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Is that Mould on Jamie Oliver's Wooden Cutting Boards?

I can't help it, I do love Jamie Oliver. One of Jamie's things in his 30 Minute TV series is to suggest that the prepared dish be served on a normal wood cutting board, right after its prepared. Eg in one eppy he serves a nicely dressed, long roast beef sandwich straight on the board after prepping it with juices dripping on same board. It does look quite nice. But I notice that often, the boards he uses for both cutting and serving look very mouldy in some areas. I'm trying to find a youtube episode with a very mouldy example for anyone who doesn't know what I mean - but you can kind of see a bit of it here, this is the steak sandwich episode - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isxKwv... (you can kind of see it at the beginning, and at 13:16 you can see the mould on the side of the board, at 15: 11 you can see the dark patches at the corners).

*Is* that black stuff mould or is it the board naturally darkening? If not, what else is it? If yes.. yuck, right? Shouldn't we be bothered that he's sopped up mould juice onto his foot long? I've seen this kind of black staining on boards of other cooking show hosts - i think most recently i saw an extremely stained board on Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers. I do get that same stuff on mine, and it can't be scrubbed off. I just discard my cutting boards once the black stuff gets to a point (the point is far below what i see on jamie's boards). I have a wire rack for cutting boards that is well ventilated and dry them after use there, but I also do dry them on the dish rack (which is even better ventilated) sometimes. They dry fast. Anyway I do have other issues with boards and prefer to get all new cutting boards every few months. I use both wood and the plastic kinds for different purposes. I don't know what kind of wood my wooden cutting boards are made of. I don't immerse the boards in water.

How often do you change your boards? Do your wooden boards get mouldy?

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  1. That video isn't available in all countries. I could probably do a search and come up with a different link.
    I highly doubt that it is mold.
    A new wooden cutting board every few months? I use wood, have had some of the same ones for 30 years. They get horribly abused, get put into water, but air dry them. Wood is naturally anti-microbial. There are threads that discuss wood vs. plastic with lots of opinions and information.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wyogal

      Me too wyogal, I have used and abuse mine too for over 40 years, and there is no mold, and no one gets sick from eating what all I put on there.

    2. Research sanitizing and you can save yourself some angst. Wash your cuttings boards and spray with a sanitizing solution made with simple bleach and water....then let air dry..

      With that said, I change my boards when the board gets too many scores into it .....or if the board becomes discolored.. It usually takes a couple of years to get to that point before a change is made.

      4 Replies
      1. re: fourunder

        That's the point where my husband gets out the belt sander and gets it down to new wood. A rubbing with warmed mineral oil and it's ready to go.

        1. re: escondido123

          Agree. I do want to point out that only certain cutting boards can be sanded down. Wood and rubber cutting boards are good for that. Polymer plastic... not so much. A study, I read, shows that sanding a poly board can makes it worse.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I was only talking about wood boards; thanks for clarifying.

      2. Never had a cutting board go mouldy. I scrub with hot, soapy water, wipe dry with towel. Most of mine are at least 5 years old.

        1. Hi, t_m:

          Highly doubtful it's mold. IMO, it's some combination of discoloration from staining, spalting, or a high-contrast in the wood itself (e.g., olive, or another wood where the heart/sapwood look different)

          Be not afraid. And waste not your $$ every few months. Or send them my way.


          3 Replies
          1. re: kaleokahu

            hrm.. interesting. i didn't realize people kept their boards for that long. really - years? is it just the wooden ones or the plastic/polymer ones too? sorry for replying to you K, i'm not sure who to reply to but my question is in general to all who have already replied. do you really want my cutting boards? i wouldn't mind giving them over but i'm not sure that's sanitary :)

            so - its not common to switch cutting boards every few months? if it makes a difference, i do live in a warm climate. i don't like having knifemarks in the boards because of the bacteria that can get inside (score marks in wood can't be sanitized, am i right about that ? ) and i'm not keen on bleaching wood. i have actually done some reading on cleaning boards, and i don't like stains or smells on the boards either. i throw away cutting boards once there are fair amount of score marks or stains (it takes a fair amount of time, but nothing like years)

            1. re: timpani_mimi

              I don't use any plastic or polymer boards, only wood because I believe those studies that show it has antimicrobial qualities. There have been countless discussions on sanitizing and you could probably look to those. If I was concerned (which I am not) I would use white vinegar on my boards. But to me, knifemarks happen if you use your boards regularly and I consider them a patina of sorts. As to stains, they disappear pretty quickly with my regular washing of the boards.

