Cutting Board Safety

Might be nit-picking, but being in the industry, I know for a fact that plastic does indeed absorb water. Not ALL plastic does, but most will, especially those referred to as “engineering grade” that possess higher physical properties. It does take much longer to absorb moisture than wood, which probably lends more support to the theory that the bacteria has more “dwell time” on the surface of plastic boards versus wood.

But the real question is, who cuts meat? Doesn’t everybody just whap it onto the grill and torch it?

You’re either a Philistine or a Texan. I’m trying to figure out which.

Just reading this thread has inspired me to fire up my grill, in spite of the threatened snow, and cook me up a steak for lunch.

Rare, with just a touch of grated garlic. A little salad on the side, using my wooden cutting board for the tomatoes and onions.


You shouldn’t mix acid with bleach as it evolves chlorine gas.

“Once a month, rub the board with oil, to keep it water-repellent and warp-free (a food-safe oil can be found in the kitchenware department).”

Why the drama about “food-safe” oil? Just use a dash of olive oil.

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What’s better, a wooden cutting board or a plastic one? (08-Feb-2001)

Actually, you don’t want to use Olive Oil as it goes rancid while it sits on and in the board. That is why the plea to use a food save oil. There are ones that don’t go rancid as quickly so are better for the wood and the food you cook.

Hmmmmmmmm, bar-b-que!

Ah, now this is a subject I can get behind. My late Grandfather was a meat inspector from the USDA, from the days when people used to pack meat in barrels of salt, to the days of modern engineering. His expertise was bacteriology, and I heard many lectures on food safety that would make even Upton Sinclair cringe.
My Grandfather would only use wood cutting boards. He said the wood dried out bacteria, the wood fiber would actively bond to bacteria and rupture them as they dried out. He said that proper care of a wood cutting board requires perioding salting. No, you should not put oil on a cutting board, but instead, every week or two you should wet it thoroughly and apply a liberal amount of table salt to both sides. Leave the pasty salted surface to dry until most of the water evaporates and the surface is starting to dry out, then rinse it again to remove the salt.
My mother concurs. She ran a restaurant and had a running battle with the restaurant inspectors over wood vs plastic cutting boards. She fought them for a long time, but had to cave in and go with plastic. The inspectors finally admitted there were circumstances where wood is better, but since it would be so hard to police all the restaurants’ wood cutting boards for proper care, for the masses, plastic would be safer.
Now the discussion of rubber cutting boards is really odd. I have used self-sealing rubber cutting boards in graphics production, they’re designed for use with precision cutting with an XActo knife. Self-healing cutting boards are not designed for food use because the bacteria would be sealed down inside the plastic, and you’d dig it up every time you cut across an old sealed cut. You won’t get me to cook on a rubber cutting board.
Anyway, I was surprised about the remarks in the column about how wood is softer than plastic and therefore it doesn’t blunt your knife, and it doesn’t wear out so soon. I was pondering this as I was cutting food for dinner tonight. I was using my favorite $60 Henckels 4star 8in carving knife on a little wood cutting board. I was cutting straight down on a little stack of cooked bacon, not even pressing very hard, and the damn knife cracked in two with a big PING sound and the 7 inches of blade went flying 18 inches in the air. I was sitting there holding the hilt with 1 inch of knife thinking to myself, “man that was really REALLY dangerous.” I called the store where I bought it and they said it has a lifetime guarantee so they would replace it. But that’s not why I bought an expensive 4 Star knife, I bought it for its quality and safety and I certainly did not expect a piece of razor-sharp shrapnel flying across my kitchen.

DVD: << Why the drama about “food-safe” oil? Just use a dash of olive oil. >>

Flashwheat: << you don’t want to use Olive Oil as it goes rancid while it sits on and in the board. >>

Also, you don’t want to use a dash of Olive Oil because Popeye will get pissed at you.

That’s why I won’t spend more than $10.00 for a cutting knife! :slight_smile:

What would cause this? I’ve never heard of such a thing happening.

Thank you, Chas, I was just about to say, “Rubber cutting boards? Huh?” Wouldn’t the bacteria lodge in the cuts and so happily multiply? And wouldn’t you ruin it totally by slicing big holes in it with your chef’s knife? All the self-healing rubber cutting mats I’ve seen (for rotary cutting of quilt pieces) haven’t looked like they could stand up to having chickens cut up on them. I’ve never seen rubber cutting boards designed just for the kitchen–are they thicker rubber or something?

TFH has some links to rubber cutting boards on the other thread.

Is anybody familiar with these? Are they like a hard rubber, that wouldn’t get cuts in it?

Over Christmas I shopped around for a new cutting board. The more expensive brands of plastic cutting boards all claim to me impregnated with antibacterials. If this feature is effective, I think the advantage will be with these new plastic boards.

