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Dec 12, 2001 09:46 AM

cutting boards, recommendations wanted

  • m

What do people suggest for cutting boards today. I used to have wood but found it difficult to get really clean and got worried about germs and using same board for meat then vegetables since I could not put it in the dish washer. So today I use plastic but have never found a really big one and wonder what they do to my knives. Any experts out there with opinions and suggestions.

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  1. Definitely I prefer the heavy, soft lightly textured plastic boards (they are usually translucent white) ith a rough surface sold in Chinese stores/restaurant supply houses. I also saw them in Zabars (NYC) once under the Joyce Chen name. I have also seen colored versions of these boards at ikea and other places, but why bother? The basic boards are cheap and come in many sizes and several thicknesses. I have 5 (my husband laughs) but they are easy on knives and go straight into the diswasher. The knives do mark them (as they do wood, but it does not degrade the quality of the board.Because their surface is not smooth, the food tends to stay in place. I do not recommend the glossy hard acrylic boards.

    9 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      A good reason to have colors is so that you can reserve one just for meats/chicken/seafood. I have a yellow plastic one which is reserved for that use and I scrub it with bleach every time. I like wooden boards for bread, though, and I have a marble one for setting out cheese at a party.

      1. re: jen kalb

        The cutting board that I've been coveting (but haven't actually bought yet) is made by Sani-Tuff. It's made of a very hard and heavy rubber. It has great knife feel, it's non-porous and therefore cleans up well with soap and water, its heaviness makes it very stable and unlikely to slip. According to the manufacturer, you can re-smooth the surface with sandpaper. I've mainly seen these boards in restaurant supply stores, and a few of the better-stocked cookware stores in Chinatown (NYC). But I think you can order them from the link below.


        1. re: Tom Meg

          I've been considering the sani-tuff, too. But at present I make do with a combination of a wooden board as permanent resident of counter or table for miscellaneous use and a few plastic ones (both hard and flexible)that I can put on top of it when cutting something very messy or possibly contaminating. I also use the flexible ones when I'm chopping a lot of veggies as it is so easy to carry and dump them into the pan. But I find I do not like the feel of cutting on the flexible plastic unless I have wood underneath.

          I do not want to make light of the contamination issue, but for household cooking I wonder if we do not sometimes exaggerate the issue if we apply other careful practices. I'd be glad to hear some feedback.

          I do take precautions, and though I am less than obessive no one's ever gotten sick: I wash boards after cutting meat, fish, and chicken, and occasionally clorox them. But I wonder if my other habits don't protect me even more, though my original intent was to make food taste better: I use only free range, preferably organic, chickens and eggs. When I use ground meat, I buy it whole and grind it at home just before using. In this way I can go on letting meat come to near room temp before introducing it to the flame briefly and keeping fish and fowl juicy. A really good instant digital thermometer completely my culinary defenses.

          1. re: saucyknave

            Some people like me are more sensitive to food poisoning than most, and have to be more careful, irritating our near and dear along the way. I long for the days when I was a kid and could beat a raw egg into my milk and drink it, or eat soft-cooked eggs without fear. I have indeed begun to use the organic chicken, eggs and meat which are starting to appear in my supermarket, but the best-raised critter can be contaminated in the processing plant and I don't like to take chances. So heat and bleach and separate cutting boards it is.

            1. re: sheiladammassa

              I agree that we should all be careful - especially if you know you are more vulnerable than most of us. That's all the more reason to take care about the sources of the food you eat. Depending upon where you live you might be able to join one of the food shares in organic farms.

              Some foods may have bad effects beyond giving you food poisoning. The antibiotics and hormones that are given to livestock may be impairing our longterm resistence to disease. I try to buy from dairies that do not use them. Cheese from Europe is probably hormone and anti-biotic free.

              The Center for Sustainable Living (agriculture) site has a search by state. Plug yours in and you may find a nearby farm. You can probably even go look at it, many of them require that you pick up your fruit and veggies. Some cities have share buying of local organic produce that is even delivered. Others have coops that carry organic foods at (usually) substantially lower costs than the supermarkets.


              1. re: sheiladammassa

                I've always wondered about the sensitivity issue.

                How do you know if you are or are not sensitive?

                I've always felt like I have a cast-iron digestive system. I can only remember having food poisoning *once* (I'm 42) -- bad frittata. I was well into adulthood before I ever had need for anything like Pepto -- I don't think there was even anything like that in the house when I was growing up.

