September 9, 2012

Choosing a cutting board: A dicey proposition

With all the options out there, how do you know which one is right?

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Architec’s Indian Sheesham Gripperwood board sells for $24.99.

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Architec wood boards come in a variety of sizes and range in price accordingly.

Courtesy photos

Additional Photos Below

CARING FOR YOUR CUTTING BOARD

YOU COULD ARGUE that it doesn't really matter what kind of board you use as long as you are diligent about cleaning it regularly.

WOODEN BOARDS SHOULD be washed in warm, soapy water, then treated with a wash containing vinegar or bleach.

"I HAVE A nice big wood one at home, and I use it for everything," said Jane St. Pierre, co-owner of Kitchen & Cork in Scarborough. "But I really am careful about washing it, rinsing it, and then I'll keep a small bottle of bleach and water in a spray bottle and just kind of give it a spray and then let it air dry."

WHEN IT COMES to bleach, a little goes a long way. Scott Jones, a chef instructor at the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School, advised that a good rule of thumb is a capful of bleach to a quart of water. Jones tends to use wooden boards for things like fruit, vegetables and breads so they don't have to get too wet during cleaning.

"IN CULINARY SCHOOL, I learned that the best way to clean wooden cutting boards is with lemon juice and salt," Jones said. "You scrub it and then give it a wipe with a damp cloth with vinegar on it. That's a good way to sanitize your cutting board without running it through your dishwasher."

WOODEN CUTTING BOARDS should also be treated regularly with a little food-grade oil or mineral oil to keep them from cracking and drying out. Do not use vegetable oil or olive oil, because it will seep into the board and turn rancid.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD a board be treated? St. Pierre says it depends on how often you use it. "We do ours here once a month, but we're constantly using ours every day," she said. Jones thinks every couple of weeks is appropriate for a board that gets daily use.

- Meredith Goad

The Epicurean wood composite boards ($11.99 to $34.99), Jones said, are not only decorative but oven-safe as well.

"You can put them in the oven for up to 350 degrees," he said. "So if you were slicing meat or something like that on it, and you wanted just to keep it warm, you could put the whole cutting board right in the oven at a low temperature and then when you're ready to serve it, just pull it out. I really like that idea."

Another option for people who are worried about spreading bacteria are the less expensive, thin, flexible plastic cutting mats that can be placed over a wooden board. After they're used, they can be tossed in the dishwasher, and there's no need to worry about cleaning the wooden board.

The mats go for $3.29 and up for a pack of four.

"When you feel like they're getting too cut up and worn out, you can just toss them and get a new set," Rephan said.

The only material not recommended? Glass. It will dull knives faster than Gordon Ramsay can say @&!$!

HOW WILL THE BOARD BE USED?

Are you chopping an apple or slicing chicken breast? For small tasks like cutting a lemon, obviously you'll need a smaller board. If you're grilling outside or chopping fruit, consider a cutting board with a grooved well to capture all the running juices.

"For people who have smaller kitchens or a smaller work space, they have these over-the-sink cutting boards so it lays right across the top of your sink," Jones said. "It has a hole in it, so you could be chopping and cutting, and you could be throwing your scraps right into the sink."

THICKNESS

Cutting boards typically come anywhere from a half-inch thick to almost 3 inches, notes Jane St. Pierre, co-owner of Kitchen & Cork in Scarborough. Cooks should remember that the thicker boards are, they heavier they are.

"If you've got to lift that thing from down under your cupboard to your work surface," she said, "you don't want to be pulling out a 20-pound board."

SPECIAL SHAPES AND FEATURES

Most people are familiar with the simple, rectangular cutting board, but some manufacturers make boards in interesting shapes that improve function.

A "bridge board," for example, is curved so that a plate or bowl can fit halfway underneath it and catch food as it is chopped.

Rephan said there is also a cutting board shaped like a dustpan with sloped sides, so prepped food slides easily into a pan.

"In the maple boards, they came out with the end grain, where you see little squares where the board is made with grains up and down instead of side to side," St. Pierre said. "The end-grain boards are even safer for your knives, because you're not cutting across the grains, you're cutting right into the grain on the wood."

Architec makes both wood ($24.99) and plastic ($14.99) "gripper boards" with another popular feature -- soft "feet" that keep the cutting board from sliding all over the counter.

"People love (the plastic gripper boards) because you can put them right in the dishwasher," St. Pierre said. "That's a big seller for us."

Cutting boards with wells or deep grooves carved into them are popular with people who don't like messes. The grooves catch the juices from a piece of meat just off the grill or from a piece of fruit cut up for lunch.

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Additional Photos

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J.K. Adams’ fanciful pig board ($30) is made of maple. You can also get a chicken, a cow, a rooster and a fish. They have a food-safe antique stain and retro-colored edges, and are lightly distressed.

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Kitchen Series boards are thin and lightweight. Made of compressed wood that is easier on your knives, they can go right into the dishwasher.

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Epicurean Eco Plastic boards are made out of recycled milk jugs. The Kitchen Series/Eco Plastic boards range in price according to size from $11.99 to $34.99.

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Epicurean designer color-coded boards come in a set of four for $129.99. Each is meant to have a separate use.

 


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