Wooden cutting boards: types and maintenance

houten snijplanken chef and knife

Every kitchen has at least one: a cutting board. We find this indispensable kitchen tool in all shapes and sizes and are made of both wood and plastic. However, there is a lot of disagreement about which material is more hygienic and whether or not wooden boards belong in the professional kitchen. The 'Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain' (FASFC) already allows it and there is a good reason for that. In this article we tell you everything about wooden cutting boards and how you can best maintain them.  

 

Wooden versus plastic cutting boards 

Wooden cutting boards are often considered less hygienic than the synthetic variant. For a long time, even experts argued that wooden cutting boards should be banned from the kitchen. And this because wood is said to be a breeding ground for bacteria. 

But both American and Dutch research studies show that this is not correct. The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) has already allowed it. read it “Supplementary chapter to G-007 Guide for the introduction of a self-checking system for the hospitality and food retail industry”.  

Both wooden and plastic cutting boards harbor bacteria if they are not cleaned properly. 

“Micro-organismen blijven en overleven gemakkelijker op hout, maar die blijken grotendeels erin te trekken waardoor de overdracht naar bijvoorbeeld een schoon stuk vlees klein is. Polyethyleen is harder, bacteriën blijven op het oppervlak en in de snijgroeven zitten, waardoor de overdracht makkelijker gaat”, vertelt Rijkelt Beumer, microbioloog aan de Wageningen Universiteit aan de nieuwswebsite Nu.nl.

 

Hardwood and end grain cutting boards 

Cutting on a cutting board causes grooves. That is why we recommend hardwood cutting boards. These are made from wood types such as oak, maple, ash and acacia which are very strong, wear resistant and resistant to cut grooves.  

Ook richting van de houtstructuur van de snijplank is belangrijk. Bij een goedkopere snijplank lopen de nerven van het hout meestal horizontaal over het oppervlak. Bij het snijden op zo’n plank snij je in de richting van de nerven waardoor je gemakkelijker een inkeping en groeven maakt in de houtstructuur. 

When the wood structure is vertical, we call this end grain. A endgrain chopping board is a cutting board whose wood direction is perpendicular to the cutting direction of your knife. Just like with a chopping block in the butcher's shop. This sawing method makes the wood much more wear-resistant and gives it better resistance to pressure. Your knives also stay sharp longer when using an end grain cutting board.  

Zassenhaus snijplank eikenhout houten snijplank 36x23x2
Eikenhouten snijplank

 

How many cutting boards in the kitchen? 

To guarantee hygiene, it is best to use two different ones cutting boards. One for cutting raw products and one for prepared products. If you prefer to keep it simple, think carefully about the order of cutting: first heated products, then fermented and only then raw foods. The golden rule is never to cut heated products on a surface where raw foods have been cut before.

Remove bacteria

Properly cleaning your chopping board does not ensure that the board is completely free of bacteria afterwards, because this is impossible anyway. Especially if you know that a clean work table already contains between 10 and 100 bacteria per square centimeter. Of course, these are home and kitchen bacteria that generally do not cause any diseases.

We therefore repeat that if you only have one board at home, it is not wise to, for example, first cut raw meat or poultry on the board and then vegetables or a roast. 

Cleaning

But also when cleaning your wooden chopping board it's important to do this right. Brush the board vigorously with a little neutral soap under hot running water. 

It is very important that the board dries well. But just drying with a towel is not enough. Allow the cutting board to dry upright on its side. This also prevents warping. It is also not a good idea to put the chopping boards on top of each other immediately after cleaning. Due to the layers of moisture between the boards, so many bacteria can grow that the cutting boards are even dirtier than before they were washed. In terms of hygiene, there is therefore not much difference between a wooden cutting board and a plastic cutting board. 

Maintain wooden cutting boards

Cleaning your board correctly ensures that you can use it without any worries, but in order for it to last a lifetime, you also need to maintain it regularly.

For most cutting boards, regular rubbing with a layer of oil is sufficient. The oil penetrates the wood, forms a protective layer and prevents water from penetrating, while allowing the wood to breathe without drying out. Dry wood very easily absorbs moisture, juices from meat, vegetables and fruit, ... 

Oil is easy to apply, making maintenance very simple. Because oil is a natural product, you do not run the risk of infecting your products. It is therefore a better solution than artificial coatings and commercial products recommended by other cutting board webshops to maintain your cutting board. 

Prepare cutting board 

Before you can oil your cutting board, you will first have to prepare the surface of the cutting board. Clean the cutting board as described above and let it dry. 

Then sand the surface with a sanding block, sanding machine or a block with a piece of sandpaper around it to remove all scratches and other irregularities. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain so that the sanding movements are least visible. Choose the correct roughness of the sandpaper: from rough to increasingly fine. 

Remove the dust from the cutting board and sand with a fine sandpaper. Don't forget to clean the cutting board afterwards and let it dry.   

The best oil for your wooden cutting board

There are dozens of oils that can help you chopping board can protect, but not all of them are equally efficient. Some oils become rancid after a while and/or give off a sour taste. 

Flaxseed oil has been used for centuries to protect cutting boards. This oil hardens and strengthens the wood fibers when it dries. The warm brown color of the oil gives the cutting board a warm appearance that becomes darker over time, especially if the board is often exposed to sunlight. Linseed oil is relatively cheap, but you have to apply regular and multiple layers for a good protective layer. 

Walnut oil is also an oil that is commonly used and has similar properties to linseed oil. If you have someone in the family or if you regularly cook for people with a nut allergy, it is better not to choose walnut oil.

Another oil that you can use to protect your wooden cutting board is mineral oil. It is a transparent, colorless and odorless petroleum by-product that is completely safe to consume. Unlike linseed oil, this oil does not deteriorate in quality. Mineral oil should be applied more regularly to your cutting board. Another difference with walnut oil and linseed oil is that this oil does not dry up, so you do not get the hardening effect. And because that oil is transparent and colorless, the cutting board keeps its original color. The oil layer also does not feel greasy.

 

walnotenolie-olie-houten-planken-onderhoud
Walnotenolie – Foto: freepik

Beeswax

Another natural remedy is beeswax or a combination of wax and oil. Beeswax also does not dry up, but it does provide a good protective layer. Once your board has been smeared with beeswax, you cannot permanently remove it. This makes it an ideal outer layer for the maintenance of a cutting board.

How and how many times to oil? 

If the board is nicely sanded, you can rub it with oil. Carefully pour some oil on the board and wipe it with a lint-free cloth. Let the oil soak in and rub the oil out again after 15 to 20 minutes. The cutting board should no longer feel greasy. With mineral oil you can leave the board for a few hours and only then rub it out.

Grease the plank about three times. With walnut and linseed oil it is allowed twice extra for a better layer of protection. Do this for several days.

If the board looks dry after a few months, you can repeat the steps. How often you have to repeat this depends on – a bit like sharpening your knives – how intensively you use it. 

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