                I don't tend to get traveler's diarrhea, either, even though I've traveled to places like eastern Europe under circumstances in which I drank the local tap water (other people travelling with me got sick, but not me).

                Can variations in sensitivity to food pathogens be measured objectively, or just by anecdotal evidence like this? And can you separate true food poisoning caused by pathogens from just having a sensitive stomach (like a friend of mine who has a whole litany of foods she can't eat, or can't eat at certain times, because they "make her sick")?

                1. re: sheiladammassa
                  Leslie Brenner

                  Sheila, I used to think I was more sensitive to food poisoning than most, and it turns out I had gallstones. Here's a link to a discussion about it on Not About Food.


                2. re: saucyknave

                  "I do not want to make light of the contamination issue, but for household cooking I wonder if we do not sometimes exaggerate the issue if we apply other careful practices. I'd be glad to hear some feedback."

                  The generally accepted understanding among restaurant health inspectors I've had contact with -- and that is a large number in 25 years in the restaurant business -- is that someone is much more likely to get food poisoning in a home than in a restaurant, any restaurant. Of course, the homes of present company are excluded!

                  From what I've observed, even the best home cooks are much more lax about food sanitation than restaurants can afford to be. Sometimes it is things like cross contamination of raw and cooked foods on cutting boards or knives, but most often it involves things like thawing improperly, or leaving leftovers unrefrigerated for a long time before they are put away.

                  1. re: saucyknave

                    The sani tuff,used in most professional kitchens,is excellent;durable,easy on your knives,and it can be soaked in a solution of bleach and water to really sanitize it.The thicker board is better because it won't warp or move around,but there are thinner versions if the weight or expense is an issue.

              2. j

                Not sure if these are same as Jen's. I have 6 of the flexible plastic cutting boards. They're not very big but I love them bec of their flexibility (I can easily pick up the sheet and pour the contents whereever they need to go) and they fit in the dishwasher. They take up no storage room and are very inexpensive. I bought mine at Trader Joe's.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jenniferfishwilson

                  No the ones I am talking about are rigid and solid. I havent tried the flexible ones yet - its an interesting product, yet I dont know how comfortable Id feel doing heavy chopping on one. Do you feel your surface underneath and your knife edge are adequately protected from one another by this item?

                  Having gone through years of babying wooden cutting boards, I am happy using the plastic ones for all purposes now.

                2. I'm a big fan of massive wooden blocks. I've always wanted one of the classic Asian ones that are just a huge cross-section from a tree, but really good ones like that are virtually impossible to find here in the States. One of my great travel regrets was passing up the chance to get a perfect one while in Thailand. The seller only wanted about six bucks, but the thing weighed about forty pounds so I figured it would be too much trouble. I'm still slapping myself upside the head for making the wrong choice.

                  I use a basic Boos block on my counter and I've also got a humongous 3-inch thick 18x18 end-grain sugar maple monster from Catskill Craftsmen that I love. When set on a damp towel on a stool it makes a perfect temporary work island so that many can chop at once. I regularly scrape both of my wood boards with a bench knife and take care of them properly to avoid cracks.

                  The thing you have to look for in a cutting board is the right amount of give so you don't dull your knife too much with every slice. Avoid that glassy plastic at all costs. I've always found end grain wood to be perfect, but I had a girlfriend once who refused to eat anything I cooked unless I got one of those white polyethelene boards (which aren't bad at all) for poultry. The theory there is that you can wash it regularly with bleach to kill off bacteria. My mother of course will say that she raised three kids using a wooden board and that any diarrhea we ever had was from eating junk food and not from her cutting board. I tend to agree with her, but still keep around the polyethelene board to use with chicken.

                    1. I have a fairly reliable reprint, from the "Food section" of the Dallas Morning News, (year?) by Ronalie C. Peterson, "Washington Post", - "Experts at the Univ. of Wisconsin, ...set up tests (plastic vs. wood) and much to their amazement, the bacteria gave every indication of thriving on plastic!' ...on the wood surface 99.9 % of the bacteria disappeared and were pesumed dead, yet all the bacteria on the plastic surface survived."
                      My personal preference has been "wood" because something like ceramic, would "dull" the knife, since it is normally used for sharpening.