|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (November 2010)|
A cutting board is a durable board on which to place material for cutting. The kitchen cutting board is commonly used in preparing food; other types exist for cutting raw materials such as leather or plastic.
Kitchen cutting boards are often made of wood or plastic and come in various widths and sizes. There are also cutting boards made of glass, steel, or marble, which are easier to clean than wooden or plastic ones such as nylon or corian, but tend to damage knives due to their hardness. Rough cutting edges—such as serrated knives—abrade and damage a cutting surface more rapidly than do smooth cutting implements.
A knife edge is a delicate structure and can easily be blunted by too abrasive a surface. Alternatively, it can be chipped if used on a surface that is too hard. A good cutting board material must be soft, easy to clean, and non-abrasive, but not fragile to the point of being destroyed. Hard cutting boards can, however, be used for food preparation tasks that do not require a sharp knife, like cutting cheese or making sandwiches.
Hardwoods with tightly grained wood and small pores are best for wooden cutting boards. Good hardness and tight grain help reduce scoring of the cutting surface and absorption of liquid and dirt into the surface. Red oak for example, even though a hardwood, has large pores, so it retains dirt even after washing, making it a poor choice for cutting-board material.
Teak's tight grains and natural coloration make it a highly attractive cutting-board material, both for aesthetic and durability purposes. Teak, a tropical wood, contains tectoquinones, components of natural oily resins that repel moisture, fungi, warping, rot and microbes.
Wood boards need to be cared for with an edible mineral oil (for example, poppyseed oil) to avoid warping, and should not be left in puddles of liquid. Ideally, they should be suspended freely while drying.
Bamboo cutting boards are an alternative to plastic or glass cutting boards. Unlike some synthetic materials, bamboo is naturally antimicrobial. During the harvesting process, bamboo is carefully chosen for maturation, markings, and size. The stalk is then cut into specific sizes and sent through a pressing process that strips the stalks into smaller plank-like pieces. Once the bamboo is pliable, a cutting board can be produced from multiple pieces by lamination.
Plastic boards are usually called PE (polyethylene) cutting boards, or HDPE (high-density polyethylene plastic), the material of which these boards are made. There are basically two types of HDPE boards being made. One version is made from injection-molded plastic, while the other is HDPE from an extrusion line. There are several certifications of plastic cutting boards, one being NSF, that certifies the plastic has passed requirements to come in contact with food.
Unlike wood, plastic has no inherent antiseptic properties. However, unlike wood, plastic boards do allow rinsing with harsher cleaning chemicals such as bleach and other disinfectants without damage to the board or retention of the chemicals to later contaminate food.
Most high-density polyethylene plastic (HDPE) boards are specifically designed not to dull the edge of a knife. If a score line is present, the knife is safe. A serrated knife should not be used on a plastic cutting board. The sharper the knife, the longer the cutting board will last.
Semi-disposable thin flexible cutting boards also ease transferring their contents to a cooking or storage vessel.
A recent[when?] trend has seen thick solid rubber pads used as cutting boards in the Sani-Tuff line popular in restaurant kitchens. They are about as expensive as well-made wood boards, they can take chemical disinfectants, and they are very heavy for their size, so they tend not to slip. Proponents[who?] claim remarkable self-healing properties, the same knife protection as good plastic or wood boards, and an inability to harbor significant amounts of moisture or bacteria.
While glass looks like an easy surface to keep clean, glass cutting boards can damage knives because of the high hardness of the material. Cutting on glass tends to dent, roll or even chip knife edges in a rapid manner. Additionally, if used for chopping instead of slicing, glass can shatter or chip itself, contaminating food. They last for around 6 years.
Steel shares with glass the advantages of the durability and ease of cleaning, as well as the tendency to damage knives. Depending on the exact steel and heat treatment used, at best a steel cutting board will wear the edge on knives quickly; at worst chip, dent, or roll it like glass.
Sanitation with cutting boards is a delicate process because bacteria can reside in grooves produced by cutting, or in liquids left on the board. For this reason, it is often advised to cut raw meat on separate cutting boards from cooked meat, vegetables or other foods. Some kitchens use the following color guidelines:
- Beige cutting boards: fish.
- Blue cutting boards: cooked food.
- Green cutting boards: fruits and vegetables.
- Red cutting boards: raw meat
- Yellow cutting boards: uncooked poultry.
- White cutting boards: dairy (also for universal if no other board is available.)
Regardless of the material, regular maintenance of a cutting board is important. A very diluted bleach solution is best for disinfecting cutting boards. To remove odors, the board can be rinsed and then rubbed with coarse salt and left to stand for several minutes before being wiped and rinsed clean. This procedure will also smooth out minor imperfections in the wood.
Wooden boards should never be placed in the dishwasher, or left immersed for long periods, as the wood or glue may be affected. To prevent cracking, cutting boards can be treated when they start looking dry. A standard recommendation is 5-7 times a year, or as needed. A light food-grade mineral oil is a good preservative for wooden cutting boards, as it helps keep water from seeping into the grain. Alternatively, one may also use a food-grade drying oil such as poppyseed oil, tung oil or linseed oil. The first two dry much faster than linseed. Most commercially available linseed and tung oils are not “food grade”, as they contain metallic driers. In general, edible savory vegetable or olive oils are not recommended because they tend to go rancid, causing the board to smell and food to pick up the rancid taste.
When heavily or deeply scored, wood or plastic cutting boards should be resurfaced, as scoring can harbor bacteria, or mildew in the case of plastic boards. Wood can be easily resurfaced with various woodworking tools, such as scrapers or planes. Sandpaper is to be avoided, as it leaves in the surface residual abrasives which will dull knives. Resurfacing a plastic cutting board is more difficult and replacing it is recommended instead.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to cutting boards.|
- Ak N, Cliver D, Kaspari C (1994). "Cutting Boards of Plastic and Wood Contaminated Experimentally with Bacteria". Journal of Food Protection 57 (1): 16–22. PDF fulltext
- "Equipment: Cutting Boards". Cook's Illustrated magazine. 1 September 2011. Retrieved 10 September 2011.