              1. re: timpani_mimi

                Hi, t_m:

                Yes, lots of people keep them for many years. There is a thread here about "What's The Oldest Thing You Use?", and one nice Hound told the touching story of a 3-generation board that is >100 years old.

                I was mostly kidding about wanting your boards, but not because of sanitation. I buy used smaller boards for serving bread and pupus all the time. It was just my way of expressing my opinion that it is wasteful and unnecessary to jettison perfectly good cutting boards.


            2. I cannot see the video, but I don't think it is mold. It is fine really. Like escondido said, if you worry, then you can always use white vinegar, salt, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide to sanitize the cutting board.

              1. I suspect his cutting boards are simply stained, or possibly burned from putting something on them "branding" hot. Beets, for example, can make major stains, especially in "end cut" cutting boards, but also in cross grain boards. My pet cutting board of the moment is bamboo, which is markedly more stain resistant than my old end cut board. Cleaning may not render the boards stain free, but it does make them safe to use. I kind of doubt Jamie Oliver is out to poison anyone. '-)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Caroline1

                  Yeah, bamboo cutting boards do not have the same issue.

                2. I have wood cutting boards that are over 20 years old. They are inches thick and very heavy and I would go broke replacing them every couple months even if I could find a suitable replacement. They have knife marks, burns and some dark spots, but nothing would make me give them up and I have no doubt that they are sanitary.

                  1. I like Jamie Oliver. That said, he strikes me as being about as far from a germaphobe as you can get. I've seen him using some pretty suspect looking cutting boards myself.

                    1. timpani_mimi,
                      I suspect from your other posts that you are in Singapore (your use of 'mould' instead of 'mold' would be consistent with that). A warmer, more tropical climate could cause more mold growth. However if your kitchen is air conditioned, you probably have the same conditions as most of the posters in the USA.

                      I've been using plastic cutting boards for years now. But I don't recall problems with mold or discoloration on wood boards before that.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: paulj

                        yes that's right, we use british english, thank you.

                        the thread has been quite an education, i've come round to this fact that wooden cutting boards are used for a very long time now. i googled some of the board types and the models described in other threads and notice they are very good quality and much more costly than the cheap ones i've been using (and that i assume some others do too). i can understand the long-term use and love of good boards now.

                        but i definitely do get mould on both my plastic and wooden boards (not the plastic one, currently), despite cleaning it very well after every use. and i do think it is quite common to change boards every once in awhile for some, if not all. there are a lot of people who use the cheaper cutting boards, even wood ones, i assume probably for this reason. i have a wood board now that was about US$7; the only thing that we don't do here is the oiling of the board to maintain it, i think i will try to look into this going forward.

                        my kitchen is not air conditioned but it is breezy. the boards dry very quickly.

                        1. re: timpani_mimi

                          It is fine however you want to use your cutting board. Some people get a $200-300 custom cutting board, and use it for many years. While others use a $10 wood cutting board and change it and change it every 2-3 years.

                          Hey, the $10 board strategy probably still save you more money in the long trun.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            >While others use a $10 wood cutting board and change it and change it every 2-3 years<

                            And some of us buy $10 wood cutting boards and use them for 20 or more years ;o)

                            I just can't see how a wood board would mold if it is washed and allowed to air dry and stored in a way that air can circulate around it. Generally wood just molds under damp conditions for a long period of time and with little air circulation.

                            1. re: dixiegal

                              <And some of us buy $10 wood cutting boards and use them for 20 or more years ;o)>

                              Good point, good point.

                          2. re: timpani_mimi

                            Regardless of the cost $300 or $7, oiling a wooden cutting board is just as important if you want to prevent stains, delamination, odors, etc. Mineral oil or a combination of mineral oil and bee's wax is a great way to keep a board sanatary. Since the board is saturated with food safe mineral oil, other unwanted things don't soak in, including water.

                            If you don't like scars on your board, go end grain. The knife cuts between the fibers and the boards are somewhat self healing. Not completely like a bristle dart board, where you never see the penetration, but much better than edge or face grain boards. The end grain boards are typically thicker and considerably more expensive as there is more labor involved in their manufacture.

                          3. re: paulj

                            could be a brit or canadian. We tend to put the u in where it is supposed to be.

                          4. Couldn't watch it at your link, but was able to see it here
                            Definitely not mould. It's the grain of the wood, as far as I can tell.

                            I haven't bought new cutting boards in years.

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: Sooeygun

                              In the video sooeygun posted, the board just looks well used and it appears like it is a slab of wood cut from a log. The edges look like bark or knots of wood. I love the rustic look of the board. Does not look moldy to me and I really like that board. I have never seen his show. What channel is he on?

