There is a lot of debate whether wood or plastic cutting boards are a safer material for the kitchen. I find both sides of the arguments valid so here I will show you all the information and also provide some references for further reading.
I think that it really depends on the job. You could be chopping brisket, or slicing an onion or dicing a huge pumpkin. Have a read of this and you can decide for yourself what you are more comfortable with.
The Pros of Using a Plastic Cutting Board:
Well Priced and Lightweight
Due to the fact that plastic is quite inexpensive, it is easy to purchase three, four or even five cutting boards for different purposes. You could use each one for completely separate food prep, such as one for raw chicken, one for fruits and vegetables and one for meat.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to put away large heavy wooden boards. Due to their plastic’s lightweight nature, it is also easier to store these cutting boards away.
Easy to Wash
Most plastic cutting boards are dishwasher safe. As long as the water gets over 190F for a few seconds your cutting boards will be properly sanitized.
It’s All About the Material
One of the most crucial arguments in favour of plastic is that they’re non-porous. This means bacteria is unable to soak into the board. With just hot soapy water, the bacteria can be completely washed off.
This is one of the most powerful ideas in this debate. The FDA also concurs with this school of thought and has mandated that all commercial food services use plastic boards.
All Shapes, Sizes & Colors
Well, this may seem like an argument for your home décor it also serves another purpose. It allows others in your kitchen to know what boards to use for what food.
You could have certain colours for veggies, others for meat and another for poultry. If you have a coloured coded system it is easy for everyone to cook in our kitchen without cross-contamination.
The Pros of Using a Wood Cutting Boards
Anti-Microbial Surfaces of Wood
Many of the arguments for wood cutting boards come from research conducted Ak, Cliver, and Kaspar in 1994 at the University of California. Ak, Cliver, and Kaspar found that wood can possess anti-microbial properties.
These anti-microbial properties appeared to kill surface bacteria within minutes, however, it was later found that the bacteria actually were drawn into the wood. Then once inside the wood, the bacteria were unable to reproduce and would eventually die.
End- Grain Cutting Boards
The next point has many facets to it. An end- grain cutting board appears to have self-healing attributes. It seems that if you cut on an end grain cutting board the knife actually cuts between the wood fibres instead of cutting through them. This means you don’t even up leave any marks or ridges.
For more information on end-grain cutting board check this out.
Bacteria Hiding in Marks & Ridges
Leading on from the following point Ak, Cliver and Kaspar’s research found that a wooden board with substantial knife markings was easier to sanitize and wash than a severely knife-marked plastic cutting board.
Since the plastic boards are non-porous there many more places for bacteria to collect, breed and contaminate food. Note: Do think about replacing your cutting board if it is severely marked.
Longevity and Tradition
People have been using wooden cutting boards for hundreds if not thousands of years. Some boards are passed down from generation to generation. A wooden cutting board can be rejuvenated with a little bit of planning or sanding and can be good for many years to come.
Other Factors to Consider for Wood Vs. Plastic Cutting Boards
While it is hard to choose a clear winner, we can say with confidence that you HAVE to stay away from glass and metal chopping boards. Both of these surfaces will damage your knives and are extremely hard as well as unsafe.
As there is so much opposing information available regarding cutting boards that it is difficult to choose a clear “winner.” Some research claimed that plastic boards and easier to clean whereas some research found that wooden board contained less bacterial even after mechanical cleaning on both.
It is down to personal preference. You may have grown up in a household that preferred one style or maybe you worked in a kitchen and like to stick by the rules. If you do get one you don’t like, use it as, hang it on your wall as a decoration or use it as a serving platter!
Personally, I use both. For smaller vegetables (not the big boys like pumpkin or cabbage) I like to grab a plastic cutting board, mainly due to their ease of use and super easy clean-up. If I am cooking up some steaks or brisket (which is more often than not) I like to use a wooden chopping board with a channel 1”-2” from the edge.
I like that the channel catches any juices and stop them from running onto the counter.
What Consideration Should You Make Regarding Knives & Boards?
You will find that due to its harder surface your knives will likely dull more quickly on a plastic cutting board. No matter what board you’re using you should always sharpen your knives before using. You should also consider how often you use them and if that is frequently (daily) you should have them professional sharpened at least once a year.
The Key is Sanitation
It doesn’t matter what board you choose; the key is having a proper sanitation routine. This will help you and your loved ones stay safe and avoid cross-contamination. Here are some of my hot tips.
- Always wash and dry with soap and hot water, if you can get water that is over 190F you will be able to easily kill the bacteria.
- Try mixing 1 quart of water to 1 tablespoon of bleach and let the mixture sit on the board for several minutes. Then rinse and let air dry.
- You can also try 1-part vinegar to 5 parts water. As with the bleach let it sit for several minutes then rinse and let air dry.
- Bacteria loves moisture, so keep it to a minimum to help stop growth.
- Try dedicating one cutting board for food without the need for further cooking (fruit, veggies & prepared food) and another for raw food (meat, fish, and poultry). At a minimum, you should have two cutting boards but I suggest having four.
- Try prepping your veggies, fruit and dry food before your raw items. This makes sanitization much easier.