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Dec 4, 2005 07:13 AM

Bamboo cutting boards at TJ Maxx/Homegoods

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I was at a Boston-area (Somerville) TJ Maxx/Homegoods combination yesterday and picked up some "TruBamboo" bamboo cutting boards for nice prices (20 for a 35 dollar one, 15 for 25, etc.). I got a large one with a channel for juices (for me) and two smaller ones, one with a channel, and one with the two colors/variegated pattern-- they had a good selection, and I've gotten in the habit of giving these as wedding and housewarming gifts because I never fail to get an "OOOHH!" followed up my more than one thank you note whenever I give one. These are going to be the Yankee Swap items for this year's two Christmas parties. Pretty much the full range seemed to be represented. I didn't see them in another store I was in the weekend before thanksgiving, so I think these are a new shipment.

There were also some Penelope Casas, Sara Moulton, and Giuliano Bugalli titles in the cookbook section for decent prices.

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    Niki Rothman

    I've seen these bamboo cutting boards and they are very pretty. But I use my cutting board all the time and rinse it several times a day, leaving it off the counter to dry vertically between uses. My problem with these bamboo boards is they are very HEAVY for their size. And because I am moving the board around a few times a day I want a nice light-weight American hardwood board ($14 for a full size at Bed Bath & Beyond - but watch out for occasional patched knot-holes) and I want a sustainable forests guarantee. Because of totally annoying cumbersome heaviness and consequent difficulty of keeping it clean of bacteria and dry, I also don't have a beautiful heavy butcher block. Both the bamboo and a butcher block give me problems in this regard.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Niki Rothman

      Hello, I'm not sure what American hardwood you mean that would be lightweight. I recently retired a maple board after 20+years of use and began using a bamboo one. They are practially identical in weight, close to the same thickness and area. Maple is slightly harder than bamboo. Dense woods will resist infiltration by the onion juice, bacteria etc. better, and will therefore be heavier than softer woods. Bamboo is completely sustainable as you know, and has become popular to the point that there is a wide range of thicknesses available in boards, which will of course vary their weight. The by the health code book method of eradicating bacteria is diluted chlorine bleach, but I think vinegar is acidic enough to do the same job; I've seen markets that have to keep their buffets and olive bars sanitized use it, and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't unless the inspectors gave their o.k. I also recently picked up a board made of cherry, walnut, maple made from the scraps leftover from furniture making, so it's reused wood but not sustainable. In Tuscany I saw nice olive wood boards, and in their situation that's a sustainable wood. The other problem with the lighter woods is their relative softness, and decent knives will score them pretty well--I notice my bamboo board is getting scored more easily than the maple, and it's nearly as hard. The scoring will increase the sanitation problem but I'll just sand it smooth. The old butcher blocks go through many resandings as you probably know, which is one reason they're so thick. Sorry if this is all info you already have, I couldn't tell from your post. Regards.

      1. re: moto

        Please explain to me why scoring your boards is bad. My common sense tells me that something has to give. If the board is very hard, wouldn't your knives get duller faster that something that gives, which you would see by knife marks?

        1. re: Lillydu

          You balance one thing against another. A wood surface is easy on knives, which can go longer with just steeling rather than resharpening. On the other hand, wood gets small cuts in the surface, which hold water and provide a place for bacteria to breed. But plastic scores too. In wood, the problem is countered by the fact that wood has evolved over the millennia to resist bacteria, which don't live long on wood (the way they do on plastic). Wood isn't difficult to keep clean when scrubbed with diluted bleach.

          You want hard woods (like walnut, especially end-grain) because they don't score as much, but almost any wood will be better for knives than plastic, let alone glass or stone.

          For more, there's a great report on the Cooking For Engineers board.


          1. re: KRS
            Niki Rothman

            Couldn't have said it better myself. I bet thousands of great knives have been destroyed by those glass cutting boards.

            1. re: Niki Rothman

              Actually, I was not thinking about glass or plastic vs. wooden boards. I have been using the polyethelyne boards (I know it's a type of plastic, but not those hard slick plastic boards) and I've found my knives to stay sharp plus I see them in a lot of restaurants and deli type places. Hard to describe, but my knives feel so comfortable on them and don't slip at all.

            2. re: KRS

              Thanks, KRS. I read the site - very informative.

          2. re: moto
            Niki Rothman

            I appreciate and agree with everything you said.
            I use a 10 percent bleach to water mix which I keep in a bottle under my sink and use with a scrubby once a day on all the food work surfaces. I do this on advice of a noted toxicologist. It's also a good idea, once in a while, to run the boards through the DW. It opens up the pores in the wood and you can actually see the penetration of the chlorine water.

            About the the boards' origins, I notice more and more that the labels on cutting boards state sustainable hardwood or bamboo. Or conversely, when one finds the stated country of origin for hardwoods is a Southeast Asian country, as they frequently are these days, one might suspect some rainforest destruction was involved.

            About the hardness, I was comparison shopping and was so attracted to the bamboo boards because of beauty and the sustainability, as you stated. But I was really surprised by the heaviness. Could be the ones you've seen weren't as thick as the ones I saw. I'd be interested in checking out a bamboo board that was lighter. Where did you see the ones that you describe?

            1. re: Niki Rothman

              Hello. 10% bleach is exactly the sanitizing solution we used when I worked in a hospital. When I got the thicker bamboo block the place had such a good selection I also got a board for bread and roasts about 3/8 in. thick and considerably lighter. Unfortunately I tend to segregate intense shopping (except for food) to vacations when I have more time to "waste", and this was in a huge Japanese supermarket/dept store in the old part of Seattle near the train station(well known place, mentioned I'm sure on the Seattle/NW 'hound boards, they even had live baby abalone, sustainably farmed in Hawaii). If you live in SF you could try that big hardware store in Japantown with two stories of stuff, or the other stores in that vicinity with cooking/housewares.You could call Sur la Table, but they were such a zoo when I dropped in there yesterday that I hardly browsed at all(compared to shopping without a tight schedule on vacation, ahh), and you might end up on hold for who knows. The prices will be higher than TJ Maxx. regards.

          3. re: Niki Rothman

            I think the weight depends on the size and the thickness-- I have seen thinner bamboo boards and thicker ones, and the thinner ones are no heavier than the hardwood ones I have.

            Bamboo is harvested sustainably-- in fact, it's highly invasive and hard to STOP growing once planted.

            But if it doesn't float your boat...

            I myself lust after the super lightweight wood resin boards on sale at Sur La Table-- but they're too expensive for me.

            1. re: emdb
              Niki Rothman

              I almost talked about the platic (resin) boards problem with bacteria. I understand they are very resistance to disinfection because the knife cuts in the plastic close up over the pathogens and thus harbor them more than wood does. About the heaviness. When I've compared the bamboo to the hardwood boards, it's just always seemed the bamboo ones were surprisingly more heavy than a similar sized hardwood board. Well, maybe I'm nuts. I'll have to keep looking at them - they are so pretty.

          4. Thanks for the info! I was at TJ Maxx today and bought one of these today, thanks to your recommendation.

            1. Several years ago, the NY Times said that many professional kitchens use the Sani-Tuff cutting board, made of self-healing hard rubber. They said it was very durable, had an excellent surface, was easy on knives, was non-porous and sandable, and didn't support bacteria.

              Google turns up many sources.