                              1. re: Sooeygun

                                Hi, Sooey:

                                Thanks for the working link. After watching, I'm convinced it's a combination of heart/sapwood contrast, spalting, and a really cool "live edge". Maybe even some staining, but definitely no mold.

                                It all adds up to tremendous character IMO. To have a board look like... it came from a real tree? Fabulous, I say.


                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  hrm, ok thank you all.

                                  just one thing about the video at that link, just to confirm, if anyone is inclined to check it, about 8:38-9:00, where he's going on about the beets, you can see the dark corners of the board. so that's all just darkened wood and normal shading or something?

                                  and how about this image here:
                                  (first picture from top)

                                  just curious: whats that black edge on that board?

                                  in googling variations of "moldy wood cutting board"there are quite a lot of posts/articles about mold occurring on wood cutting boards and what to do about it. i'll try sanding mine down, but if it doesn't work and bleach won't work i've already read that nothing else can be done and it has to be thrown away.

                                  1. re: timpani_mimi

                                    Hi again, t_m:

                                    Yes, I think that's normal aging, staining and checking.

                                    The staining you're seeing on the small board on the blog is almost certainly water damage, from standing the unprotected board on end on a wet surface to "dry". If this had happened naturally before the tree was cut into lumber, it would be called 'spalting'. Those blackish stains are a sign of the wood starting to decompose--which *does* entail some bacteriological action.

                                    Other than being ugly, if the board is dried thoroughly and disinfected, it should not be hazardous to use. Natural spalting can be quite beautiful, and when spalted woods are used in furniture, bowls, knives (and yes, cutting boards) it can be desirable and expensive. Sometimes the wood is vacuum-stabilized to strengthen it and halt the decomposition process, and sometimes it's just surface sealed.

                                    For a bunch of spalted maple cutting boards, see: https://www.google.com/search?q=spalt...


                                2. re: Sooeygun

                                  What a lovely old board! Nothing unhygienic going on there. It looks like it might be made from recycled wood.

                                  My folks have a tamarind (?) chopping block that they got when living in Penang in the mid 1960s. It's coming up for 50 years old and Dad is still chopping on it.

                                  I have an end grain beach board that has been a bit stained by this and that, it's only 15 years old but it's a keeper.

                                  Hygienic versus Unhygienic, it's a one sided argument but the (stupid generalisation coming alert) paranoia about bacteria etc I read here from US citizens kinda makes me feel really guilty and bemused at the same time. First 12 years of my board's life it was rinsed under the sink and dried off, end of story. By reading Chowhound Ive been shamed into spraying it with diluted vinegar after chopping protein and rinsing, but it's a waste of time really. Never had food poisoning from my kitchen.

                                  1. re: jhamiltonwa

                                    Another thought about a cutting board looking moldy. The wood cutting boards that I put baking soda and water on developed some places that might pass for mold. Where the baking soda and water seeped into the wood, it turned dark to black. Hopefully with time and use, it may fade, if not, it will just look like an old board.

                                    1. re: dixiegal

                                      I read and re-read this thread a few times.

                                      There are some great opinions and advise here. However, one thing is very clear: None really knows conclusively. Until you run a lab specimen, one cannot know for sure.

                                      Microbial contamination in aerospace (bulidings and equipment) in one of my areas of specialty, and has been for a number of decades. While it is not always something to worry about, it does happen. I test for it, run samples, engineer it out of designs, and decontaminate it out frequently.

                                      It happened to my father recently, and specifically to his trusty custom cutting block. At age 91, I pay attention to his surroundings and his health. He remains ambulatory, physical therapy 4x per week, and enjoys cooking just as I do.

                                      The surround of his granite countertop started cracking and lifting. Causation was determined to be faucet water spashing onto a partial substrate of non-marine plywood supporting the granite. The wood became swollen and started working on the granite crystals. That section was just this week cut out, cleaned, new full substrate of marine ply added, and new granite replaced the old. Finished assignment ? No, not hardly.

                                      Look closely at the photo I took of his custom wood cutting block, which covers the entire second sink. Notice the dark and light areas. It was wet and slimey. Mold ? " No " says father, somewhat defensively. " Do you mind if I run a swab or two ? " I ask. " Proceed if you wish " comes the reply.

                                      Common sterile lab swabs in alocohol are taken, capped and run at the lab I use. Results are all positive. Live, deep into the surface, and thriving, if you will.

                                      Replaced with a new Rösle cutting board and colour mats which wash in the dishwasher and are easy on the knife edge sharpness. Happy ? Not really. Acceptance will never quite happen with my father, alas, as my wife and I still get those looks of doubt when he is cutting food. But we know it is cleaner and healthier for him.

