We went to the Farmer’s Market the other Sunday and I just couldn’t pass by these beautiful wooden cutting boards without acquiring one.
Sounds a little like impulse buying, but a wooden cutting board has long been on my wishlist and these were priced just right.
DH was reluctant about the wooden board. You know, the whole bacteria, food poisoning concern.
So I admit that I was a little smug when I stumbled across some research (see links at the end of the article) that found wooden chopping boards are actually healthier than plastic ones.
Here’s what the scientists found.
After inoculating a variety of plastic and wooden cutting boards with bacteria and then leaving them overnight, bacteria were readily recoverable from the plastic boards within minutes while the wooden boards absorbed the bacteria until they were almost completely gone.
“Clean wood blocks usually absorbed the inoculum completely within 3-10 min… If these fluids contained 103-104 CFU of bacteria likely to come from raw meat or poultry, the bacteria generally could not be recovered after entering the wood. If ≥106 CFU were applied, bacteria might be recovered from wood after 12 hours at room temperature and high humidity, but numbers were reduced by at least 98%, and often more than 99.9%.” [source]
In other words, 99.9% of bacteria was unrecoverable and presumed dead. Researchers don’t exactly know why this happens, although it is suspected that bacteria is drawn into the wood through a capillary action and once inside the wood, it no longer reproduces and dies off.
Other studies have found that people who use wooden chopping boards are less than half as likely as average to contract salmonellosis while those using plastic or glass boards were about twice as likely as average to contract it. And the effect of cleaning the board regularly after preparing meat was not statistically significant.
“A good wipe will do fine – and if you forget to wipe the board, you probably won’t be too bad off.” [source]
Wooden cutting board care
I can be fairly slapdash about cleaning in general, but I am particular about cleaning chopping boards and avoiding cross-contamination from raw meat.
Apart from the obvious health issues (no one wants food poisoning), caring for your board properly will help it to last longer.
Here are some tips for caring for a wooden cutting board:
- Wash in hot soapy water (on both sides to avoid warping) and dry thoroughly. Leaving your board wet will encourage splitting.
- To remove stains and smells either sprinkle with salt and rub with a cut lemon or rub with bicarb soda and a damp cloth.
- Regularly oiling your cutting board will help it last longer. Pour a little oil on the board, spread it around and let it soak in a while. Wipe excess oil off before storing. Don’t forget to do both sides. The bloke who sold me my board used grapeseed oil to season it and recommended the same. Many people use olive oil although some argue that regular cooking oil can go rancid. Coconut oil is a good alternative.
- If you want to sanitise your board, you can apply a small amount of bleach mixed with water, leave it sit and then rinse off. Or you can use straight vinegar instead.
Wooden cutting boards are so nice to use – aesthetically pleasing and gentler on knives. And now there’s another reason to choose wooden over plastic – turns out they are healthier for you too.
- Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards University of California.
- Cutting Boards of Plastic and Wood Contaminated Experimentally with Bacteria Journal of Food Protection Volume 57 number 1.
- Wood Wins, Plastic Trashed for Cutting Meat. Science News Volume 143 Number 6.