When choosing between wood or plastic cutting boards, the question that asked most often is, "Which is safer?" Unfortunately there is no clear answer. It appears that for every study preaching the benefits of wood over plastic there exists an equally convincing report for plastic over wood. The following is a summary of the main arguments both for and against wood and plastic cutting boards:
Wood vs. Plastic
- The natural wicking process of wood draws bacteria below the surface, leaving it clean and germ free
- Wood has natural antimicrobial properties which easily eliminate any bacteria on the surface of or within wood cutting boards
- Germs that move below the surface can multiply and leach into new food products placed on the board
- Boards made of White Ash only show mild signs of inhibiting bacterial growth. Cutting boards made from Maple or other popular types showed no inhibitive properties
- Plastic is nonporous, so bacteria remain on the surface and are easily washed off or killed by a plastic board’s antimicrobial properties
- Plastic cutting boards are dishwasher safe, making sanitization easy
- Knives can easily gouge the surface of a plastic cutting board. These grooves harbor bacteria where they multiply and are hard to remove
- Since plastic is a poor heat conductor, the surface will not reach the proper temperature to ensure sanitization
With the conflicting research one can assume that neither type has the edge. As with any piece of restaurant equipment, proper cleaning and sanitizing is the only guaranteed way to combat food borne illnesses. Here are some simple cleaning and sanitizing procedures to follow in order to decrease food contamination.
- If possible, have dedicated cutting boards for raw meats and vegetables. Cooking kills germs in meat, but vegetables are often served raw and can be contaminated with bacteria from meat juices if the same board is used for each.
- After each use, scrub the cutting board with hot, soapy water. A commercial dishwasher may be used but can damage wood boards.
- Do not leave the cutting boards in standing water, which facilitates bacterial growth.
- Periodically sanitize plastic cutting boards with a chlorine solution of 1 tablespoon per quart of water, or a vinegar/water solution (1 to 3 ratio) for wood boards. Spray the surface and allow to sit for several minutes, rinse with clean water and air dry.
- Allow the cutting board to dry completely; bacteria will die after a few hours when deprived of moisture and heat.
- Store the cutting board in a dry place and away from raw foods to avoid contamination.
Plastic cutting boards are often available in different colors. Each color is designed for use with a specific food type. Adopting a color coding system both increases easy employee training and reduces cross contamination. Here are the colors and their intended use:
When cutting raw meat, poultry, seafood and cooked foods, select a cutting board with a juice groove. This groove catches fluids before they contaminate and stain the countertop.
Wood and plastic cutting boards will eventually wear out. Make sure deeply scratched or grooved boards are replaced. In the meantime, there are several methods to increase the longevity of your cutting board. Learn More