                                      Peace of mind.

                                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                        Hi, Swissaire:

                                        Oh, my, please be careful...

                                        This reminds me of the story of the nice son-in-law who decided to "upgrade" his aged MIL's stove to something easier for her while she was away visiting relatives. She'd been using that woodstove since she was a little girl, and SIL replaced it (gave it away) with an electric coil range in a surprise remodel. She cooked after that--she had to--but her joy in cooking was destroyed. Never said a word to daughter or SIL, either.

                                        I was lucky enough to care for both of my parents into their 90s, so I know the impetus and instinct to protect aged parents, and so, many of their idiosyncrasies that surround replacing things. Wahine ran a nursing home for 16 years. It was full of people whose kids had "done the right thing"; there were even a few that needed to be there.

                                        Could the board have been disinfected and/or resurfaced?


                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                          Thanks Kaleo for the suggestion.

                                          Too late, but your point is well taken. I'm fighting " tradition " with my parents here all the time. Some of my father's knives are 60+ years old.

                                          Longevity, independence, and good cooking seem to a characteristic of both sides of the family. None are too old to try something new fortunately.

                                          Unfortunately the wood block damage could not be salvaged or repaiired without cutting out a large section of the block, which my father had made in 1964.. The damaged areas as mentioned were not limited to the surface, but ran deep. Resurfacing could have encapsulated the damage.

                                          Believe me I tried Isopropyl 91%, then Sporicidin 50%-100%, and 70% industrial bleach. Too deep alas, and the condition evidently was underway for many years. Anything stronger would have been contraindicated as a food preparation surface.

                                          Not to worry: They talk to us every night. Pretty keen on the Olympics.

                                          One caution to others here at CH is to remember sealed or not, wood is an organic material. It needs to be kept clean, dry (good airflow), and sanitary which I'm sure everyone does, just as plastic and inorganics are. Most of the microbials are harmless, but not to everyone. It spreads and grows like cigarette smoke, if you will. If the surface is clean, fine: I've sampled positive mold on dirty stainless steel, specialized metals, fibreglas, and even Corian.

                                          1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                            Hi, Swissaire:

                                            You're welcome.

                                            "I've sampled positive mold on dirty stainless steel, specialized metals, fibreglas, and even Corian."

                                            What about... copper? Is there truth to the the puffery here?: http://antimicrobialcopper.com/us/why...


                                            1. re: kaleokahu

                                              It's doubtful, Kaleo.

                                              Community-bourne infection sources, such as copper or other metal fixtures such as door handles, are recent infection source concerns. For example the individual who is ill turning the door handle or other objects and thus passing germs on and getting someone sick. The simple remedy is to spray, wipe, and keep these objects clean continually.

                                              Nosocomial infections are those in which a person inside a healthcare facility is ill, and then passes his or her condition on to other patients, staff, and visitors. Or conversely the old joke where you were fine and healthy until you went to the hospital and became sick.

                                              In a healthcare setting you have patients who have low resistance, either by being ill, or due to chemically prescribed low-immunity, say for Oncology or Organ Transplants. Such patients require good care and being away from someone whom is ill..

                                              Cooking when ill, or with dirty cookware now comes to mind here. Again, if the cookware is kept clean and sanitary, that half of the equation is ruled out so that only the good health of the cooking staff is a concern.

                                              Once the surface of any metal (cookware), plastic, wood, or stone becomes dirty, oily, covered in layers of soap-scum, etc. that condition then gives the opportunity for microbial (fungi-or mold), or bacterial (which is not mold) pathogens the chance to grow.

                                              The average CH member home kitchen will never experience that . " Puffery " it is.

                                        2. re: SWISSAIRE

                                          I don't think I would have to take a swab to know that had mold on it. You can't leave a board in contact with water and not have it. But considering your dad is 91 and has been using that board for a long time...maybe it should be tested to see if it contains the secret to longevity?

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            Things should also be put in perspective. I have no idea how bad is the mold in the cutting board, but if you (or anybody) take a swap around the kitchen, you will see a lot of bacteria. Averagely speaking, there are more bacteria in a kitchen than in a bathroom.

                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              Hah !

                                              Ithought it ran in our families, but I will tell him that.

                                    2. Mine is about 75 years old at least. It is 6 foot by 3 foot. I think from the thickness of it I might have to change it in about 400 more years.

                                      Wood is better as it does not promote bacteria growth like the small cuts in plastic ones do.
                                      video has been removed by the way... have another copy of it?