The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Cutting board safety

Pumpkin cutting board

As several readers pointed out, I chewed Mark out incorrectly about using a wooden cutting board for meat.  It turns out that wooden cutting boards are probably safer, in actuality, since the bacteria tend to sink down into the wood, where they slowly die off.  In contrast, plastic cutting boards keep any bacteria closer to the surface, and once the plastic boards have been scarred by cutting action, those bacteria can move off the board and back onto food relatively easily.

Wooden cutting boardOn the other hand, it's generally considered good practice to have two cutting boards in your kitchen, one for meat and one for everything else.  Since meat is going to be cooked before eating, any bacteria present will be killed by the high heat, but if you cut apples on a cutting board that has been used for meat then eat the apples fresh, you're at risk of getting food poisoning.  In the past, I've just cut up meat on a plate (annoying, but I don't do it often), but since we'll now have a wooden and a plastic cutting board, I'll keep using the wooden one for fruits and vegetable.  We'll be extra-careful to disinfect the plastic board after cutting up meat, which can be done by washing the board and then soaking it in bleach water, exactly the method Mark naturally gravitated toward.

While doing all this research, though, I did learn one maintenance technique I need to add to my arsenal --- oiling our wooden cutting board.  Now I just need to hunt down some food-grade mineral oil and give my grandmother's board a new lease on life.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Food-grade mineral oil is available at all drug stores for use as a laxative, etc. That's what I use to treat all the boards I make.
Comment by Larry Wed Nov 27 07:41:27 2013

Hi Anna,

Be better to cut meat on wood. Maybe one reserved for that job?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Mark!


Comment by John Wed Nov 27 08:27:20 2013
You can use olive oil to oil your cutting boards. Works great and is much easier to find than food grade mineral oil.
Comment by Robin E. Wed Nov 27 08:29:37 2013
Maple wood naturally has enzymes in it that deter bacteria from it.
Comment by Marco Wed Nov 27 10:27:06 2013
Coconut oil also has mild antibacterial properties and works great on cutting boards.
Comment by Channing Wed Nov 27 11:33:26 2013

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