing well. I particularly like the way that the edge keeps oozing material from contaminating my counter tops. They are also designed to stack compactly.

Your wife may be primarily concerned with appearance, shape, or feel. Go to a good kitchen supply store and let her get anything she likes so long as it is soft as wood or plastic. If she likes the board and uses it a lot it will be money well spent. That is probably more important than the absolute technical merits of the material. If she doesn't like it your efforts will likely be in vain.

PS. Your current "cutting board" sounds like a ceramic coated metal serving board that is designed to protect tables from hot dishes. It should never be cut upon.
Wood is definitely the way to go from a Bacteria/ Food Safety standpoint.

Wood has natural enzymes that kill the bacteria while plastic tends to develop small cuts that seal bacteria in when you run hot water over the surface. If I understand correctly the heat causes the surface of the plastic to expand sealing the bacteria in until the cutting board cools and the cut opens back up.

Besides wood is better for your edges.

They now make a Microban bonded plastic cutting board that is very knife friendly and dishwasher safe. Most kitchen stores have them and in colors besides white. Bacteria die quite nicely. I recommend them, but you still need to exercise kitchen smarts and not use a board that had raw meat on it for something else without sterilizing it first.

Just had our kitchen redone and they gave us some Corian cutting boards from the counter scrap. It's cool stuff but HELL on blades. Dulled my Wusthof knives dang fast. So now the Corian boards are relegated to other prep work, but not cutting.

I agree with Jeff and some others about wood cutting blocks. I remember seeing something about a study showing that wood cutting boards had a natural enzyme that inhibited bacterial growth. The plastic boards in the study had more bacteria as the cut lines allowed the bacteria to hide.

My wife insists on using two cutting boards, one for meats and the other for veggies. Both are used over the sink, for space and cleanup reasons.

If you have a metal cutting board, maybe you can epoxy a flat diamond hone on one side... then you could sharpen as you go along
The study mentioned above took the cutting boards, cut some things on them and then left them to see which ones were more toxic at the end of 24 hours. Wood boards had a lower dangerous bacteria count than the plastic boards. It was only THEORIZED that there may be an enzyme that helped them lower their bacteria count COMPARED to the plastic.

The study did not prove or even suply evidence that wood is self sterilizing, merely that it had a lower bacteria count after 24 hours than a similarly tainted plastic board. Neither board was healthy to use.

Wood boards hold flavors. If you use garlic or onions, you will flavor other food with a wood board, even after cleaning. Fruit is especially susceptible to picking up those flavors. When you sterilize wood, it holds on to the bleach more than the plastic too.

The government (evil as they are) body overseeing food prep still recommends plastic and bleach for cutting boards.

Regarding board cleaning and cross contamination. Most people only do cosmetic cleaning rather than sanitizing in the kitchen. Eight seconds of cutting board "washing" with a sponge and soapy water that is cool enough to put your hands in. Then they leave a detergent residue by a token 3 second rinse. This kind of "cleaning" is likely to add as many bacteria as it removes.

How I do it: First ignore the safety and energy conservation guidelines and turn your water heater up to the max (we need this when four showers are running in the morning anyway). Lean the cutting board in the sink (most won't fit inside) and run scalding hot water over the board. Apply concentrated disinfectant to a stiff-bristled, long-handled scrub brush and scrub under the hot running water. Scrub across the width of the board parallel with the cuts in the board surface (so that you get into the cuts). I figure any bacteria I don't kill or remove mechanically will be few in numbers and weak when I'm done. Keep scrubbing as the disinfectant is used up. Keep scrubbing during what has now become an agressive rinse cycle. This is particularly important if you have used bleach in order to get it back off of your cutting board. This process will put so much heat into the cutting board that it will temporarily bow. The full process should take 2 or 3 minutes, not the 15 seconds that I have typically observed. If you've been cutting raw chicken you really need to sanitize your cutting board. You can go easier if you've been cutting cooked food.
Normally, I am not one to flash my credentials but this topic is just down my alley! I have a Masters degree in meat science and microbiology. I am aware of the "study" mentioned, and some other facts alluded to here but not with authority.

1. The study indicating wood has some bacteriostatic properties should not be used to extrapolate wood safety in the home or commercial establishment. Wood is still not allowed by USDA as a food contact surface. The bacteriostatic properties of "some" woods take hours to days while most woods have none at all. Cross contamination is the downside. You cut up a chicken on a wood cutting board, clean it (so you think!) and then chop salad greens on it. Can you spell "Salmonella?" Wood boards get small cuts in them, like plastic, and can harbor bacteria.

