Cutting boards – what types are there and how do you clean them?

Ah, cutting boards! You never really think about them, but they are indispensable. After all; Cutting/chopping vegetables, nuts, fruit and other – of course vegetable – ingredients on your kitchen worktop is not a good idea. Not only for the condition of your kitchen, but also for your knives.

It is therefore best to use a cutting board that is made of a softer material than your knife itself. For example of bamboo or plastic. There are also many other materials that cutting boards are made of, all of which have their own advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes only disadvantages actually, haha!

You will discover all about it in this article.

What is a cutting board?

Well, exactly what the name suggests. It is nothing more than a board on which you can cut both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ food. In addition to different materials, you will also find them in the most diverse dimensions, shapes and thicknesses/heights. Because you use it almost every day, you can imagine that a cutting board has to endure quite a bit. Getting a good cutting board at home is therefore a must.

Oh yes, the somewhat ‘higher’ cutting boards are also often called chopping blocks.

Different colored cutting boards for different foods?

Unlike in your own kitchen, the hospitality industry has strict requirements when it comes to food safety. Since the so-called HACCP food safety system was introduced in the Benelux, a lot of rules have been added. These also apply to the use of cutting boards.

First of all, the material is important (must be as hygienic as possible) and so-called ‘cross-contamination’ must also be taken into account.

Cross-contamination is the transfer of pathogenic bacteria from one product to another. The risk is mainly in raw foods… especially meat, fish and chicken. Animal ingredients indeed. Even with frozen foods, the dripping liquid (the thawed ice cream) can contain a lot of nasty bacteria.

In order to prevent cross-contamination, it is also important in the catering industry to use a different cutting board for each type of food. That is why a color system (for plastic cutting boards) has been created for this purpose.

Here’s a summary:

  • Green: Vegetables, fruits, anything plant-based.
  • Blue: fish, crustaceans and shellfish
  • Red: raw meat
  • Brown: cooked (fried, roasted, …) meat
  • Yellow: Chicken and Poultry
  • White: cheeses (possibly also bread)

You notice it: catering staff better not be color blind! Of course you do not have to comply with HACCP rules at home, which does not mean that you do not have to take the risk of cross-contamination seriously. Fortunately, there is 1 way to prevent cross-contamination with absolute certainty…

… vegan food!

After all: from the entire list above you only need 1 cutting board. The green one moreover (how could it be otherwise).

Pretty easy, right?

Anyway, now that you know this, let’s move on to the types of cutting boards. As mentioned, there are quite a few.
Reading and discovery pleasure guaranteed!

Type of cutting boards

Wooden cutting boards

Okay, we don’t know for sure, but it would be very illogical if the first cutting board ever was NOT made of wood. Wood has been used for centuries and is also very strong, moisture resistant, can be made to any size and hardly makes your knives blunt. In short: a particularly suitable raw material for a cutting board.

It is therefore all the more strange that you will never find wooden cutting boards in a catering environment (anymore). The reason for this is the HACCP food safety system mentioned earlier. When drawing up those rules, it was assumed that the porous properties of wood could potentially trap bacteria (or leftover cleaning agent) that could subsequently contaminate the food on that same cutting board.

It is useful to mention that this statement is just contradicted by many others. Wood itself has an antibacterial effect. Furthermore, wood is a living material and therefore ‘works’. Scratches and nicks in which bacteria settle would then be encapsulated by the wood.

Whoever is right, the fact is that wooden cutting boards are prohibited in the catering industry. They are still very popular for home use. Also because they look nicer than the average plastic cutting board. The eye wants something too, huh?

The Qi-board cutting board is allowed in the catering industry and is also a top cutting board to have at home. Read my review here >>

Buy sustainably

Since trees have to be felled for the production of wood, it is also important to choose a somewhat durable cutting board. For example, one that was made with FSC-certified wood. Beech wood is the most commonly used type of wood for the production of cutting boards.

Treating and cleaning wooden cutting boards

Wood is a natural product and can therefore expand and/or contract under the influence of moisture, heat and cold. Provided you take this into account, a wooden cutting board is very easy to clean. Rinse after use (dishwashing liquid is not necessary per se) and wipe with a (clean) dry cloth is sufficient. To allow the shelf to dry further, it is best to place it upright.

The keyword in all of this is ‘quiet’. Give the plank time to dry and never expose it to excessive temperature fluctuations. For these reasons, never put a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher.

Wooden cutting boards are pre-treated by the producer with oil. This ensures that the wood ‘closes’ and a protective layer forms around your cutting board. It prevents your board from cracking or warping quickly. It thus extends the lifespan and makes maintenance a lot easier.

It is also smart to oil your cutting board yourself once in a while. Use an odorless, color and tasteless (of course edible) oil. Most suitable for this are almond oil or grapeseed oil. Olive oil is not a good option because it gets sticky quite quickly.

