How do you choose the Best Cutting Boards for Preparing Meat? Which one is best against contamination risks?
We at Northfork Bison know a thing or two about meat prep. We have been cutting meat since 1997. We gone through our fair share of cutting boards. There are so many on the market today and cutting boards are NOT all created equal. There are wood boards, plastic boards and glass. Which is best? Which is safest against bacteria? And which is safest for your favourite knives?
You need at least two cutting boards. one for meat, fish and poultry, the other for everything else. If you are so inclined you can have a third for carving meat. For example, if you cut up a raw chicken, and then use the same cutting board to slice a tomato for your salad, you run the risk of cross-contamination – with bacteria from the chicken being transferred to the tomato. That, of course, would be bad.
Some things to look for in a cutting board for meat prep
- Juice groove (a groove to catch juices that flow out of the cut food)
- Non slip edge (you can also place a wet towel underneath your board to keep it from slipping)
- Handles for comfortable lifting and carrying (a bonus but not a must)
How to choose the best wood cutting boards for Meat
Wood boards come in many types. There are the classics made of hard wood such as teak, maple, walnut. There is the bamboo cutting board (which is a grass and not wood).
Classical cutting boards are made of Different kinds of wood. Nothing beats a good quality wood like teak, maple or even beech. Eastern hard rock maple is the gold standard, western maple is a close second, Walnut is about 15% softer than maple and is good for cutting vegetables. Cherry wood is 20% softer so it’s ideal for cheese or bread.
Pros and cons of Wood Cutting Boards
- A wood cutting board is easier on knives than plastic or glass
- They look better and are environmentally more friendly than plastic. We have so much plastic as it is.
- A wood cutting board can be sanded and shaved down when there are too many grooves from knives
The Biggest Reason for using a cutting board made of wood for meat prep is that even though bacteria can get into wood cutting boards the bacteria die within a short time under the surface of wood.
- Not dishwasher safe
- Needs oiling every so often (use mineral oil, it will not go rancid)
Cleaning tips for wood cutting boards
- White vinegar – just about the cheapest item in your pantry does a great job at cleaning and disinfecting your board. (Fabulous Vinegar will clean your windows, your floors, and your drain… but I digress)
- Baking soda is also a great tool for removing stains from your cutting board. Sprinkle and scrub with hot water
- Wash your board in warm soapy water.
- Do not leave boards to soak.
- Air dry on a dish rack after wiping
- Spritz with some vinegar or rub down with a half a lemon to sanitize the boar
- You can also use bleach. 1 tablespoon diluted in a cup of water is fine. Put it in a spritz bottle.
- Traditionally butchers used salt on their butcher blocks to keep them smelling sweet. The salt drew the moisture out of the wood and prevented bacterial contamination.
- Use a half lemon wedge and rub it over the board to get rid of smells
Bamboo Cutting Boards
- Eco friendly environmentally safe Green, renewable and earth friendly. it’s one of the fastest growing plants on earth – That’s something you can’t say about plastic…
- Just make sure the manufacturer of the bamboo cutting board uses non-toxic treatment methods or has organic practices.
- Practically maintenance free. Just wipe dry and don’t let it soak.
- Bamboo cutting boards are very durable and hard. A bamboo board has hard dense, yet porous consistency making it a perfect surface for slicing fruits, vegetables meat, poultry.
- Having a dense wood keeps out water, which is where bacteria grow and live. And will not warp or crack as other normal wood tend to do.
- A bamboo cutting board does not dull your expensive knives even though it’s harder than maple and oak but it’s less expensive.
- Bamboo is a grass, grows fast and easily replenishable
- It resists knife scarring
- It’s easy to clean with soap and water
- non dishwasher safe
- Require oiling which isn’t really such a big deal. Use some mineral oil
Plastic cutting boards
- Dishwasher safe.
- Plastic gained favour for a while because it was thought to be non-porous and dishwasher safe. That at first makes it appear to be the healthier and cleaner choice but this is not the case. According to research plastic wins over wood when it comes to providing a home for bacteria.
- Plastic is almost impossible to keep clean. Bacteria hide in the cracks and crevices of plastic. Unlike wood, the bacteria stays around.
- Plastic cutting boards also are more likely to dull your knives.
- And cutting on plastic creates a noise that some find thoroughly offensive. You can actually feel your knives being ruined.
- It’s practically impossible to clean and disinfect a plastic cutting boards once it’s damaged by knives
Glass cutting boards
Don’t even go there. Glass and ceramic and marble will damage your knives. It’s true that glass cutting boards are non porous and easy to clean, no need to oil them but they are so bad on knives. Try cutting meat, poultry or vegetables on a glass cutting board and it’ll slip and slide all over.
Be Careful Never to Do This to Your Wood Cutting Board :
- Let your wood cutting board get too dry or place them near excessive heat (like the stove burner – they will burn)
- Never let it soak or sit wet.
- Never put your cutting board in the dishwasher
- Never leave your cutting board sitting dirty after cutting meat
When is it time to toss your cutting board?
Take a look at your cutting board. Is it getting worn and shows hard to clean grooves? But if you really love your wood cutting board, it can be sanded down or shaved to create a nice new smooth surface.
In summary wood is the ideal material for a cutting board to use for your meat cuts. Plastic is ok too but when grooves start to show, toss it. Glass will damage your knives in no time. But glass boards are non porous so bacteria cannot form. They are dishwasher safe and clean easily with soap and water. Glass unfortunately is not ideal for cutting and chopping.
For more info on cutting boards check out this article on cutting boards.