I keep some bleach water in a spray bottle. After washing the board with soap and water, spray some bleach water on it and let it dry out. If too much bleach smell remains, just rinse off with water. Also whitens stains left on the board from some vegetables.

Well, I always have two cutting boards – one for garlic and onions and one for stuff that you don’t want to taste like garlic and onions. Though I suspect a plastic board wouldn’t absorb garlic flavor as much as a wooden one. Of course, I don’t deal much with cutting up chicken or beef, so most of this conversation is academic to me.
Also, IT said
> You shouldn’t mix acid with bleach as it evolves chlorine gas.

I believe that it’s bases (in the sense of high pH) – e.g. ammonia – that will evolve chlorine gas from bleach. Vinegar is acidic (low pH), of course.

Dulling edges and breaking blades are two entirely different problems.

For those interested in trying a rubber cutting board, teknor apex has one. I don’t think they have an online store, but hopefully we can find out more about their features/qualities/bacterial tendancies.

Oh, and yes, it is ammonia that will create a nasty gas with bleach. Mixed the two once when I was younger, they foamed over violently and made the air in the room painful to breathe.

Had to be a metallurgical flaw in the blade. The knife didn’t crack cleanly, there’s an angle right in the center of the knife where apparently some metal crystals in the middle of the knife were unstable and it just popped apart at that spot. Damnedest thing I ever saw.

I read not long ago (which, given the way my mind works, could have been up to two years ago), in either Vegetarian Times or the Skeptical Inquirer, that you can sterilize a wooden cutting board without bleach by wetting it then microwaving it for 5 - 10 minutes.

The best way to avoid nasty bacteria on cutting boards is to not eat meat in the first place. No salmonella and no “mad deer” disease.

By the way. Lime juice will kill onion and garlic odor on cutting boards.

I found a place that sells the rubber Sani-Tuff Cutting Boards online if anyone cares:!sku.TEK159921,catid.18850.html is the link for a 15x20x3/4 board that will run you $47.10. You can get a smaller board (12x18x3/4) at!sku.TEK157651,catid.18850.html that will run you $34.00. Check the site for shipping charges, but shipping on orders over $50 are free, supposedly.

I would like to ask SDSTAFF Hawk if this board approximates the one he recommends in the column…

Yer pal,

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First, a search on Google quickly turned up two online sources for NSF-approved rubber cutting boards: and They have a variety of sizes and prices.

Second, microwave sanitizing is not recommended because most microwave ovens have cold spots, so you can’t tell if the entire surface has been heated sufficiently to kill all bacteria. If it doesn’t get hot enough to kill them, all you’ve done is give them a warm wet place to breed. That last warning also applies to dishwashers; if it doesn’t have a “hot start” mode to preheat the water coming in from your water heater, things may not get sanitized.

Third, rinsing with anything after using a bleach solution to sanitize is not recommended. The USDA recommendation (as reprinted in the book “Home Comforts”, which while appropriately straight-dopish in most respects, suffers on this particular issue by not having online updates; that is, she comes down on the plastic-is-better side) is: “wash with hot, soapy water, rinse thoroughly with plain, clean water, immerse in solution of one teaspoon household chlorine bleach per quart of water for several minutes (or, if it can’t be immersed, flood it with the solution for a few minutes), then air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels. DO NOT RINSE!” (emphasis theirs)

Fourth, the antibacterial properties claimed for assorted plastic products are viewed skeptically by folks such as the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology: "There is no proven infection prevention benefit in the use of these products. APIC does not advocate the use of antimicrobial household products which are marketed with the implication of preventing infections.

Fifth, the information I have on bleach safety is that mixing it with ammonia creates chloramine gas, and mixing it with acids creates chlorine gas. I’d have to dig up my old organic chem textbooks to figure out exactly how it all works. The bottle of Clorox I just looked at says not to mix with “toilet bowl cleaners, rust removers, acids, or products containing ammonia”.


**I’ve never heard this before. What I was told was that the lignins in wood serve as a natural defense for trees against infection. This is what makes wooden cutting boards more resistant to bacterial buildup.

As noted earlier, plastic cutting boards are subject to “wounds”. The knife blade will drive food matter down into the cut in the plastic. The flexible plastic will then close afterwards and retain the food matter where bacteria can breed.

I will never use anything but wooden cutting boards in my home. I have never been able to trace back a single incident of food poisoning from my cutting boards. All I do to them for maintenance is to scrape a knife blade at an acute angle across the surface to clean off any of the softer wood or detritus.

In fact, I will attribute a degree of well being to the residual bacteria on my cutting boards. Constant cleaning only reduces the challenges to your immune system. I feel it is important to expose yourself to low levels of bacteria and the like to maintain good health.