Your kitchen is home to many sources of unpleasant odors. Pots, pans, counter tops and kitchen appliances harbor bacteria and food particles that can make your kitchen stink to high heavens if you don’t clean them properly. A dirty kitchen is no place to prepare and cook food, because of all the diseases that you can get from dirty cooking tools.
Cutting boards are a breeding ground for bacteria, germs, and other harmful microorganisms that can make you and your family sick. Every time you chop or prepare food on a dirty cutting board, you transfer bacteria to the food itself and run the risk of making your family and friends sick. Here are some ways that you can keep your cutting boards clean and fit for food preparation.
Keep At Least Two Cutting Boards
Chefs and cooks will tell you that one cutting board is not enough. You should always keep at least two cutting boards in your kitchen: one for meat and fish, and another for vegetables. Meat and fish are breeding grounds for food-borne bacteria like salmonella and escherichia coli, and should never be prepared on a board meant for vegetables and other foods.Cross-contamination is very harmful to your health. Raw meat, chicken and fish can also transfer unwanted flavors to other foods if you use just one cutting board.
Cutting boards are inexpensive. Even if you do have a cutting board already installed on your kitchen counter, it’s still very important to keep separate cutting boards on hand inside your kitchen drawer or kitchen rack. The few extra dollars you spend on two cutting boards is cheap compared to how much you’ll spend on hospital bills and medicine if you do get sick.
Cutting Board Materials
There are many types of cutting boards that you can buy at the department store, hardware stores, or kitchen and restaurant supply outlets. Each type of cutting board has advantages and disadvantages.
- Wooden cutting boards. Wood is a common material used in cutting boards. Wood is soft, porous, and contains natural oils that can kill bacteria. Wooden boards, though, have the tendency to retain food particles and absorb odors.
- Plastic cutting boards. Plastic boards are hygienic, dishwasher-safe, and are easier to clean than wooden boards. Plastic boards do not damage knives, although when you score a plastic board deep enough, you can make a place for bacteria to multiply and contaminate your food.
- Glass boards. Glass is a very durable, non-porous material that’s sometimes used to make designer cutting boards. The problem is that glass can shatter and break, introducing glass particles into your food. Glass is also hard enough to dull your knives.
- Marble boards. Marble is expensive and looks great on many kitchen counters. While it’s great for baking and for confectionery, it can dull even the sharpest and most durable knives you have.
Whatever type of cutting board you choose, buy the most expensive one you can afford. Remember that you’re going to use a cutting board every day, so don’t buy something that’s cheap. Wooden cutting boards can last a long time if you take care of them properly, and you can pass them to the next generation as an heirloom.
Always Wash and Rinse
Just because you see chefs on TV wipe their cutting boards with a dish towel doesn’t mean that you should do the same thing with your own cutting boards. It’s OK to pat a cutting board dry with paper towels, as long as you don’t cut raw food on it. It’s still best to take the time to wash a cutting board properly.
You can place plastic or glass cutting boards in the dishwasher, although you need to wash a wooden cutting board by hand. Wooden cutting boards will chip, splinter, and split when you put them in a dishwasher. Follow these steps to clean a wooden cutting board:
- Rinse the wooden board with clear, lukewarm tap water. Use a kitchen sponge to scrub away all the food particles from deep inside the grooves and pores of the board.
- Wash the board with hot, soapy water. The hot water and the cleaning agents in the soap kill and remove bacteria and other microorganisms in the grain of the wood.
- Rinse the wooden board with lukewarm – not cold – water. Lukewarm water prevents the wood from warping and cracking.
Take Them Out To Dry
Don’t store a cutting board while it’s still dripping wet. Mold and bacteria thrive on wet environments, and a wet cutting board is a perfect place for harmful microorganisms to breed and multiply. You can use a dish dryer to dry a plastic or acrylic board, but you need to air-dry a wooden cutting board. If you have a place in your kitchen that’s exposed to sunlight and plenty of fresh air, then you can hang your cutting board out to dry.
If you don’t have a place to dry out your cutting boards, you can pat them dry with paper towels. Never use a dish towel to wipe a cutting board. Some of the fibers in the cloth can get stuck in the tiny grooves in the cutting board.
Get Some Elbow Grease Going
From time to time, you need to remove the caked-in food particles in the grooves and grain of the cutting board. A plastic scraper, plastic dough cutter, or a dull plastic knife can all be used to remove unwanted particles. Here are some helpful tips to remember when you scrape a plastic or wooden chopping board:
- Scrape the board under running water, or while the board is submerged underwater.
- Use as much of the length of the scraper’s edge as possible. You’re not slicing through the chopping board, but you’re removing caked-in particles.
- Use light strokes. Heavy strokes will damage and scratch the board. It’s better to take your time scraping the cutting board than to get the cleaning done as quickly as possible.
Sanitize Plastic Boards
Some home-care product manufacturers sell sprays specially for sanitizing plastic chopping boards. You can use a capful of chlorine bleach solution mixed with a gallon of water to kill bacteria and germs on the plastic. Do not use Lysol or high-strength cleaning solution to the plastic board. Make sure to rinse and dry the board before using it.
Salt and Season Wooden Boards
Bleach is very poisonous, and is not meant for use on wooden cutting boards. You still need to sanitize wooden boards, but you have to use salt and food-grade mineral or plant oils like tang oil or poppyseed oil. To sanitize a wooden board, rub coarse salt on the board’s surface to get rid of the remaining food particles and to smooth out the cutting surface. Do not use sandpaper or a carpenter’s plane to smooth the board. Next, coat the surface of the wooden board with the food-grade oil. Let the board dry before storing it in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place.
Cutting boards don’t have to end up as the moldy, smelly tools you use to chop and prepare food. You need to keep your cooking tools clean to bring out the best flavor in your food, and keep your family and friends safe from food poisoning. Cleaning and removing odors from your cutting boards are a step you should take to keep your kitchen smelling fresh, and your food staying fresh.
Click here for more information on how to get rid of cutting board odors.