It’s not just your hands that need washing before, during and after food preparation. Anything that touches your food can be a source of contamination and foodborne illness – including cutting boards. No matter the material of your cutting boards, it’s important to avoid cross-contamination, both for taste reasons and for sanitary purposes.
To prevent foodborne illness, it is also crucial to remember to wash your cutting boards. If not cleaned and maintained properly, cutting boards can hold harmful bacteria and spread foodborne illness.
The right cutting board can make chopping, cutting, and slicing go smoothly. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has determined that a solid piece of wood, plastic, marble, glass, or pyroceramic are useful options for cutting boards. Materials such as marble, glass, and ceramic can dull your knives. USDA recommends using a bamboo cutting board because it is harder and less porous (so it absorbs less moisture) than hardwoods and is easy to clean. Important factors when choosing a cutting board is that the board is able to be cleaned, washed, rinsed, and sanitized.
When using a cutting board, the University of Wyoming Extension recommends using different cutting boards for specific tasks. Use two cutting boards: one strictly to cut raw meat, poultry, and seafood; the other for ready-to-eat foods, like breads and fresh produce.
Don’t confuse them. Consider buying different color cutting boards so it’s easy to remember which is for raw meat and, which is for ready-to-eat foods. This lets everyone know what board to use for which task.
Follow these guidelines for cleaning and maintaining your cutting boards:
Always use a clean cutting board for food preparation.
After each use and before moving on to the next step while prepping food, remove all debris from the board and then scrub it in hot, soapy water. Be sure you scrub hard enough to get in any small slits and crevices where food may linger. Rinse the board thoroughly with water and sanitize it because this is a surface that will come into direct contact with food. The USDA discloses that wooden and plastic cutting boards can be sanitized.
Plastic, glass, nonporous acrylic, and solid wood cutting boards can be washed in a dishwasher. Do not place laminated boards that may warp, crack, or split in the dishwasher. Refer to the manufacturers recommendations for washing a wood cutting board in the dishwasher.
To disinfect a cutting board, use a fresh solution of one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Soak or flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for 2-5 minutes. If your sink isn’t big enough, you can fill a spray bottle with the sanitizing bleach solution and generously spritz the surface of the boards. The sanitizing solution has a shelf life of one week. Rinse the cutting board with hot water and air dry. You can also pat them dry with single-use paper towels. Do not dry with a dishtowel! Why? Dishtowels tend to get wiped on everything, making them the ideal means for spreading bacteria from your hands or one kitchen tool or surface to another.
It’s worth noting that you should also sanitize your kitchen sponge/rag/brush after you’ve used it to scrub raw meat, poultry, and seafood off your cutting board, or else you run the risk of contaminating the next thing you wash.
All cutting boards eventually wear out. Are there deep grooves or cut marks on your current cutting board? The board may need to be replaced since bacteria can grow in grooves. Discard cutting boards that have cracks, crevices, and excessive knife scars from overuse. Disposable cutting boards can also be effective as they are used only once and then thrown out. Take some time to consider how to keep your cutting board from contaminating your food.
Cleaning your cutting boards is important because they are constantly exposed to bacteria through the foods you cut on them. With only a few minutes of care, you can easily keep any cutting board in good condition for years to come, not to mention keep your prime working surface sanitary for you and your guests!
(Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)