Wood vs. Plastic
“Why are you making and selling wood cutting boards? Aren’t those unsanitary or even dangerous!?”
These are common questions so we decided to talk about–
Cutting Boards: Wood vs. Plastic.
Our Handmade Wood Cutting Boards are beautiful and safe.
Cutting Boards: Wood vs. Plastic — there are many facts, myths, and opinions surrounding cutting boards made of wood. You may notice, JCDC Woodworks makes beautiful cutting boards. If you haven’t, take a look at them here. In this blog, we hope to dispel myths, share facts, and give you the opinions of professionals who use cutting boards more regularly than the rest of us so we can figure out the answer to Cutting Boards: Wood vs. Plastic.
“Wood Cutting boards are not as sanitary as Plastic.”
A study conducted at the University of Michigan found “more bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface.” Another discovery made through the study was: even though a new plastic board could be disinfected, once a plastic cutting board becomes a knife-scarred surface, it is nearly impossible to clean and disinfect manually (Callaway, 2008). While plastic cutting boards have been considered easier to sanitize than wood, many variables change the truth of that statement. Plastic is not porous, but as you cut on the board, the knife leaves grooves that will hold bacteria more than a hardwood cutting board. The grooves will not be as deep in a wood cutting board making the process of cleaning easier and as the wood dries, the bacteria dies (Shipman, 2014). Historically, butchers would put salt on their cutting blocks to keep them from smelling bad. Unbeknownst to them, salt draws the moisture out of the wood preventing bacteria contamination. Deep in the wood there may be live bacteria, but cutting the board to dissect and search for the bacteria is the only way to locate such bacteria after the wood has dried.
“Never use a wood cutting board for meat.”
Avoid cross-contamination by using more than one cutting board during food preparation (Consumer Reports, 2018). A wood cutting board used to cut meat should never be used to cut other food until it has been thoroughly washed with hot, soapy water. Experts tend to disagree about whether bleach is safe to use on wood, one article states the “chlorine binds very easily to organic materials (such as wood) neutralizing anti-bacterial properties” (Shipman, 2014).
Wood is a renewable resource and better for the environment.
However, frequent use of a cutting board may require re-sanding and finishing to not only refurbish appearance, but make cleaning more effective. If your wood cutting board has many deep gashes and grooves, it will be near impossible to get completely clean.
The type of wood your cutting board is made of matters.
Soft woods are easier on knives, but will require more refinishing over time due to more cut marks in the wood. Hard woods do not absorb near the amount of bacteria, but will be harder on your knives. Consequently, harder on your knives = more shallow cut marks = less bacteria. So, what are “hard woods”? Beech wood, Maple, and Bamboo are good choices. Typically, JCDC Woodworks uses a combination of Maple, Cherry, Poplar, Ash, and Walnut. These are hardwoods great for cutting boards, but not as hard as Bamboo. Bamboo is likely to dull knives.
What the professionals have to say about Wood vs. Plastic cutting boards:
Chef Lynn Michelle, aka “The East Coast Chef”, prepares a variety of culinary creations, including Charcuterie Boards, for many of her clients in the Hilton Head Island, SC area. When asked to share her thoughts on Cutting Boards: Wood vs. Plastic, she explained Beechwood is her top choice, with Maple a close second. Also, she noted neither of these hardwoods would do significant damage to knives. Dr. Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D. “the de facto godfather of cutting board safety” (Shipman, 2014), has conducted multiple research projects to determine the safety of wood cutting boards versus other materials. Dr. Cliver’s studies have revealed wood to be at least, if not safer than, other cutting board materials. Remember, the key factors remain: type of wood and effective cleaning/sanitizing.
References Callaway, N. (2008, May 28). This is the Best Kind of Cutting Board for Your Kitchen. Retrieved from The Kitchn: https://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-best-kind-of-cutting-board-plastic-wood-or-bamboo-51821 Cliver, P. D. (2006, March). Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards. Retrieved from Round Barnwood Crafts: http://www.roundbarnwoodcrafts.com/pdf/PLASTIC%20AND%20WOODEN%20CUTTING%20BOARDS.pdf Consumer Reports. (2018, May 6). Are Plastic Cutting Boards Better Than Wood? Retrieved from Consumer Reports: https://www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/are-plastic-cutting-boards-better-than-wood/ Shipman, M. (2014, September 23). The Abstract. Retrieved from NC State News: https://news.ncsu.edu/2014/09/cutting-boards-food-safety/