What to do with a wooden cutting board of unknown origin?
One of the things thar came with my apartment was a wooden cutting board which is "built-in" to the cabinetry (not really, but it's obviously designed to be there). I've been there for over a year now, and haven't ever used the board because of concerns about what it might have been used for previously (and since I have several other plastic boards I use.) If I wanted to use this board, what would I have to do to ensure that it is safe to use?
Well what COULD have the cutting board been used for? I mean, unless the previous tenant was...say...Jeffrey Dahmer...or you know. After a year, I think you're safe, no matter what had ever been done on that cutting board.
1. Using an SOS pad, scrub the heck out of the surface, as if you were actually sanding it. Rinse well.
2. Saturate the cutting board with plenty of bleach - ordinary househould laundry bleach is fine. Make sure it gets into the cracks all around. Cover with plastic wrap and it sit there for an hour or two. Rinse well.
3. Let dry overnight, then oil the board with a fresh coating of mineral oil. One or two applications should do it.
4. Enjoy your cutting board.
Not a problem. My apartment was built in the 30's, and there is a built in sliding cutting board that I believe to be original. This is how I treated it, and have been using it ever since.
Make the standard, restaurant sanitizing solution: 1T bleach in 1 gallon of warm water. Scrub, wash, AND dry your thing like any other wooden board. Using a clean sponge or towel, wipe the entire exposed surface with the bleach, and allow to air dry overnight; do not wipe it dry, but allow the air to slowly dry it. Done.
I don't ever cut on these things, because they're usually too big to wash easily in the sink and I can't lift them up to carry scraps to the compost can (and lots of other reasons). I do, however, like them as a pull-out temporary shelf to put either a plastic cutting board on, or to put a warmed serving dish on that I'm going to fill from the pan on the stove. Then I pick up the dish and slide the shelf away with my hip.
Wooden cutting boards are far less dangerous than plastic cutting boards. Wood will defend itself from harmful bacteria, whereas plastic will not. Personally peaking I would never use a plastic cutting board, or if I'd be forced to do so I'd put it in the dishwasher after every use. In the 80's, in the UK, butchers were forced by legislation to change their old wooden butcher's blocks to plastic models. Food poisoning rates skyrocketed until the law got changed back again.
I would not use bleach to disinfect the board, and in no case whatsoever undiluted bleach, but simply take a sander to it and give it a quick sanding. Then clean off with hot water and vinegar. Let dry, oil and you're good to go.
The wood/plastic debate has gone back and forth including allegations of scientific
misconduct on one side or the other, so it's safe to say the question is still open. That
said, the technical name for the sliding board you have is a breadboard. Which is all that it
should be used for, since it's difficult to remove and clean. If it doesn't have weird stains that
suggest the holiday roast was carved on it, it's perfectly fine. Even if it was, any micro-gremlins
are long dead.
I completely disagree with the SOS recommendation unless you want to add scented soap
and microfragments of rusty steel wool to the mix. If you want to resurface it, go to your
local hardware store and get a sheet of 110 grit sandpaper. Wrap it around a small block
of wood and go at the board for a couple of minutes. Wipe it down with some dilute
bleach (you're mostly doing this for psychological well-being, rather than killing any
actual cooties, but psychological well-being is important here), than rinse, let dry, and
hit it with a little mineral oil (which you can buy in the same hardware store you got
the sandpaper in, sometimes sold for 2x the price as "butcher block oil". Do not use
other sorts of wood finishing oil which are not *specifically* sold as food grade, most
of them contain heavy-metal drying agents that you do not want near food; cadmium
can be a real bummer. In a pinch, walnut oil works. Olive, corn, and other cooking oils
do not because they do not harden, just stay greasy which is also not what you want.)