2. UHMW (ultra-high molecular weight plastics) and teflon make great cutting boards, are dishwasher safe and do not dull knives. BUY PLASTIC CUTTING BOARDS!

3. Acrylic, metal, ceramic, and glass are terrible on knives. Do not use them under your knives! If they can be used to sharpen knives, they can dull knives. A method for sharpening knives years ago was to strop it on the underside of a china teacup or saucer--the unglazed edge. You can also sharpen your knife on the top of your automobile window--just roll it down about half way and strop away.

4. A good sanitizer for boards and knives that have touched raw meat--especially poultry, is a teaspoon of liquid laundry bleach (Clorox) per gallon of water. When I cut chickens at home on my "PLASTIC" cutting boards, I put a little bleach in the dish water, or put them into the automatic dish washer. Automatic dish washer compound is made to be used at temperatures above 130 degrees F. It doesn't work well at temperatures your hands can stand. Also, it is very caustic--for cutting grease! All this means it is good for killing bacteria.

So take it from me. All you guys who are trying to justify your wood cutting boards, dump them! Buy plastic (UHMW or Teflon). Some of you won't believe me but remember this advice when you get severe cramps, diarrhea, severe head ache, etc. Sure, you can dodge the bullet for a while, but it will catch up with you eventually, and you won't like it!

Now I'll go back to sleep.

Bruce Woodbury
Thanks for all the replies. I went to and they agree that wood that is cleaned real good, is safe. I guess I watched too many news programs talking about the 'evil wood cutting boards'. Watching too much tv can get you scared of your shadow.
OK, sticking my neck out here, but it is my observation as a married guy (30 years) that the most destructive element on knife edges is my wife, on any surface. Sigh. Maybe flint would hold up, but she's murder on steel (she used a little Case folder I'd given her to dig potatoes). Oh, well, I like sharpening. She dulls 'em, I sharpen 'em... makes for a partnership.
jeff clark was right. Corning Ware counter saver, Duh. I need to get wood or plastic cutting board.
I believe that Dirk and the others on the side of wood are right. 20/20 Did a story which they spent probably 20 minutes with a group of scientists trying to answer your question. They were surprised at the results. Wood is superior. Just wash it when your done in hot water and antibacterial dish soap. If you are that concerned that this still won't get it clean, follow up with ROCAL-D. You can get this super antibacterial at some Veterinary offices and medical suply stores. Follow up with a hot rinse. Ta-Da! Tis clean and fresh as a spring morn-in!

Cross contamination? Buy, or make more boards.
After the cleaning I mentioned above, You would have a hard time finding enough bacterial to make a butterfly sick. It is usually the amount of bacteria that is the problem, not so much whether or not there's any. The ave. body can handle things like salmonella in small quantities. Your thouroughly cooked chicken, carefully refrigerated after dinner w/probably have more germs in 2 days than your wood board after dinner now or then. If you have Muslim terrorist friends that like to use your cutting board for cutting gyros after they store vials of bact. & viruses in your refrigerator for later use, well then you've got a problem. Once your boards wear out, recycle them. Paint a face or bulls eye on them and use them for target practice.

"But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword let him sell his garment and buy one." Luke 22:36 & John 3:18
The health dept. of many states (mine included) frowns on wood boards, spoons, etc.

I personally do not like the hard plastic cutting boards...those white or colored ones...but instead prefer the hard rubber boards (yellow-colored self-healing) used by many of us. These are the best for knives... arguably moreso than the wood...fatigue less than the hard plastic, and clean up nice with a stainless steel scrubbie and bleach.

BTW, bleach, @ 0.95 cents a gallon is the best bet for sanitizing. 120ppm (~a good capful of bleach per cup of water) kills all! JMHO!


[This message has been edited by Chefget (edited 18 August 1999).]
Bleach is far easier to find than ROCAL-D and should still get the job done. Besides that, you can throw in your laundry and kill two birds with one stone.

"But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword let him sell his garment and buy one." Luke 22:36 & John 3:18
Bleach is very hard to rinse off and has strong odors and taste. I would go to a restaurant supply store and get disinfectant that is made for food prep surfaces.