Follow the steps below to oil your cutting board:

  1. First, clean your board: rub it with lemon juice (or white vinegar) and then with (sea) salt. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes and then wipe dry with a clean, dry kitchen towel or paper towel.
  2. Let the board dry thoroughly.
  3. Sprinkle the board with the oil and rub with a piece of kitchen paper. Then let the oil slowly soak in until it has completely ‘disappeared’. Repeat this until the oil no longer penetrates and the board is, therefore ‘saturated’.
  4. Wipe clean one last time. Your shelf can take it again!

Estimating how often you have to do this is unfortunately difficult. It depends a bit on how often you use your cutting board. However, every 2 (regular or daily use) to 4 months (sporadic use) is a good measure.

There are hardly any drawbacks to wooden cutting boards. The only thing worth mentioning is that they occasionally need some light maintenance. If you take good care of your wooden cutting board, it will last a very long time. Poorly maintained wooden cutting boards, on the other hand, can crack or discolor. Especially when you are going to cut up ‘colorful’ ingredients such as beetroot or something like that.

Bamboo cutting boards

Bamboo may look like wood, but it isn’t. Bamboo is in fact a type of grass whose stems lignify slowly. Compared to wood it has a number of enormous advantages. Certainly when it comes to the ecological/sustainable aspect.

The advantages of bamboo at a glance:

  • Bamboo has a decent hardness (comparable to oak) and is therefore super sturdy. Almost no moisture can penetrate. Compared to wood, you have even less risk of tears and cracks, while the material is friendly enough for your knives.
  • Bamboo can be worked just as easily as regular wood. It makes bamboo suitable for all kinds of applications. From cutting boards to garden terraces, so to speak.
  • Bamboo grows very quickly (like grass) and after the felling, the roots of the plant immediately put out new shoots. Excessive deforestation is therefore not an issue for bamboo. Furthermore, it hardly needs water and pesticides are unnecessary.
  • Bamboo hardly expands or shrinks.
  • Bamboo looks fantastic

Treating and cleaning bamboo cutting board

Basically the same as with a wooden cutting board, with the only difference that your bamboo requires even less maintenance. You also only have to rinse bamboo cutting boards, wipe them and let them dry upright. The latter is also super fast. Re-oiling your plank once every six months or annually is sufficient. Here again: never ever put it in the dishwasher!

Plastic cutting boards

Plastic cutting boards are the only HACCP-approved cutting boards and are therefore mandatory in restaurants. They are also easy to clean and can (optionally) also be put in the dishwasher. Although we honestly do not recommend that.

Of course: the word ‘plastic’ is quite vague and there are differences. Unfortunately, manufacturers are often not completely clear about this. It is already advisable to choose a plastic cutting board that is BPA-free (which we hope is the standard actually) and does not contain other harmful (coloring) substances. That bright green cutting board can be beautiful, you have no idea where that color comes from.

To prevent such things, it is best to choose brands that are open about it. Like the one from Preserve for example. The better plastic cutting boards are produced with (recycled) polypropylene or High Density PolyEthylene (HDPE for short). The latter will also ensure that you will have to replace your cutting board less quickly because of too many scratches and tears (because that will be unsanitary).

Treating and cleaning plastic cutting boards

Unlike wood or bamboo, plastic does not suffer from (too) hot water or prolonged contact with water. A plastic cutting board will not expand, crack, shrink, … when faced with such factors. That is why such a cutting board can be soaked in hot soapy water and/or easily in the dishwasher.

However, make no mistake: plastic cutting boards also wear out over time. In any case, check the very last (and perhaps most important) tip at the end of this article.

Cork cutting boards

You rarely see them, but they do exist… cutting boards made of cork. Cork appears to be very suitable for this because it is naturally antibacterial, does not deform and does not absorb moisture. It is really nothing less compared to wood, bamboo or plastic.

Moreover, just like bamboo, cork is quite durable. Cork comes from the bark of cork oaks (hence the name yes ;)). Instead of having to cut down these trees, only the bark has to be removed. And then that bark just grows back again.

Additional advantages of cork: it is particularly lightweight and has a natural ‘anti-slip’. Unfortunately, the latter is not the case with many other cutting boards.

Glass or marble cutting boards

We can be brief about this last category: don’t use them. After all, both glass and marble are far too hard materials. They can quickly dull your knife(s) and even damage them. Because the material does not “cooperate” with an ounce, such cutting boards can also be quite dangerous. For example, the blade of your knife can hit back on the hard surface with a firm ‘chop’. Hello emergency room, bye bye dinner!

In addition, cutting and – especially – chopping on such cutting boards makes quite a bit of noise. Although glass and marble are certainly hygienic and very easy to clean (and require virtually no maintenance), when it comes to cutting boards, we strongly advise against them.

Replace cutting board

Hopefully, this article has helped you make the best choice. Please note: whether you choose a cutting board made of wood, bamboo, plastic, or cork … they all wear out. However, if you take the maintenance tips in this article to heart, you will be able to enjoy your cutting board for much longer.

Anyway: every cutting board needs to be replaced at some point. Even if only for hygienic reasons. So if your copy looks like it has survived about 80 sword fights (read: chock full of scratches, pits, cracks, …), then it’s high time to trade it in.

Did you like this article and/or do you know any nice (maintenance) tips for a cutting board? Share your comment below with everyone!

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