If you've ever shopped for a cutting board, chances are you've heard all kinds of conflicting advice on which is the most green, the most sanitary, and the least damaging to your knives. So, who's right?
We're finally setting the record straight on which is the best kind of cutting board: plastic, wood, or bamboo.
Many people believe that plastic is the most sanitary cutting board material, especially since, unlike wood or bamboo, it's safe to run through your dishwasher.
However, a University of Michigan study found that "more bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface." The study also found that although a new plastic board could be disinfected, a knife-scarred plastic surface was impossible to clean and disinfect manually.
When you also consider that a knife-scarred surface means plastic is getting into your food, that plastic cutting board isn't looking so great after all.
The Bottom Line: We're kicking plastic boards out of our kitchen.
Bamboo is the choice of many environmentalists. A hard grass, it is a sustainable, renewable resource that needs no chemicals to thrive or be harvested. And, since they absorb less liquid than wooden boards, many believe they are at least as sanitary as wooden boards.
The drawback? Bamboo is 19 percent harder than traditional maple, which means it's also harder on your knives. Also, the small grooves may ever-so-slightly catch your knife, interrupting a smooth cutting action.
The Bottom Line: You could do worse than bamboo, and we love it for the bar and small chopping jobs — just make sure to look for boards that use formaldehyde-free glues, such as those from Totally Bamboo or Bambu.
Wood is a renewable resource, although not nearly as easily renewable as bamboo. However many boards are made from waste wood (i.e., leftovers at the mill that would have been otherwise thrown away). What's more, a heavy softwood board is kind to knives, and will keep them sharper longer. And finally, a good maple or beech cutting board is somewhat self-healing, and won't scar as easily as a plastic board.
The Bottom Line: This is what we have in our kitchens. Regularly oil your board with food-grade mineral oil to protect it from staining or warping, and please don't put it in the dishwasher. A well-cared-for wood board will last you for years.
Your turn: What kind of board do you use in your kitchen?