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Buy the best board you can afford, take care of it, and it is likely that your grandchildren will be using it. Even as they age, or especially as they age, good wooden cutting boards become more and more attractive.
Your first consideration should be how much counter space you have. The bigger the board, the less you will find yourself fussing. The second question is which shape works best for you. Your main choices are rectangular, square, or round. And be sure that if you buy a cutting board that’s several inches thick, its surface doesn’t sit so high on your countertop that you can’t cut on it comfortably. A good-size cutting board weighs a good deal. You are likely to leave it where it sits. So buy a cutting board that fits your counter space.
Before using a new butcher block, season it to prevent staining and absorption of food odors and bacteria. Before applying oil to butcher block, warm the oil slightly. Apply oil with a soft cloth, in the direction of the grain, allowing the oil to soak in between each of the four or five coats required for the initial seasoning. After each treatment, wait about four to six hours and wipe off oil that did not soak into the wood (oxidation or hardening of the oil will take approximately 6 hours). Re-oil the butcher block monthly or as often as needed.
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Types of Cutting Boards
End-Grain Cutting Boards (reversible)
The best to be found and will meet the needs of the most discerning customer. More durable than regular cutting boards, these end-grain boards look beautiful on your countertop. An end-grain is a much harder surface and has a greater tolerance for the chopping motion. These boards give a truly resistant cutting surface while being kind to the blade’s sharp edge.
The old fashioned cutting boards were always end-grain design (the chopping block) for a reason, it keeps the knives much sharper. Instead of crushing against the wood fibers the blade goes between them much like cutting into a firm brush. You will find that your blade edges last much longer, and you’ll see no knife marks on the board.
When the individual boards of wood are arranged so that the grain of the wood runs vertically (up and down), this puts one end of each board up so that the cutting surface is actually the end of many individual pieces of hardwood. With the grain aligned in this manner (up and down), when the knife strikes the surface during cutting, the grain of the wood actually separates and then closes when the knife is removed. This accounts for the self-healing aspect of the end-grain surface. The wood itself is not cut, but instead you are cutting between the fibers.
Flat-Grain (Edge) Cutting Boards (reversible)
One of the best-selling cutting boards for the kitchen – excellent value chopping board and the perfect companion in the kitchen. The majority of wood cutting boards you can buy today are flat grain design. The main reason for this is that they are significantly easier to manufacture.
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Maintaining and Sanitizing Cutting Boards
IMPORTANT: Whichever kind of cutting board you use, clean it frequently with hot soapy water. Sanitize both wood and plastic cutting boards with a diluted chlorine bleach or vinegar solution consisting of one teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach in one quart of water or a one to five dilution of vinegar. Flood the surface with a sanitizing solution and allow it to stand for several minutes, then rinse and air dry or pat dry with paper towels.
Caution must be taken when using any type of cutting board. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
All cutting boards should be scrubbed frequently and thoroughly with hot water and soap.
All cutting boards, and other food surfaces, should be kept dry when not in use. Resident bacteria survive for no more than a few hours without moisture. Keep moisture of any type from standing on the block for long periods of time. Beware of moisture collecting beneath the board if you leave it on the counter. If you can, prop one end up when not using your board.
Use a good steel scraper or spatula often when using the board. Scraping removes 75% of the moisture that builds up on a wooden cutting board. An occasional sanding will return a wooden board to a smooth luster. But never scrub a wooden board with a steel brush (a steel brush will ruff up the finish and should be avoided).
Wooden boards need oiling once a week to seal the grain against bacteria. An oil finish helps to prevent the wood from cracking or pulling apart at the seams. Use a product that is (1) edible; and (2) tasteless. USP-grade mineral oil is a popular choice as it is the cheapest pure food-grade oil you can buy (do not use vegetable or olive oil because it can turn rancid). Before applying oil to butcher block, warm the oil slightly. Apply oil with a soft cloth, in the direction of the grain, allowing the oil to soak in. Allow oil to soak in a few minutes, then remove all surface oil with a dry, clean cloth.
Some professional cooks like to add a little beeswax to the mineral oil for a tougher finish. Simply shave about 1/2 teaspoon of beeswax into a microwave safe dish with a cupful of mineral oil; microwave on high for about 45 seconds. Apply to the cutting board or butcher block while still warm. Save or dispose of the remainder of the oil.
To learn about THE MICROBIOLOGY OF CLEANING AND SANITIZING A CUTTING BOARD, read this scientific article written by by O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D.
Guidelines To Increase Food Safety When Using Cutting Boards from the Food Safety and Inspection Service USDA – Basics for Handling Food Safely. USDA:
Choose a board with a smooth, hard surface. It should be approved for contact with food.
Replace cutting boards that become deeply scratched, carved or grooved.
Do not chop salad, vegetables or other ready-to-eat foods on an unwashed cutting board that’s been used to trim raw meat, poultry or seafood. If possible, always use a clean, separate, color-coded cutting board for fresh vegetables, fruits, breads, and other food that will not be cooked prior to eating.
Scrape off any stuck food and scrub all cutting boards completely with hot soapy water after each use. Dishwashers are usually very good cleaners for most cutting boards. However, thin plastic or wooden boards may be damaged.
Sanitize cutting boards from time-to-time with a mixture of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one quart of water. Flood the board with the mixture; let it stand a few minutes. Then, rinse completely with fresh water. For better food safety, sanitize washed cutting boards after using with raw meat, poultry, and seafood. This may be especially important for households with ill family members.
Let cutting boards dry completely; do not stack together or with other kitchen gear so that they remain wet.
Store cutting boards so that they stay clean, dry, and do not touch raw meat, poultry or seafood or their drippings.